World Children’s Day, 21 November 2018
Sisters and brothers in Christ,
Welcome to the World Council of Churches, the worldwide fellowship of Orthodox, protestant and other churches walking, praying and working together.
This year we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches. The Council’s 70 years history confirms that our agenda has been a constantly and changing one on Human rights for all, and the concern for peace between nations, in the communities and with the earth, arising from the challenges of the world, the concerns of the member churches and an ongoing concern for renewal in churches’ life and witness for justice and peace.
As general secretary of the World Council of Churches, I am often informed about how children suffer in all continents of our world. I am also shown how churches have addressed the needs of children and continue to do so. As Christians we want to show the care of our loving God to our children and to all children, protecting them and providing them with what they need for care and safety. We now want to give this sacred task a stronger focus in our work as the WCC.
As we all have been or are children, we are given life through others; we need to be fed and we need to be clothed, we need the care of those around us, we need to learn from others, we need to be protected from dangers, violence, and illness. We need to belong to somebody, somewhere. There is also special role and responsibility as a father and grandfather of three almost four, and we have a special call to take action.
As we celebrate the World Children’s Day 2018, the World Council of Churches, affirm the role of churches in addressing the needs of children. We encourage one another to be at the forefront of offering care and protection for those who are most vulnerable among us, particularly those who are wounded and are refugees.
The 10th assembly of the WCC, convened in 2013 in Busan, Korea, took into consideration this serious challenge of our times and thus also: the suffering of children at the grassroots levels every day in all parts of the world. As the assembly considered the situations of injustice in our world that called for churches’ response, assembly delegates and ecumenical partners present agreed that Churches should tangibly manifest their commitment to children’s rights, to protection of children and child participation.
Thus, another new focus was added to the Council’s programmatic activities and we started developing the Churches Commitment to Children. Looking for ecumenical partners for such an important task, we united efforts with UNICEF and launched our partnership on this matter soon after the assembly.
“Churches’ Commitments to Children”, our foundational document and road map for our activities, has emerged from the extensive experience of our member churches giving attention to the value of children as human beings and their potential within our families, our churches, our societies. It was developed with strong support from UNICEF, and reflected the agreement with UNICEF to collaborate together in advocacy and other efforts to protect children from harm and ensure their welfare throughout the world and under all circumstances.
In the one ecumenical movement we are walking, praying and working together, also with those who are not members of the WCC. As followers of Jesus Christ, as church, we live not in a closed circle or behind thick walls, but in the world where the salt and light are needed.
We should address all the important issues of justice and peace from the perspective of children. Even - and particularly significant - their perspectives bring us to the heart of the matter. Their question - articulated or not - is: “do you love me”? It is the same question as Christ asked Peter, the leader of the first Christian Church: “ Do you love me? “ Then: Jesus said: “Tend my sheep”. To care for God’s beloved children is to love God. Nothing less.
Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
World Council of Churches