From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Episcopalians: Mission is about justice and peacemaking, says Mideast church leader

Date Fri, 28 Feb 2003 12:24:14 -0500

February 28, 2003


Episcopalians: Mission is about justice and peacemaking, says 
Mideast church leader

by James Solheim

(ENS) According to the head of the Middle East Council of 
Churches, mission "needs to practice justice by doing justice, 
reconciling people with each other and with God."

Speaking at the Anglican Communion Mission Organizations 
Conference in Cyprus February 12-18, the Rev. Riaj Jarjour spoke 
of "two broken communities" in his region--the people of Iraq 
and the Palestinians. He argued that the Iraqis had been 
suffering under international sanctions for 12 years and "a war 
will make matters worse."

"We need a mission to Muslims, not to bring people to Christ but 
to proclaim Christ, Jesus the peacemaker, Jesus who came with 
justice and Jesus the reconciler," he said in switching his 
focus to the Holy Land.

As delegates from around the world shared chilling stories of 
conflict in their regions, they asked how the Christian 
community could assist in peacemaking by opposing the misuse of 
religious symbolism in many situations. They also explored ways 
to use advocacy to focus more attention on the plight of 
ordinary people caught up in war and civil conflicts--and how 
the church could be a mediator and an agent for healing 

Freedom from scourge of AIDS

In a statement released at the end of the conference, delegates 
challenged Anglicans throughout the world to "raise up a new 
generation of children free from the scourge of HIV/AIDS--and 
heard that the church is one of the greatest resources in that 
struggle, but also a hindrance because of its reluctance to 
address issues of human sexuality openly.

Anglican churches are playing an active and vital role in areas 
where the AIDS pandemic is at its worst, especially in Africa, 
where most churches are establishing special desks to coordinate 
the campaign. In Rwanda, for example, the Anglican archbishop 
chairs the national committee on AIDS. In Ghana, the Council of 
Churches has joined with Roman Catholics and Muslims in a 
campaign that emphasizes compassion for those infected as well 
as programs aimed at prevention.

A delegate from Uganda described how the campaign was affecting 
issues of confidentiality. Arguing in favor of a shared 
confidentiality rather than a strict confidentiality, the 
delegate said, "If I want to tell my wife I have tested positive 
I need my pastor to be there and the Mothers' Union to be on 
hand to support her."

Final statement lists challenges

In a final statement issued at the conclusion of the conference, 
the 110 participants from 40 countries reaffirmed that "the 
incarnation is the supreme model for our mission engagement" and 
that Christians are "called to live out our faith on the fault 
lines of a divided world." They also pledged themselves to 
"ongoing transformation and renewal of our mission structures" 
as well as "closer sharing between mission organizations" in 
seeking ways to work cooperatively.

At the same time, in their statement the delegates challenged 
the churches of the Anglican Communion to "appreciate the 
diverse cultures and contexts in which we live, work and witness 
and find new ways to use these positively in our mission." They 
also asked the communion to seek "greater understanding of how 
mission and evangelism is to be conducted in a post-colonial 
communion" and to take seriously "the communication needs of 
non-English speaking contexts."

The statement pleaded for "new models for mission engagement 
with the world of Faiths," fresh approaches to "fostering 
international chains of prayer and intercession," more efforts 
for "justice, peace and reconciliation in places torn apart by 
war, violence, poverty and human misery," as well as more 
attention to the plight of refugees and displaced persons.


--James Solheim is director of the Episcopal News Service. This 
article is based on reports by John Martin, who covered the 
Cyprus conference.

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