Meeting on 12-15 September in Lisbon, Portugal, the Joint Working Group (JWG) of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Roman Catholic Church focused its work on peace-building and the concerns of migrants.
The 20-member group issued a communique at the close of the meeting after exploring together the role of culture, religion, and dialogue in peace-building and the challenges and opportunities for ecumenical cooperation concerning migrants and refugees. To enhance the depth and breadth of thought, two theme groups were formed to work both between and during plenary meetings to address the issues before them, identify possibilities for greater partnership and make practical recommendations for collaboration.
“The goal of the peace-building group is to identify the positive contributions churches can make together to the resolution of conflicts and prevention of violence,” reads the communique. “The group recognizes the fact that culture, religion and even dialogue can be misused to spark violence and conflict.”
The JWG acknowledged that there is a growing awareness among faith communities that peace-building needs the constructive involvement of the churches. “It is important to build on already existing successful examples of ecumenical cooperation and to identify new possible ways in which the churches can witness to just peace,” states the communique.
Regarding the concerns of migrants, the JWG acknowledged that the current situation of migrants and refugees is a significant “sign of the times” and requires a common response by all churches and their cooperation with others working in the field.
“Churches are called to strengthen their collaboration in welcoming, protecting, integrating and empowering refugees and migrants,” reads the communique. “While migration has always been part of human history, the current reality of forced migration, the rejection of refugees and racist attitudes in many places are of growing concern for churches.”
The JWG, which was established in 1965 to monitor and strengthen cooperation, will present pastoral recommendations from this most recent meeting for the Roman Catholic Church and the WCC on both issues. During the current mandate (2014 – 2021), the 20-member JWG is chaired by the two co-moderators Metropolitan Nifon of Targoviste from the Romanian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, Diarmuid Martin.
“The aim of these recommendations is to bring the churches to greater unity in addressing areas of vital concern,” the communique concluded.