Representatives of various ecumenical health organisations gathered in Geneva in mid-December to discern how best to strengthen Christian health networks around the world.
The consultation forms part of the World Council of Churches’ (WCC) overarching implementation of an ecumenical global health strategy in the period leading up to the WCC’s next assembly, in 2021.
WCC programme executive for Health and Healing Dr Mwai Makoka, who hosted the meeting, explains that the role of the WCC in this field "is to reduce the functional gap between churches and church hospitals, so that church-run hospitals and facility-based health activities in the churches can serve as an expression of the life and witness of the church.”
Doug Fountain, executive director of Christian Connections for International Health, highlighted the importance of Christian health networks for ministry. “Sometimes, health facilities are too independent and conflict with each other, and so would benefit from stronger coordination. By promoting these networks, we can actually improve efficiency as well as scale, while also promoting the underlying Christian vision,” he reflected.
“We need to be exposed to other networks to understand what works best, to see the areas where an umbrella organisation such as the WCC or Christian Connections for International Health can amplify the little noise that we are each making,” added another participant, Priya John, speaking as general secretary of the Christian Medical Association of India.
In order to implement the ecumenical global health strategy, Makoka underlined, “the Biblical foundation of the health work of church hospitals needs to be strengthened, and come to the fore.”
For Makoka, who has been recently appointed to the World Health Organisation Civil Society Working Group on Non-Communicable Diseases, the WCC has a key role to play, in working actively with member churches and ecumenical bodies.
“I think it is the mutual accountability that lifts us up, to continue to strive toward excellence. We are all fellow pilgrims, we hold hands with the strong and with those who are lagging behind. If you are starting to feel weak, you stretch forth your hand to your brother,” Makoka concluded.
Learn more about WCC work on Health and Healing