WCC participates in dialogue on COVID-19 vaccines with WHO director general

A woman sells vegetables at a street market in Porto Alegre, Brazil, where the infection rates and death tolls have been rising drastically. Brazil’s vaccine rollout has been painfully slow, inconsistent and marred by shortages. Photo: Marcelo Schneider/WCC

World Council of Churches (WCC) acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca participated in a virtual “High-Level Dialogue on Multi-religious Response to COVID-19 Vaccine” on 19 March with Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as leaders from other religious groups.

The dialogue, convened by Religions for Peace, explored how religious groups can constructively use their societal influence toward furthering WHO’s global vaccine efforts. Discussions centered around ways to provide accurate information about COVID-19 vaccines, as well as ways to demonstrate and model ongoing COVID-19 prevention efforts.

Sauca reflected that, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the WCC has been actively engaging with its member churches and partners on how they respond together.

“The WCC has been grateful to work with the World Health Organization to provide inputs from a faith perspective as guidelines change, vaccines roll out, and injustices are exacerbated by this pandemic that has affected us all, in every corner of the world,” he said. “We also continue to promote health education and behavioral change in faith communities with regard to COVID-19 response and prevention, and vaccine acceptability and accessibility in particular.”

The WCC continues to mount advocacy campaigns calling for the availability of vaccines, especially through COVAX, Sauca added.

“We are concerned that vulnerable people and nations continue to be shut out of vaccine rollouts,” he said. “Working with our Christian health networks and faith based partners, we will keep pressing for vaccine equity and education.”

In December 2020 a joint statement by the World Council of Churches and the World Jewish Congress on ethical issues related to COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

In addition to Sauca, panelists in the dialogue included:

Rev. Kosho Niwano
President-designate, Rissho Kosei-Kai; co-moderator, Religions for Peace, Japan
Chief Rabbi David Rosen
International director, Department of Interreligious Affairs, American Jewish Committee; co-president, Religions for Peace, Israel
Rev. Dr Antje Jackelen
Lutheran Archbishop of Uppsala; primate of the Church of Sweden; co-president, Religions for Peace, Sweden
H.E. Judge Mohamed Abdelsalam
Senior representative of His Eminence Grand Imam of Al-Azhar; secretary general of the Higher Committee on Human Fraternity; member of Al-Azhar Center for Interreligious Dialogue; member of the Executive Office of the Muslim Council of Elders; co-president, Religions for Peace, Egypt
H.H. Shri Shri Sugunendra Theertha Swamiji
Abbot, Sri Puthige Matha Monastery, co-president, Religions for Peace, India
H.E. John Cardinal Onaiyekan
Catholic archbishop emeritus of Abuja; former co-moderator, Religions for Peace, Nigeria

The dialogue was moderated by Prof. Dr Azza Karam, secretary general, Religions for Peace.

WCC, oikoumene.org