Rev. Dr Peniel Rajkumar is the World Council of Churches (WCC) programme coordinator for Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation. He reflects on the recent release of “Serving a Wounded World in Interreligious Solidarity: A Christian Call to Reflection and Action During COVID-19 and Beyond” by the WCC and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID). The document aims to encourage churches and Christian organizations to reflect on the importance of interreligious solidarity in a world wounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.
What is the main purpose of “Serving a Wounded World?”
Dr Rajkumar: The main purpose of this document is to inspire Christians to serve a world wounded by the COVID-19 pandemic in a spirit of interreligious solidarity. Seeking to foster a ‘dialogue of the hands’ (the dialogue of practical action), the document aims to cultivate and nurture among Christians the spirit and gift of interreligious cooperation.
How did you work on the document with the PCID?
Dr Rajkumar: The initial seeds for this project were planted during the joint staff meeting of the staff of the PCID and the WCC’s Office of Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation in Rome in January 2019. Subsequently, we had a brainstorming meeting with experts in Rome in December 2019 followed by a consultative session and ‘interreligious roundtable’ in Geneva in February 2020.
However, COVID-19 changed the speed, scope and significance of this project. Confronted with the new reality of the pandemic, we agreed that the relevance of a document like this lay in its ‘response-ability’ to the immediate global context. So, we accelerated the pace of production and re-conceived this document as a pastoral tool that would encourage churches to respond to the pandemic in a spirit of interreligious solidarity.
How can a local church use the document? Do you have any best practise to share? Will you translate the document into other languages?
Dr Rajkumar: This document is a call to reflection and action. We see it as a tool to build up reflective and resilient communities of solidarity. Therefore, while providing theological reflections as well as recommendations for action, we have consciously avoided proposing a ‘one size fits all’ model of action. Rather our aim is to open up space for churches to discern and design the ‘one size that matters’ at their diverse, grassroots level as they embrace interreligious solidarity as a form of Christian service. Translation of this document is a crucial part of our plans for the wide dissemination of this document.
What will be the topic for next document with the PCID?
Dr Rajkumar: This will be decided in our joint meeting next year, in what will by then hopefully be a ‘post-COVID-19′ world. Till then the challenge will be to ‘think with our feet firmly planted in the ground’ – i.e. being attentive to the changing realities around us and shaping our discipleship in response to these changes.
Is there anything else you wish to share with the wider fellowship? What kind of expectations do you have?
Dr Rajkumar: The COVID-19 pandemic has reaffirmed the interconnectedness of all humans, and has in a strange way pushed us to become ‘our sister’s and brother’s keeper.’ At a time such as this the onus is on each one of us to convert this moment of ‘crisis’ into a moment of ‘kairos’— discovering new ways of being and belonging. Interreligious solidarity can provide an important pathway to a ‘new normal,’ where conflict, competition and contempt are replaced by compassion, care and collaboration.