Then the Lord said, “I have observed the misery of my people… I have heard their cry… Indeed, I know their sufferings… I have come down to deliver them… and to bring them up… to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey…” (Exodus 3:7-8)

The executive committee of the World Council of Churches, meeting in Bossey, Switzerland, on 12-17 November 2021, recalls the WCC’s heritage from the early steps towards its formation and its relationship to the first global ecumenical consultation on racism in 1939, through the Programme to Combat Racism, to the recent establishment of a transversal programme on overcoming racism, racial discrimination and xenophobia. We lament the continuing and resurgent challenges of racism, xenophobia and related discrimination and intolerance, and re-affirm the commitment of the global ecumenical fellowship to the equal human dignity and rights of all people as children of God, created in God’s own image, and without distinction based on colour, race or ethnicity, among other characteristics.

The executive committee recognizes that people of African descent have for centuries been victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, afrophobia and enslavement and the denial of many of their rights, and notes that the ongoing International Decade for People of African Descent (1 January 2015 - 31 December 2024) calls the international community’s attention to the history and continuing struggle of people of African descent. The recent Africa and African Diaspora (AAD) Conference held virtually on 23-29 October 2021 under the theme, “Africa and the African Diaspora: From Manchester 1945 to a Pan-African Renaissance: The Shared Journey – The Past, Present and Future” has likewise brought fresh insights and impetus for ecumenical engagement in this regard.

Accordingly, and following the recent introduction of the new WCC transversal programme on these issues, the executive committee welcomes the establishment by resolution of the UN General Assembly (A/Res/75/314, 2 August 2021) of a Permanent Forum of People of African Descent (PFPAD). Created to serve as a consultative mechanism for people of African descent and other relevant stakeholders, as a platform for improving the safety and quality of life and livelihoods of people of African descent, and as an advisory body to the Human Rights Council, PFPAD is mandated, inter alia:

  • to contribute to the full political, economic and social inclusion of people of African descent in the societies in which they live as equal citizens without discrimination of any kind and contribute to ensuring equal enjoyment of all human rights; and
  • to provide expert advice and recommendations aimed at addressing the scourges of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and all their contemporary forms and manifestations confronted by people of African descent and that impede the full and effective realization and enjoyment of all their human rights and fundamental freedoms.

We recognise the establishment of this Forum as a milestone in the fight against racial injustice. At the same time, we are aware that there are countries that have been hesitant or resistant to the furthering of proposals that might lead to a systematic engagement in addressing the historic inequities and injustices over past centuries that this new Forum is designed to promote. Therefore as a fellowship of churches we invite these countries to come to this new table of further reflection and repair with a renewed openness to ways in which this conversation can be deepened in order to move towards justice and reconciliation.

Moreover, we acknowledge that if it hadn’t been for the legacy of people of African descent continually living out their faith and vision of human dignity and human rights, often resulting in their untimely deaths, the establishment of this Forum would not have been considered. This legacy, the reaction to the tragedy of George Floyd, and so many other tragedies of Black lives lost, have been catalytic in making sure that the Forum is not still under discussion but has become a reality.

The executive committee therefore commends PFPAD to WCC member churches and partners, as a forum for advocacy and collaboration for the realization by people of African descent of their God-given dignity and rights, in full equality and without discrimination.