“What we now call humanitarian aid is at the very heart of our Christian identity, life, and work,” said Sauca. "This imperative comes from the affirmation that out of love for humanity and the whole cosmos, God has assumed flesh in Christ.”
The conference was organized by the Foundation Dialogue for Peace in Geneva.
Sauca reflected that Christians are called to see, in every human being, the face of Christ. “For Christians, therefore, humanitarian aid is not merely about generosity or goodwill; it goes to the very heart of who we are called to be,” he said. “Christians call this work of caring in Christ’s name for people in need diakonia, from the Greek word for servant.”
In addition to Sauca, participants in the conference included ambassadors, politicians, peace associations and personalities from different nationalities and cultures.
“The root causes of injustice and poverty must also be addressed,” noted Sauca. “And already, since the 1970s, the WCC has been promoting and advocating sustainable development, and an effective response to the existential threat of climate change.”
Sauca urged the setbacks caused by COVID-19 and the war in Ukraine not to be used as excuses for inaction and failure. “The one billion poorest people in the world deserve a better life,” he said. “Indeed, as important as the work of international humanitarian agencies is, it is often national and local faith-based organizations and communities who are the leading edge and long-term foundation for humanitarian relief and development.”
The WCC seeks to support and strengthen the humanitarian and diaconal roles of its member churches in their own contexts, Sauca noted.
“COVID-19 has been a major challenge in recent years, with churches playing a key role in advocating a fairer and greater distribution of vaccines, as well as in meeting the needs of affected people and communities,” he said. “The humanitarian work done by the global membership of the World Council of Churches and ACT Alliance is immense.”
In countries close to the war in Ukraine, church buildings have been used to store humanitarian aid and to provide accommodation to refugees, Sauca noted. “Right now, many African nations and the UN World Food Programme source significant amounts of wheat and other staples from Ukraine,” he added. “The current inability to harvest, transport, or receive these essential supplies is yet another reason why this terrible war must be brought to an end as quickly as possible.”
When the war in Ukraine does come to an end, there will be a critical need for sustained humanitarian and development work, Sauca said.
“Let us not forget about other places in great need, such as Yemen, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Madagascar, Central America, Afghanistan, to name just these,” he said. “In conclusion, it is clear that churches do not and must not undertake humanitarian work to proselytize or for any other hidden agenda but as a response to their very identity as churches, as I set out at the beginning of this presentation.”
He noted that countries once in receipt of humanitarian aid, such as Germany, are now among the largest donors internationally. “As human beings, we are all interdependent irrespective of faith,” he concluded. “There are times when we need support – and there are times when we are able to provide it. As churches, our faith compels us to be part of the global humanitarian effort to care for people in need.”