World Council of Churches (WCC) deputy general secretary Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri joined the 64th General Conference and 70th Anniversary of the Christian Council of Mozambique in June. The gathering convened under the theme “God of love, guide us in the path of Reconciliation, Unity in Diversity, Justice and Peace.”
On the occasion, Phiri shared a message from the WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit that read: “You have come a long way since 1948 when the Christian Council of Mozambique was established in the same year as the World Council of Churches. You have defeated the Portuguese army and liberated yourself from centuries of colonialism in a fierce and bloody war from 1964 to 1974.”
Soon after the hard-won independence, the message continued, people in Mozambique struggled with each other for their different identities and lives, another very difficult time of violence and despair, yet once again they found the way to peace and reconciliation.
“These four days have given you an opportunity to understand why you want to walk together on the path of unity in diversity, justice and peace,” Phiri said. “This commitment is deeply rooted in your experience. It is earned by yourselves, your mothers and fathers, and your ancestors with times of deep distress, but also with moments of joy and celebration.”
She also noted the similarity of the theme in Mozambique with the theme of the next WCC assembly in 2021 in Karlsruhe, Germany, “Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity.”
Past and present
The message of the WCC general secretary also recognized people who influenced not only the history of Mozambique, but also the WCC.
It commemorated the late Eduardo Chivambo Mondlane, who served as founding president of the Mozambican Liberation Front from 1962 until his assassination in 1969. As a youth representative, he was the only participant from Mozambique at the 1954 WCC assembly in Evanston, Illinois (USA). He was about to speak at the 1969 Notting Hill consultation that inaugurated the Programme to Combat Racism of the WCC, when he was killed on 3 February 1969. But his vision of the struggle of liberation continued to inspire the programme.
Phiri also recognized Bishop Dinis Sengulane, who continues to be a peace advocate. Former president of the Council of Churches in Mozambique, he was a member of the WCC Commission of the Churches for International Affairs. He motivated movements worldwide with the initiative “Transforming Arms into Tools.”
In 2006, in New York City during a public rally, he said: “I am wearing a cross made of pieces of guns to show that we can transform this industry stained with blood into an industry of promoting human dignity in the biblical sense of turning swords into ploughshares.”
Phiri assured those gathered that she would take everything she saw and heard during her visit into preparations for the upcoming WCC assembly. “The WCC needs your kind of experience and spirituality to contribute towards guiding its affairs,” she said.