From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Title: Dialogue with other religions is an ecumenical priority

From "WCC Media" <>
Date Tue, 26 Aug 2003 17:34:51 +0200

World Council of Churches
Press Release Central Committee 29.01e
For Immediate Use
26 August 2003	

Central Committee    No. 01e  

Dialogue with other religions is "an ecumenical priority"  

The moderator of the World Council of Churches' (WCC) Central Committee, His
Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia, has called for "dialogue, relations
and collaboration with other religions" to have a "high priority" in the
Council's ecumenical witness.	 

Speaking on Tuesday, the first day of the week-long Central Committee meeting
in Geneva, the moderator argued that the WCC should become an "efficient
instrument of networking and advocacy" on issues of inter-religious concern,
strengthening and supporting inter-religious dialogue at global, regional and
national levels. However, this dialogue must have "its own integrity, agenda
and methodology," and should not be a last resort in emergency situations.   

In his report, Aram spoke of the ambivalent role played by religion in
today's world. He said, "In a society torn apart by brokenness and
hopelessness, people are looking for hope and meaning in religion." However,
he added, "In some countries, religion is exploited for political ends, and
in others it is used to advocate false ideologies and perpetuate unjust
structures." He also spoke of the new challenges of globalisation, which is
"drawing people together irrespective of religion, race or culture," and
said, "In the 'global village', we must all live together."   

Arguing for "a culture of mutual trust", he went on to say that while
religion provides a profound sense of identity and belonging, an exclusive
self-understanding can also lead to isolationism, hatred and violence. "More
and more, globalisation will create a profound crisis of identity. The only
force strong enough to stand up to this threat and protect identity is
religion. Through dialogue, people of faith must come to see their identity
within one household of God and as part of one common identity in God."  

Acknowledging the difficulties of setting acceptable boundaries of dialogue,
Aram stressed that dialogue is more than simply exchanging views. Rather, it
is "the experience of living together, reflecting together and working
together." As such, dialogue must be contextualised, since different churches
are faced with different issues; each situation has its own agenda.   

However, dialogue does not compromise the faith of believers. "The aim of
dialogue is not negotiation; its aim is mutual empowerment and deepening
mutual trust," Aram said. Dialogue is "the only way for religions to become
pro-active," to articulate "their common voice," and to "participate actively
in the transformation of society". There is no alternative to a dialogue that
challenges all religions "to go beyond their institutional and dogmatic
boundaries," he affirmed.    

However, according to the moderator, a proper theological perspective is
vital. Rather than believing that all religions outside Christ are devoid of
truth, we should accept that "Religious plurality is God's gift." As such,
"An inclusive understanding of God's salvific act will lead the church to
consider other religions as part of God's plan of salvation and not as mere
'mission fields'."    

The author of "Orthodox Perspectives on Mission", Aram suggested that the
implication for missionary strategy is that, particularly in pluralistic
environments, it is inappropriate to attempt to add new members. Instead, "we
should seek to identify the 'Christic values in other religions', and 'awaken
the Christ who sleeps in the night of the religions'," Aram said, quoting the
Orthodox theologian Georges Khodr, metropolitan of Mount-Lebanon.  

According to the WCC moderator, inter-religious collaboration is
"indispensable" in three areas. Religious education must be re-shaped to
become "relevant and contextual", geared towards building pluralistic
communities; religions must act as agents of healing and reconciliation,
helping each other to defuse conflicts in situations of ethnic and political
tension; and religions must move towards an active prophetic role, "engaging
in spiritual combat against evil forces" - for example religious
fundamentalism - "the greatest enemy of religion and the most dangerous force
of our times".	 

Recognising that "most of our churches are unprepared to engage in
inter-religious dialogue," Aram advocated the role of the Council in
resourcing them to give guidance to their members. "Let us, as Christians,
engage ourselves with people of living faiths in this journey of discovery
and rediscovery of our common roots, common truths and common calling," he

The WCC Central Committee is the principal decision-making body of the
Council between assemblies. Meeting every 12-18 months, it comprises 150
members.  The agenda of this Central Committee includes, among other
important decisions, the election of a new general secretary, and the
selection of a theme for the next assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil, in the
year 2006.   

The full text of the WCC moderator's report to Central Committee is available
on our website at:   

A high-resolution photograph of the moderator is available for use with this

For further information, please contact the Media Relations Office, tel: +41
(0)22 791 64 21 /61 53	


The World Council of Churches (WCC) is a fellowship of churches, now 342, in
more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian
traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works
cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which
meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in
1948 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary
Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.

World Council of Churches
Media Relations Office
Tel: (41 22) 791 6153 / 791 6421
Fax: (41 22) 798 1346

PO Box 2100
1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland

Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home