In an acceptance speech at VID Specialized University, where she was awarded an honorary doctorate, Dr Agnes Abuom, moderator of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee, spoke on “Life in Fullness: Challenges and Prospects for Church/Mission.”
Abuom reflected that, for years, socio-economic development has eluded the secular actors, as results have not been commensurate with the levels of resources invested. “Development impact has remained dismal while levels of poverty have grown, inequalities deepened and questions asked as to why the continued gaps between investment and results,” she said. “Integrated diakonia is about the economy of life for all.”
The 21st century is confronted with many unprecedented challenges that may lead to collapse of humanity and environment as we have known it, continued Abuom.
“There are many forces and drivers of death that threaten and diminish fullness of life,” she said. “The levels of global inequality between the rich and poor within and between countries are unacceptable; inequality is not natural! It is manmade.”
Statistics point towards an increase in domestic violence, and indigenous women are most affected due to economic deprivation, continued Abuom.
“The task of mission and church in the 21st century is to contribute to rediscovering what it means to be human amidst strong forces of dehumanization and degradation of life,” she said. “Mission and church are challenged to strengthen their prophetic ministry in order to address the systems and policies that perpetuate poverty and denial of human dignity and human rights.”
Migration and especially forced migration is challenging the theology and practice of hospitality as well as raising concerns pertaining to integration in host countries. “A number of churches work ecumenically to address refugees and migrant issues, making it a potential for lived-out ecumenism at the local level,” she said. “Strengthened collaboration with churches in countries of origin is necessary in the coming years.”
The concept of mission from the margins has in recent years informed reflections and discourse on mission and evangelism, Abuom said. “Margins are understood as those vulnerable, indigenous people, trafficked men and women, young people, the urban poor, the workers, migrant labour that now fit in the category of modern slavery,” she said. “Where then is the margin and where is it going?”
Margins are not a geographical location, she explained. “What does prophetic ministry mean? How is it related to advocacy?” she asked.