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The COVID-19 pandemic and community life: reflections and challenges

The Greek word Koinonia, which Paul especially uses in the New Testament, translates as community, communion, union, fellowship, participation, among other meanings. The term "solidarity" expresses the meaning of Koinonia. The community based on solidarity seeks peace, justice, well-being, the Shalom of the people. The word "coexistence" can also be equivalent of Koinonia, because it means to live in unity for several generations under the same roof or house. The "coexistence" leads us to take care of the integrity of creation, to recognize that we are not the only inhabitants of this house.

Reflection from a Bossey graduate on the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

At the end of this year’s Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, even though we could not be in Rome as we had hoped, my fellow students at the World Council of Churches (WCC) Bossey Ecumenical Institute and I were thrilled to be able to participate online with two services: the WCC’s Global Ecumenical Prayer and the Vatican’s Vespers for the Feast of the Conversion of St Paul live from the Basilica of St Pauls Outside-the-Walls. Both services reflected on a reading from John 15 – from which was taken this year’s Week of Prayer theme: “Abide in my love and you shall bear much fruit.”

How difficult it is to go on a pilgrimage of peaceful coexistence

Over the last 5 years, the World Council of Churches has been following the process that led Colombia to a Peace Agreement. During these three years since its signing, the WCC has met with government agencies responsible for its implementation and heard reports from the UN Verification Mission, from the Kroc Institute, and from the Truth Commission and the Special Jurisdiction for Peace.

Bethlehem shepherds, water shortage and trees of hope

This Christmas Season I will have concrete places in my mind when I listen to the story of the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem. I will think of the Bedouin community in Suyica, near Yatta, a Palestinian city in the West Bank. They live in tents and in caves because they are not allowed to build houses. Together with about 20 Methodists from around the globe representing the World Methodist Council, we visited them in October.

Sowing Peace

I recently attended the conference on ‘Interreligious dialogue for peace: Promoting Peaceful coexistence and common citizenship’ organized by KAICIID in Vienna on the 26 and 27 of February. The conference brought together some high profile religious leaders (predominantly but not exclusively from the Christian and Muslim faiths) who spoke with a united voice for social cohesion, peaceful coexistence and respect for religious diversity.

Power in this Nobel Peace Prize: truth told, truth heard

A Nobel Peace Prize ceremony’s greatest power may be that it enables unrealized truth to be told in a new light. The truth at issue has surely been spoken before, from shattered neighborhoods to the heights of power. Yet this Nobel award to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons enabled such truth to be spoken to an attentive mixed audience representing the street as well as the summit: Civil society campaigners, the diplomatic corps, nuclear-armed and nuclear-free; religious leaders; Norwegian society, a royal family in the front row; a worldwide audience.

Vatican conference and ecumenical echoes on nuclear arms and human development

A ground-breaking pontifical critique of nuclear weapons affirms the new treaty to ban nuclear weapons. By linking possession and use, Pope Francis is offering a new standard for Catholic debate over nuclear weapons. By offering it now, the pope is making a moral affirmation of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons adopted at the United Nations in July. The new treaty--which bans the possession, use and threat of use of nuclear weapons--is cited in this year’s Nobel Peace Prize award to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). The World Council of Churches is a member of ICAN and shares the same moral and spiritual critique of nuclear armaments.

Theological reflections on the way of just peace

What are the prospects for theology in peacebuilding? A couple of years ago this question became the springboard for my research on a textual process that was carried out by the World Council of Churches. The process towards an international ecumenical declaration on just peace resulted in An Ecumenical Call to Just Peace and the study document Just Peace Companion being published in 2011. Eventually, it formed part of the groundwork of the current Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace. My research on this process drew my attention to a couple of themes that inspire theological conversation around the very idea of a pilgrimage: the way, the movement, the process, and the fellow traveller.

Walking the Pilgrimage, on my feet and in my heart

In May and June, leading up to the World Council of Churches’ Central Committee meeting in Trondheim, I was on a pilgrimage from Oslo to Trondheim, promoting peace and peaceful co-existence between religious groups in my home country, Norway. On 18-20 October, I was again at a pilgrimage of justice and peace, this time together with about 50 people, representing councils of churches, specialized agencies and other ecumenical actors, who were gathered in Nairobi, Kenya, for the annual meetings of the South Sudan Ecumenical Network and the Sudan Ecumenical Network.

On the road for life

"Unterwegs für das Leben," on the road for life, was the name chosen for an initiative started by the women's work section of the Evangelical Church in Baden in the eighties. Christian women went walking together along the Rhine from Karlsruhe to Basel, going from place to place in order to collect signatures in opposition to the upgrading of armaments and to hand these over to the disarmament conference in Geneva. The walk was combined with evening peace prayer vigils held in local churches.

A sobering retrospective of the Canberra Assembly 25 years ago

The incredibly complex issues that came to the fore in the 1991 WCC Canberra Assembly continue to echo in contemporary ecumenical history. In 1991, I had been in ecumenical work already sixteen years. I began my ecumenical career being in charge of the WCC relationship with the United Nations. But nothing could have prepared me for my Canberra assignment given by General Secretary Emilio Castro on behalf of the Executive Committee: to enable the membership of the China Christian Council by resolving the condition it placed on the WCC.

Thoughts for Interfaith Harmony Week

It has taken me a while to get enthusiastic about Interfaith Harmony Week each February, but I have gradually ‘warmed’ to the idea, and one thing that I like is that it falls shortly after the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (at least in the northern hemisphere). The implicit connection this draws between the need for unity and harmony between Christians, and as a starting point for harmony between religions feels a helpful link.

Pilgrims freed from greed bear witness to the holiness of Creation

Twenty-six years after the late Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios I first proclaimed September 1st as a day of prayer for the environment, Creation is facing an ever more threatening future. I see the daily crying of Creation and the continuous mourning of God’s suffering people: immigrants who have fled from terrorism, orphans of war, refugees from flooding, suicides caused by bankruptcy, children dying from poverty and from hunger,… perhaps like the old “Time of Destruction” in Sodom and Gomorra (Gen. 19).

The struggle to raise awareness about climate justice in Norway

One should almost think that it would be obsolete to talk about justice and peace in the well-functioning society of Norway. Moreover, to talk about climate justice in a supposedly eco-friendly society seems unnecessary. However, knowing that Norway is a major oil and gas nation it suddenly seems more than relevant to poke a little in the industry.