World Council of Churches (WCC) leaders spoke on the theme “Hospitality: On a Pilgrim’s Way of Justice and Peace" at a symposium on 23 August at the Protestant Theological University Amsterdam.
The symposium was held as part of an observance of the WCC’s 70th anniversary.
WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, in a speech entitled “Love Will Find a Way,” spoke on unity, fellowship, and love among Christians.
“What was inaugurated 70 years ago today in this very city was a genuine movement—to narrow our differences, to heal our divisions, and to link arms in Christian solidarity for the sake of the world,” he said. “Faced with a world devastated by war and imperiled by an uneasy peace, the delegates to the WCC 1st Assembly and its 117 churches covenanted to stay together in one ecumenical movement.”
The early conveners of the WCC contributed critical theological reflection in the interests of unity, commitment to framing a more just international order, and working together to ensure peace and justice, Tveit continued. “Whether in renewing theology, reframing mission, or bringing together churches and their ecumenical partners to serve, that platform has enabled the churches, in countless and consequential ways and places, and in ever-changing contexts, to serve each other and the world,” he said.
These are enormous accomplishments, Tveit continued. “Indeed, from our vantage point, we can see that, in its deepest meaning, this ecumenical movement has been, then and now, a movement of love,” he said. “Today, 70 years later, however, we face a radically different world—not only in the scale and urgency of its problems but also in its fundamental character.”
Citing today’s grave challenges, Tveit said the long pilgrimage is far from over. “We find the very foundations of the postwar world and liberal democracy challenged,” he said. “We see hard-won postcolonial freedoms threaten to dissolve into chaos.”
Culture of hospitality
Dr Agnes Abuom, moderator of the WCC Central Committee, also reflects on how meaningful it is to gather in Amsterdam, the very place where the WCC was founded,
Abuom said. “Ideally, hospitality deals with offering comfort to guests, outsiders, foreigners and even strangers,” she said. “It can be as simple as being able to smile and trigger a smile back from someone whenever you’re in the presence of a stranger.”
Abuom lamented that our world is slowly but surely diminishing the culture of hospitality.
“It is God’s command that we be hospitable to strangers, aliens or even foreigners,” she said. “Where people tend to do hospitality well, they tend to do evangelism well too, as the two are correlated.”
Hospitality is not just a matter of Christianity, but also a matter of humanity, compassion, and concern about those we don’t know, she continued. “The pilgrim’s way of justice is inspiring others along the way to stretch hospitality to those in war-torn regions and facilitate bringing to account the perpetrators,” she said.
Other speakers at the symposium included Mathilde Sabbagh, National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon, in Al-Hassakeh, Northern Syria; Najla Kassab, president, World Communion of Reformed Churches; Mpho Tutu van Furth, executive director, Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation; and Kathleen Ferrier, honorary professor Asian University for Women, former Member of Dutch Parliament and former coordinator of SKIN.
Pilgrims gather from far and wide to celebrate 70 years of WCC (WCC press release of 23 August 2018)
Walk of Peace draws hopeful - and young - crowd in Amsterdam (WCC press release of 23 August 2018)