As they told their stories, they also shared a glimpse of the deep roots of the commitment and passion that feeds their leadership roles within the World Council of Churches (WCC), Abuom as the moderator of the WCC central committee, and Sauca as WCC acting general secretary.
Abuom recalled serving as a steward at the WCC 5th Assembly in Nairobi in 1975—a landmark assembly because the WCC moved human rights into even greater prominence in its work.
“As a young person I came into the WCC because of the socio-political context of that time," said Abuom, and to this day she encourages young people to attend WCC assemblies and help in whatever ways they can.
“Once you get into the feel of the spirit of an assembly, you never lose that feeling, and at that time the issues discussed were around human dignity, human rights and inclusiveness,” she said. “When I got involved, the feeling of solidarity was so strong.”
Sauca recalled that, after 12 years of theological study in Romania, he enrolled at the Bossey Ecumenical Institute. “That experience changed my whole life,” he said. “I learned that all I learned from books is not the same as living with other people.”
Later in life, Sauca returned to Bossey as a professor. “In fact, I was retiring as a professor and in the meantime our moderator gave me another job,” he said with a smile, referring to his current role as acting general secretary, through which continues to steer the WCC through the pandemic.
The feeling of energy and movement from their early years has fed their involvement in the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace, the foundation of the WCC’s work since the 10th assembly in Busan in 2013.
“Through the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace, we have revitalized the momentum of the ecumenical movement,” said Abuom.
Sauca noted that the concept of a pilgrimage wasn’t invented by the WCC. “Pilgrimage is present in the Bible from the very beginning of Christian communities, in people who walk together,” he said. “A pilgrimage for me is a term that expresses best what the ecumenical movement is all about.”
Learn more about the WCC leadership