Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC
Anniversary celebrations are always a source of great joy, especially when they involve the anniversary of the creation of the Church at Pentecost. Indeed, this provides a wonderful opportunity to greet sisters and brothers worldwide: Peace be with you!
Since the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace was launched at our 10th Assembly, in 2013, as a response to the deep injustices, widening social divisions and intractable armed conflicts experienced around the world in recent decades, all continents have been reached somehow by this vivid expression of our fellowship.
More recently, a series of pilgrim team visits (PTVs) have made it possible for Christians to walk side by side in solidarity with victims of injustice and violence in several parts of the world.
In this time of Pentecost, we would like to highlight the expressions of solidarity of such visits and their witness, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
In some of these encounters, the pilgrim team members have met men and women who suffered extreme violence because they were engaged in struggles for a dignified community life. Through their presence, the PTV participants have provided unconditional support to suffering people and spoken up on the importance of democratic participation through listening and peaceful coexistence with peace agreements.
Since 2016, PTVs have been sent to places like Palestine and Israel, Nigeria, South Sudan and Colombia, reinforcing the hope of peace and the presence of the Holy Spirit that Jesus offered to those who followed him, according to John 20:21-22.
In Colombia, they witnessed a society trying to implement the peace agreement and to establish the truth commission to shed light on the violent acts perpetrated by different armed actors during the decades of armed conflict of the government with the former FARC-EP guerrilla members. The pilgrim teams also saw reasons for hope in the WCC’s support of efforts to reach the truth.
The presence of the Holy Spirit helps to build new communities committed to promoting needed changes for peace with justice. There it is possible to listen to each other - both victims and perpetrators - and to look for reparation to the victims. This is a new situation, a sign of the new creation.
The Colombian people strongly believe that God is present through the Holy Spirit, breathing energy through ties of love. Full of renewed energy, we nurture hope in those who have suffered most and who still expect that the agreement reached between the government and the FARC in Havana will be fully implemented. Yet this hope will require courage and stamina, given the ongoing, daily reports of threats to social leaders, targeted killings, and threats from some politicians to leave the peace agreement behind.
Jesus promised those who followed him that he would send the Holy Spirit, defined as “another helper,” that is, the comforter, the advocate, the mediator, the intercessor: “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever” (John 14:15-16).
When the churches and the WCC advocate and intercede for victims and those who have been marginalized by society, the Holy Spirit is at work and is realizing God’s project of fostering life.
In 2018, as the WCC celebrates its 70th anniversary, we pray to God that the Holy Spirit will be present in the midst of the conflicts in Israel and Palestine, in Syria and in the Korean peninsula, as it has constantly moved throughout these 70 years in situations of war and conflicts.
As we celebrate Pentecost, let us recall the living testimonies of those who give their lives promoting reconciliation and peace with justice in their many countries worldwide. Let us pray that the Spirit of Pentecost brings hope to them and all men and women seeking peace and liberation. And in this year, when the WCC’s Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace focuses on Latin America, let us pray to God that the Holy Spirit may protect and guide people and authorities in countries like Nicaragua, Venezuela and Brazil.
May the Risen Christ, who gives life to a community committed to justice and love, help all WCC member churches to act with the same spirit of the first communities of Jesus’ followers: “All the believers were together and had everything in common” (Acts 2:44).
Peace be with you!
The presidents of the World Council of Churches
• Rev. Dr Mary-Anne Plaatjies van Huffel, Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa
• Rev. Prof. Dr Sang Chang, Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea
• Archbishop em Anders Wejryd, Church of Sweden
• Rev. Gloria Nohemy Ulloa Alvarado, Presbyterian Church in Colombia
• Bishop Mark MacDonald, Anglican Church of Canada
• Rev. Dr Mele’ana Puloka, Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga
• H.B. John X, Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and All the East
• H.H. Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians