Terracotta mask in the installation "The scars of memory" by Ghanaian artist Kofi Setordji comemorating the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Ecumenical Center Geneva 2003.

The WCC at a time of crisis in the world and the churches

Today, no less than when the WCC was founded, the world and the churches face a time of crisis whose deepest dimensions are spiritual.

The world has seen many hopeful political and social changes over the past half-century. But these have been accompanied by new threats to the welfare of humanity and creation.

Colonialism has practically disappeared, but many of the nations to emerge from former colonies are subject to new kinds of economic and political dependency. The fear of a global nuclear holocaust has receded with the end of the cold war. Yet wars are still being fought, often within countries and along racial or ethnic lines.

Religious loyalties are used to foment hatred and violence and the lives of religious minorities are often precarious, even though encounter between people of different faiths has become common in many places and religious freedom is established by law nearly everywhere.

Many military regimes have been replaced by democratically elected civilian governments. But political institutions are seeing their credibility diminish as evidence mounts of their ineffectiveness and corruption.

Widespread awareness of threats to the global environment has not yet been matched by the will to make radical changes in life-style.

As modern means of transportation and instantaneous worldwide communication bring people all around the world closer together, economic, financial and media powers are creating a kind of global unity. But its price has been a growing fragmentation of societies and exclusion for more and more of the human family. The moral foundations of human community have become more fragile.

In this situation the churches have not always acted according to their commitments and convictions. Against the background of the spiritual crises of today, the people of God are called to repentance, conversion and renewal.

Are they able to live out a distinct alternative to the kind of global unity which comes by way of dominance and exclusion? Can they demonstrate a convincing model of relationships based on solidarity and sharing, mutual accountability and empowerment?