Members of the Reference Group of the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace and WCC staff members gathered in Nigeria. ©Brandi Friesen Thorpe/WCC

Members of the Reference Group of the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace and WCC staff members gathered in Nigeria. ©Brandi Friesen Thorpe/WCC

With the aim of monitoring how the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace is unfolding and to develop suggestions for its various initiatives and activities, with a special focus on the Africa region in 2017, the World Council of Churches (WCC) convened a meeting of the reference group of the pilgrimage in Nigeria from 20-27 February.

Members of the reference group experienced a diverse schedule of activities and reflections in the cities of Abuja and Kaduna which helped them identify processes and specific activities of the churches, as well as ecumenical and other partners that may contribute to the efforts and aspirations for justice and peace in the African continent.

In Kaduna, the members of the reference group were welcomed by the chair of the Kaduna state section of the Christian Council of Nigeria, Archbishop Sunday Udoko. The programme included visits to the Warf Road Mosque, Baptist Theological Seminary and International Centre for Inter-Faith Peace and Harmony (ICIPH).

Amid a growing number of interfaith initiatives in Nigeria, the ICIPH has a unique goal: to systematically document interfaith relations to inform national and international policy-making.

Harvesting the fruits from 2016

An important part of the annual meeting of the reference group was dedicated to evaluate the work of the pilgrimage during 2016.

The highlights of the pilgrimage last year included the publication of the booklet “An Invitation to the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace”, the planning of the series of regional publications and Bible studies, and the work on the upcoming new edition of the WCC's popular ecumenical prayer cycle book, which will be titled “Pilgrim Prayer”.

Inspired by the annual focus on the Holy Land, a document entitled “Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace in the Holy Land” was prepared for churches that want to organize such a pilgrimage which will in turn facilitate sustained awareness of member churches for the Middle East.

A set of articles in the first issue of the Ecumenical Review in 2016 picked up the regional focus on the Middle East and the thematic focus on “religion and violence”, and articles linked to the pilgrimage continued to appear in the journal.

Seven Weeks for Water

The 2017 annual focus also led the WCC’s Ecumenical Water Network to promote a series of reflections on the issue of water in Africa during Lent. The theological reflections in the Seven Weeks for Water in 2017 will look at the water crisis in the Africa region and take into consideration issues of justice and peace.

A public presentation of the Seven Weeks for Water Bible study series took place in Abuja, on 25 February, as part of the meeting of the reference group of the pilgrimage.

An opening service will be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 1 March.

2017 and beyond

Last December, the WCC Executive Committee agreed to establish special pilgrim-teams for peace and justice. The teams will visit member churches in the years ahead.

In Nigeria, the reference group discussed proposed dates and an outline for a gathering of representatives of pilgrim-team visits in the process towards the eleventh assembly of the WCC.

They also proposed an agenda and dates for the Theological Study Group of the Pilgrimage and elaborated recommendations to the WCC general secretary regarding the yearly emphasis and regional focus of the pilgrimage from 2018 to 2020.

Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace