More than 250 mission workers and church leaders from around the world gathered in Berlin, Germany, 27 to 28 August, for the Mission Respect congress which reviewed the 2011 document Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World - Recommendations for Conduct.
The congress explored how mission and evangelism can be conducted in a responsible way, showing respect for others’ beliefs and cultures.
The document being discussed is a landmark statement addressing the conduct of Christian witness and was released 28 June 2011 by the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue of the Roman Catholic Church and the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) after five years of work.
With an expressed awareness of inter-religious tensions and the difference in religious convictions, the document is meant to be a tool for churches, ecumenical organizations and mission agencies rather than a policy or theological statement.
Mission Respect congress is sponsored by the Council of Christian Churches in Germany (ACK), which includes the Catholic Church together with a number of Protestant and Orthodox churches, and the German Evangelical Alliance, as well as three large Catholic, Protestant and Evangelical associations of mission organizations.
“The purpose of the document Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World is to encourage churches, church councils and mission agencies to reflect on their current practices and to use the recommendations in this document to prepare, where appropriate, their own guidelines for their witness and mission among those of different religions and among those who do not profess any particular religion,” Rev. Christoph Anders, director of the Association of Protestant Churches and Missions (EMW), said at the opening of the congress.
“It is hoped that Christians across the world will study this document in the light of their own practices in witnessing to their faith in Christ, both by word and deed.”
“The document invites all of us to mutual respect and solidarity,” Archbishop emeritus Anders Wejryd, the WCC president for Europe, said in the opening session. “Christians are called to commit themselves to work with all people in mutual respect, promoting together justice, peace and the common good. Inter-religious cooperation is an essential dimension of such commitment.”
Wejryd added, “The meeting today in Berlin is one output of the document. I’m grateful to be part of the congress and grateful to the organizers who brought us together to share and to listen to one another.”
Fr Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue added, “The document is important, but much more important is that we have to come together, we have to witness and we have to discuss. I’m looking forward to the ongoing discussion among different churches and different religions.”
“We have to build new bridges. But we have to remember, build one bridge at a time,” Dr Geoff Tunnicliffe, general secretary of the WEA, said. “All of us have a responsibility to go home and build bridges. Let’s talk, let’s meet, let’s discuss - but it is also important to remember that we have to listen and to be listened to when criticism is not justified.”