Text: Amos 5:21-24

“I hate, I despise your religious festivals;

    Your assemblies are a stench to me.

…… Away with the noise of your songs!

    I will not listen to the music of your harps.

But let justice roll on like a river,

    righteousness like a never-failing stream!”

Reflection:

In 2013, the World Council of Churches (WCC) 10th Assembly of the in Busan invited the WCC fellowship to embark on a Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace”.  The 2014  WCC central committee of WCC (decision-making body between the assemblies) invited the WCC  to align our programs to the overarching theme of the WCCs Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace (PJP).  Accordingly, all the diverse programmes of the council, including the Public Witness and Diakonia, found inspiration to articulate their work with the framework of the PJP.  Some perceived the PJP as a metaphor. Others embarked on a pilgrimage by walking long distances. During the COP 21 in Paris in 2015, I fondly remember that our member churches and other churches embarked on hundreds of kilometres journey by foot or on bicycles on a Pilgrimage of Climate Justice. Some even walked more than 1000 kms from Flensbourg to Paris, some came from London, while others came from Norway and Sweden.  During the COP 21 the faith communities handed over an ambitious call for the Paris agreement to Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UNFCCC with over 2 million signatures including the pilgrims themselves. This is the power of the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace that can inspire and motivate the fellowship to take action on issues of justice and build peace. These are some of the strongest linkages of the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace in Europe.

So some may ask what is this PJP after all? The PJP consists of at least three different dimensions/ vias:

  • Celebrating the Gifts (via positiva)

We do not journey with empty hands, nor do we walk alone. Together we celebrate God´s great gift of life, the beauty of creation and the unity of a reconciled diversity. We feel empowered by this grace of participating in God´s movement of love, justice and peace.

We receive in prayer.

  • Visiting the Wounds (via negativa)

This pilgrimage will lead us to the locations of ugly violence and injustices. We intend to look for God´s incarnated presence in the midst of suffering, exclusion, and discrimination. The true encounter with real, contextual experiences of a broken creation and sinful behaviour against each other might inform us anew about the essence of life itself. It might lead us to repentance and – in a movement of purification – liberate us. 

  • Transforming the Injustices (via transformativa)

Being transformed ourselves, the pilgrimage may lead us to concrete actions of transformation. We may grow in our courage to live in true compassion with one another and with nature.   Economic and ecological justice as well as the healing of the wounded and the striving for peaceful reconciliation is our call – in each and every context. We are transformed through prayer and act in prayer.

To put it simply, the PJP gives us an opportunity to transform the injustices by accompanying those affected through empathy and by taking concrete actions, and yet all the time celebrating the gifts of the diverse fellowship we have. [1]

Now how does this overarching theme of WCC PJP relate to the Pilgrimage of Water Justice movement?  Asked this question, Dr Agnes Abuom, moderator of WCC central committee, beautifully articulated in an interview of Ecumenical Water Network (EWN):

“I do believe that there are links, there are connections between the water justice movement and the overarching theme of justice and peace. As a matter of fact, the water justice campaign is a component of this overarching theme. ………As well, we can see that both [the] justice and peace [movement] and [the] water justice network accompany people on the margins, where they draw lessons of transforming past experiences and heal present “wounds”. The central concept, and the operative term in both areas, is justice. It can be economic justice, social justice, political and religious justice, and structures that transcend from just relationships with God, the Creator, and the created nature. Both pilgrimage of justice and peace and the water justice network are movements and momentums that seek to address matters of injustice, oppression inequality, conflict and threats to life.”[2]

The WCC Ecumenical Water Network, always launches its annual Lenten campaign “Seven Weeks for Water” (for which I am writing this reflection), from one of the regions where we have the reference group meeting of the WCC PJP, as a concrete action of the PJP to water justice. Europe is blessed with abundant rain throughout the year and with many rivers and lakes with clean water. As the WCC 11th Assembly takes place in Karlsruhe, Germany in August/September 2022, issues of water justice remain important. The message of becoming a blue community[3] is key for Europe. It is also the right time for Europe to reflect on how its multinational cooperations contribute to the pollution of rivers and lakes in the global south. Prophet Amos’ message of “let justice roll on like a river,  righteousness like a never-failing stream!” is a strong message to encourage churches to promote water for all and justice for all. The WCC PJP is an effective medium for promoting both.

Questions:

  • Do you see any linkages of WCC’s PJP and the Pilgrimage of Water Justice in your own context? If so, give some examples.
  • Can there be justice when 1/3rd of the world does not have access to clean water while corporates buy water bodies for mining or luxurious theme parks in the global south?

Actions

  • Organise a small gathering in your church / if you have the opportunity, prepare a sermon to articulate the concept of PJP with water justice.
  • As a concrete transformative action try to provide clean water to a community not having access to this life-giving resource.

Sources

Please refer to footnotes and the following links:

https://www.oikoumene.org/news/hundreds-of-pilgrims-making-way-to-un-climate-change-conference

https://www.oikoumene.org/resources/documents/water-justice-is-integral-to-pilgrimage-of-justice-and-peace-by-dr-agnes-abuom

https://www.oikoumene.org/resources/documents/an-invitation-to-the-pilgrimage-of-justice-and-peace

https://www.lutheranworld.org/news/lwf-joins-faith-communities-call-ambitious-paris-outcome

*Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri is the deputy general secretary of the World Council of Churches, supervising all the programmes under the Public Witness and Diakonia departments.  She is a renowned theologian and has published several books. She comes from Malawi, Africa.

 


[1] https://www.oikoumene.org/resources/documents/an-invitation-to-the-pilgrimage-of-justice-and-peace

[2]https://www.oikoumene.org/resources/documents/water-justice-is-integral-to-pilgrimage-of-justice-and-peace-by-dr-agnes-abuom

[3] https://www.oikoumene.org/news/wcc-blue-community-implements-water-changes-in-the-ecumenical-centre

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Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri
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