Engagement in international affairs has enabled churches to take a firm stand against injustices

View over Johannesburg, South Africa, where the 58th meeting of the WCC's Commission of the Churches on International Affairs took place on 2 - 6 November, 2021. Photo: Ivars Kupcis/WCC

The World Council of Churches (WCC) Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) has facilitated churches’ engagement in a wide range of critical issues of the world since the last WCC Assembly in Busan, concluded the 58th meeting of the WCC CCIA, gathering church representatives in Johannesburg and online in the 75th anniversary year of the Commission’s creation.

The main task of the Commission has been helping the Christian community in all its broadness to “formulate the Christian mind on world issues and bringing that mind effectively to bear upon such issues“ in order to avoid conflict and war, said CCIA moderator Rev. Frank Chikane.

Peter Prove, CCIA director, provided a report on the WCC’s recent work in peace-building, nuclear disarmament, human rights advocacy, climate emergency initiatives, sustainable development, exploring Christian perspectives on human rights, and planning for the 11th WCC Assembly.

Particular focuses for recent peace-building initiatives have been Africa (Ethiopia, South Sudan, Nigeria, Cameroon and Mozambique) and the Middle East (Israel and Palestine, Syria and Iraq) and the Korean Peninsula. Since the pilgrim team visits to Indonesia and West Papua in 2019, WCC has continued its advocacy against human rights abuses in West Papua.

“I cannot support my brother if he is wrong,” said Rev. Chikane, referring to the important role churches have not only in peace-building, but also in calling out injustices and standing with the oppressed. At the same time, churches in many parts of the world should contribute to conflict prevention and resolution to prevent the outbreak of armed violence, since peace-building can be too late to save many lives.

Group photo at the CCIA 58th meeting Johannesburg
Participants of the 58th meeting of the WCC’s Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa and online in the 75th anniversary year of the Commission’s creation. 

One of the particular highlights of CCIA’s work since the WCC Assembly in Busan has been its involvement in advocacy for nuclear disarmament, making the position of churches known both at the UN and national levels.

“Whenever there has been a nuclear nonproliferation treaty-related conference at the UN, the WCC has been there and partnered with faith-based and secular non-governmental organizations, able to present our statements, work with diplomats, gather for prayers,” said Emily Welty, CCIA vice moderator.

Because of the WCC’s unique structure with member churches all over the world, the WCC has access to a lot of spaces, which would not be possible otherwise. “We have been able to have difficult conversations with dialogue partners that do not agree with us, but take the meeting because of the moral witness and the role of the churches,” said Welty.

The WCC has been a long-time partner with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). For its work in developing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017, ICAN and all the involved partners won the Nobel Peace prize. “Although the prize is the achievement of a lifetime, so is the treaty itself, that one day will end nuclear weapons,” said Welty.

The WCC CCIA’s 58th meeting took place for the first time in a hybrid form – part of the commission met physically in Johannesburg, South Africa, hosted by the South African Council of Churches, while others joined the meeting online.