From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Title: WCC Central Committee: Press Conference Sam Kobia

From "WCC Media" <>
Date Sat, 30 Aug 2003 17:08:55 +0200

World Council of Churches
Central Committee 2003
Press Release Nr. 10
For Immediate Use

General secretary-elect brings African touch to WCC

In his first press conference as World Council of Churches (WCC) general
secretary-elect, Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia spoke of the contribution that he, as
an African, intends to bring to his task.  

"One thing that we say marks Africans out is the ability to celebrate life in
the midst of death, and the capacity to hope in a situation that looks
hopeless," Kobia said.	

"Like many Africans, I have had personal experience of very difficult
situations. What has sustained me is the capacity to hope, and this is what I
intend to bring."  

Evoking the concept of "ubuntu", a Zulu word, Kobia explained that for
Africans, it is "that which makes human beings human", that which sustains
them in their struggles. He also talked about the relational dimension in
life, that helps people grow together as human beings.	

Asked what he would bring to the way in which the Council operates, Kobia
spoke of his support for a "consultative, participative, listening approach".

In his opening remarks to the press, "I believe very strongly that working
together and walking together will help us stay together," Kobia said. "This
is a spiritual journey we need to sustain, to fulfill the prayer of the Lord
Jesus Christ that all may be one, that the world may believe." He also
emphasized the importance of a "cosmo-vision", based on an appreciation of
human dignity and the integrity of creation, that "brings together the whole
created world and everything in it".  

Inter-religious dialogue will, he said, be a theme in the years leading up to
the WCC's 2006 assembly. "The 20th century was dominated by the politics of
ideology. It is likely that the 21st will be dominated by the politics of
identity. Many people define their identity in a religious way. If we are to
overcome violence and create peace and justice, we need a multi-faith

On the importance of involving young people in ecumenical affairs, "The older
generation acquired its ecumenical formation in many ways, for example
through the world student Christian movement. We want to provide such spaces
for young people today," Kobia explained.  

Referring to moves towards a new configuration of the ecumenical movement,
Kobia noted that the political and social situation has greatly changed since
1948, when the WCC was founded. Thus, "We need to find other ways of ensuring
a wider ecumenical partnership," he said.  

There will be a meeting in Antelias, Lebanon in November to discuss possible
reconfiguration scenarios. "Participants from the Roman Catholic Church,
Pentecostals, and Evangelicals will be present in a personal capacity," Kobia
noted. "We hope that we will be able to discuss very frankly the possibility
of a broader ecumenical platform where these three groups will feel
comfortable as members."  

Kobia also mentioned the WCC's role in discussing ethical issues, including
human sexuality. "We are all at different stages and different levels of
addressing the issue of human sexuality," he said. According to the general
secretary-elect, there are different "entry points" to the discussion,
depending on the national context. "Africans have difficulty discussing this,
but in the context of HIV/AIDS they cannot afford not to," Kobia said.	"In
Asia, the entry point is the issue of sexual violence. But the WCC is the
place where we can engage with each other, without rushing to a final

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

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