Nurse Nacima Keni examines a patient in the Mother of Mercy Hospital in Gidel, a village in the Nuba Mountains of Sudan. The area is controlled by the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North, and frequently attacked by the military of Sudan. The Catholic hospital is the only referral hospital in the war-torn area.

The 61 participants commemorated World Immunisation Week, as well as appreciated the launch of Health-Promoting Churches Volume III: Contextual Bible Studies on Health and Healing” as a resource to help churches engage on health.

Participants included Christian health associations, Christian health organisations and facilities, desk officers or focal persons for church health programmes, networks of Christian health organisations and associations, and regional ecumenical organisations, among others.

In a message to those gathered, WCC general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay related the history of the WCCs longstanding involvement in promoting good health for all.

The WCCs commitment to health has now been consolidated in the establishment last year of the Commission of the Churches on Health and Healing,” Pillay said. In this regard, this publication of contextual Bible studies is one such resource for our member churches and the wider ecumenical family.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown to churches that health cannot be an afterthought, Pillay added. In addition to working with churches, the WCC will strengthen our work with specialised ministries, in this regard Christian organisations working on health,” he said. "We are also looking at expanding our partnerships with WHO, UNICEF, and other international organisations that would see value in our contributions to health and the Sustainable Development Goals more broadly.”

As he officially launched Health-Promoting Churches Volume III: Contextual Bible Studies on Health and Healing,” Pillay thanked everyone involved in producing the document. Your labours of love will be a blessing to many,” he said.

Rev. Dr Kenneth Mtata, WCC program director for Public Witness and Diakonia, shared future directions of the WCC related to health and healing, and welcomed input from the participants.

A presentation by Jun Orbina from WHO showed gaps in immunisation coverage, and asked churches to help reach the zero-dose”/unvaccinated children; childhood vaccinations have lagged behind due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and there is need to catch up.

Presentations then showed the breadth and depth of how churches are promoting health and wellbeing. The Africa Christian Health Associations Platform shared how they are reaching zero-dose children, building trust with communities, and addressing religious and social norms responsible for the low vaccine uptake in the Sahel region.

Rev Judith Johnson-Grant provided a Bible reflection, saying that—even though the Bible doesnt say thou shall vaccinate” or thou shall not vaccinate”—Biblical principles of wholeness can encourage uptake of vaccines that protect from disease. She urged that we take vaccines to care for ourselves and for others by being the full stop” in the transmission cycle of diseases.

The Anglican Alliance shared how they have used contextual Bible study to empower communities to feel included in church and community life, instead of being excluded and on the margins.

The WCC programme executive for health and healing, Dr Mwai Makoka, emphasized the importance of being multidisciplinary in Christian health work, of demonstrating concretely what we are doing to address challenges on the ground, and of continuing to encourage and support each other.

Link to the publication Health-Promoting Churches Volume III