Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me” (Matt. 25:40). Accordingly, our understanding of diakonia is that it a core part of Christian service. In all countries, demand on public services for social care is great: in many countries lack of funds means that publicly-run social care services do not exist. This reality places huge responsibilities on churches and non-governmental organizations to offer care. Challenges affecting Christian diakonia include economic injustice, poverty, climate change, lack of availability of public services, migration, racism, religious and ethnic conflict, inadequate healthcare, lack of education, crime, violence, isolation and abuse against individuals and groups. There are numerous ways to deliver diakonia – such as through professional and specialized ministries or in the day-to-day work of congregations, often by unpaid volunteers.
Our understanding of social care in a Christian context leads us to the concept of ecumenical diakonia. To be effective witnesses and practitioners, collaboration between churches and agencies, nationally and internationally, is essential. Jesus said, “’You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31). For Christians, our neighbourhood is global: given that effective ecumenism also depends on mutual support and mutual accountability, our diaconal service must be global as well as local.
Ecumenical diakonia cannot be confined to service. It is also about building a transformative role: a call to transform society. An assets-based diakonia can help build and strengthen fellowship among churches and their ecumenical partners, making it possible to turn communities into agents of change and transformation.