“The effects of climate change today and tomorrow will affect basic human rights,” said Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), during an audience with the Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, at the Palacio de la Moneda in Santiago on 29 August.
Tveit was accompanied by Rev. Gloria Ulloa, the WCC President for Latin America and the Caribbean, and representatives of the two Lutheran churches from Chile, including Rev. Dr Gloria Rojas Vargas from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Chile and vice-president of the Lutheran World federation (LWF), chaplain of the Palacio de La Moneda.
The WCC general secretary shared examples of how the WCC has been pushing the climate change agenda at the United Nations Human Rights Council. WCC delegates also heard the Chilean president’s concerns on how climate change strongly affects lives of the most vulnerable communities in the country and beyond.
“Together with President Bachelet we talked about climate justice. It is very important that countries in the North and in the South deal with such issues as ecology, human rights and economic justice,” said Tveit. Besides climate change, the conversation also focused on issues of gender justice and religious tolerance.
Bachelet, who served as the first under-secretary general and executive director of the United Nations women’ programme, established in 2010, spoke about current public policies and initiatives of her administration that aim to increase social care by the Chilean state for its citizens, especially regarding fair participation of women in society. She also stressed the importance for younger generations of the role played by women in leading positions in Chile.
President Bachelet indicated that the presence of key women leaders creates an impact on children and young women, who realize that they can have bigger dreams and wider perspectives.
Tveit echoed Bachelet’s remarks and emphasized the need for more concrete actions to boost effective participation of women. “We see the need for real change in church and society that has to come from taking steps that ensure the dignity and equality between men and women,” he said.
The WCC delegation that met with the Chilean president also included Rev. Izani Bruch, Karl Bohmer, Alexander Wilckens from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile; Walter Dummer, Rev. Carlos Neibirt from the Lutheran Church in Chile; Humberto Lagos from the National Office for Religious Affairs; and Dr Marcelo Schneider, WCC communication liaison.
Earlier on the same day, Ulloa and Tveit met with the board of the Mesa Ampliada, a round table of the Evangelical and Pentecostal churches, and paid a formal visit to the headquarters of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Chile where they discussed churches’ work with migrants.
On 29 August, the WCC delegates also met with ecumenical groups of women who are involved in working with the Network for Gender Justice of the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI).
The first part of the visit of the WCC delegation to Chile ended with an event at the Comunidad Teologica de Chile (Chilean Theological Community) where discussions on current trends in global and regional theological ecumenical education took place.
The meetings of the WCC delegation in Chile were part of the WCC Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace – a call from the 10th Assembly of the WCC at Busan in the Republic of Korea in 2013.
In Argentina, WCC general secretary affirms call for pilgrimage of justice and peace (WCC news release of 27 August 2015)