The Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima, vice-moderator of the WCC central committee, discussed the churches and peacemaking challenges during a meeting in Moscow 22 April with Patriarch Kirill, primate of the Russian Orthodox Church, and with Metropolitan Hilarion, chair of the Russian Orthodox Church’s department of external church relations. This is their second visit in the past year. There were two issues on the agenda: violence against Christian minorities and Ukraine.
Tveit expressed solidarity with the Russian Orthodox Church, a WCC member church, as it addresses the painful conflict in Ukraine. The patriarch shared their assessment of the situation and the suffering of people there.
Tveit said after his meeting with the patriarch, “The Russian Orthodox Church is an important partner and member of the World Council of Churches. Therefore I asked for a meeting with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow to discuss how we can contribute to peace in Europe and to follow up the recent visit by ecumenical leaders to Ukraine. We have as Christians to do everything to bring just peace back to Ukraine.”
Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima, vice-moderator of the WCC central committee, stressed the importance of the visit in March of the delegation of the World Council of Churches in Ukraine and thanked the Russian Orthodox leaders for their assistance in organizing the visit of the representative of the Moscow Patriarchate at the World Council of Churches and the International Organizations in Geneva.
The general secretary of the WCC described the steps taken by the World Council of Churches to improve the situation of Christians around the world. "The states are not able to protect their population and the disrespect of the rule of law can lead to serious causalities, as we have witnessed in Syria, Iraq, Libya,” said Tveit. “Therefore,” he continued, “we as Christians need to think about our brothers and sisters, think about how we can call upon the heads of state and governments to promote peace."
His Holiness Patriarch Kirill expressed satisfaction with the UN statement of March 13, 2015. On the initiative of Russia, the Vatican and Lebanon, the XXVIII session of the UN Human Rights Council adopted a statement "in support of human rights of Christians and other communities, particularly in the Middle East." The document was signed by 65 countries.
"This is the right step, but the tragedy is so burning, so painful that it takes more and more effort," said the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia. He drew the attention of the interlocutors to discrimination, persecution against Christians in other countries, and failure to embrace the so-called Arab Spring. "All this creates a depressing picture: in the XXI century, Christians suffer as they suffered during the Roman Empire." The Primate of the Russian Orthodox Church expressed bewilderment why this topic fails to elicit a stronger response at the international level.
Tveit added: "We can call upon all people of goodwill to protect each other, and to protect the Christian minority.” He continued, “We remind ourselves that we as Christians are called to be peacemakers in the world. This is our core identity as Christians. Much is at stake now, so it is necessary to strengthen our joint efforts in many areas."
Tveit concluded; "I think that it is very important to consider how the World Council of Churches and the Russian Orthodox Church could find a way to give these people at least some kind of help and support, and promote dialogue to resolve conflicts.”
The meeting, which was held in Moscow’s Patriarchal residence at Danilov Monastery, was attended by the chairman of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk; vice moderator of the WCC Central Committee Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima (Patriarchate of Constantinople); the representative of the Moscow Patriarchate at the World Council of Churches and international organizations in Geneva, Archpriest Mikhail Gundiaev; and WCC director of communication, Marianne Ejdersten.