I am glad to be sending the greetings of the World Council of Churches to the worldwide Muslim community as they celebrate Eid Al Fitr after keeping the fast of Ramadan for the past month.
It is a difficult and conflicted time in our world at present, as the human community seems to be faced with a number of grave problems in which, sadly, religion seems all too often to play a contributing role. At the same time we are aware of the potential for people of faith, especially when they work together across religious boundaries, to be a powerful force for global good. During the last year we have seen this potential in actions related to concerns such as climate change and care for the increasing streams of vulnerable migrants in many parts of our world. It has been the privilege of the World Council of Churches and myself to work together with representatives of the Muslim community on such issues.
Over the coming year a particular focus of the work of the World Council of Churches will relate to religion and violence. We will be reflecting and taking some key actions in relation to this theme, which none of us can afford to ignore. There is a two-fold aspect to it: violence against religion, and violence done in the name of religion. I am looking forward to continuing collaboration with our Muslim friends and contacts in our work.
The World Council of Churches’ endeavours in this area form part of our ‘pilgrimage of justice and peace’ which constitutes the undergirding principle of our ecumenical vision for our time. Given the importance of the motif of pilgrimage in many world faiths, not least Islam, we hope that we will be able to travel together on our pilgrim road with diverse companions reflecting global religious cooperation. I am sure we can all learn from each other as we seek to travel together towards a horizon of greater justice and peace. A remarkable young Muslim woman, with whom the World Council of Churches is privileged to work, recently shared with my colleagues an inspiring insight. They were asking her about her feelings during the time she participated in the Hajj. She responded, ‘I felt full of hope, and full of fear.’ Then after a slight pause, she added,’ … fear of God.’
So my prayer as I send you these greetings for Eid Al Fitr is that our common commitment to ‘fear God’ may act as an impetus for all of us to hold onto hope in our hearts, tasked as we are by the God to whom we all need to give final account, to strive to make our common home a place which is more justly and peaceably shared by all.
Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
WCC general secretary