Christian witness in our multi-religious world: Report from a meeting on the reception of the guidelines

18 months after the launch of "Christian witness in a multi-religious world: recommendations for conduct" in June 2011, a small gathering in Bossey, Switzerland (December 16-18 2012) took stock of how the guidelines had been received to date. The meeting was convened by the World Council of Churches’ programme for interreligious dialogue and cooperation, and included representatives of both the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) and the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), who had partnered the WCC in the original production and launch of the document; and therefore Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican, Evangelical and Pentecostal voices were reflected in its publication.

It is clear that the guidelines – now available in English, French, Italian, Arabic, Swedish, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and other languages as well – meets a resonance among Christians in many parts of the world, and from varied Christian traditions. At the gathering inspiring stories were shared of the use of the guidelines in a wide range of different geographical contexts. The document is both unique and important given that the three bodies responsible for its publication represent between them a very significant majority of the Christians in the world: the dissemination of the guidelines itself provides considerable opportunities for both inter Christian and interreligious encounter. The document is also enabling Christians to speak with a united voice to adherents of other religions on the vital issue of the principles and parameters of Christian witness in today’s world. The introduction to the document stated:

"The purpose of this document 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. 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."

This encouragement to Christians in different parts of the world to use the document to form the basis of their own contextually relevant guidelines was gradually being met, though there was still more which could be done.

The reflection that "The text of the document does not assume the end of a conversation but the beginning of one," resonated with the experience of the participants at the Bossey meeting.

Over the next year or so the PCID, WCC and WEA will continue to encourage and facilitate the communication of the guidelines by a wide range of means, including social media. The hope was expressed that a larger gathering might take place around June 2014, the third anniversary of the launch of the document, to harvest experience and re-state the commitment of the bodies who had been responsible for its original publication.

The document ‘Christian witness in a multi-religious world: recommendations for conduct’ is available at: