World Council of Churches - Update
Contact: + 41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363 firstname.lastname@example.org For immediate release - 19/02/2007 04:34:31 PM
ANOTHER GLOBAL VISION IS POSSIBLE, SAYS KOBIA IN INDIA
Photo essay available, see below
The global mission of the church does not sit comfortably with contemporary forms of globalisation, said World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia yesterday in India. He affirmed, however, certain values underlying western liberalism.
Kobia preached the valedictory sermon at the 112th Maramon Convention, which took place 11-18 February at Maramon, Kerala, India. Organised annually by the mission and evangelism wing of the Mar Thoma Syrian Church of Malabar, the week-long event, which brings some 200,000 Christians to each session, is the largest Christian gathering in Asia.
The WCC general secretary proposed a clear distinction "between the calling of the church to a global witness and the [modern] forms of globalisation, which are not at all the same thing".
Kobia characterised modern globalisation as "associated with free-market economics and the consumer culture promoted throughout the world by commercial media". Often "conveyed and defended by militarised western powers", this form of globalisation includes trends towards the "economic and social Darwinism of a dog-eat-dog world".
"We in the Christian churches have been called to a global task" too, Kobia said, "a task of evangelism, the preaching of good news, that is relevant for all nations and the entirety of God's earth". Both these attempts to globalise cannot be confused even if "some colonial empires and other expansionist powers of Europe and North America have claimed to act internationally as agents of Christendom".
In spite of some "unholy alliances" of the past and the "sad fact of history" that "too often churches have accepted the imperial view of Christ's call to take the gospel into all the world", if the gospel of Jesus Christ "is to be 'globalised' in the way he instructed, it cannot be achieved [...] by forcing one culture's values upon another culture", Kobia affirmed.
However, Kobia suggested that efforts need to be made to "discern those values underlying western liberalism that can still be affirmed".
Among them he mentioned freedom, understood "as a human right, no longer confined to economic matters and hoarded by the wealthy"; expertise in technology and economics as well as other social sciences, "so long as they are not held captive to any single ideology"; and productivity and growth, if "dedicated to the good of all, [so as to] promote survival for the poor and dignity for all".
For the WCC general secretary, the response to "the forces of global capitalism that attempt to impose upon all the earth one model that must be followed, one single mindset to be adopted unquestioningly" is dialogue. "We encourage dialogue, not merely among people of faith but among the many different communities of the world."
As "the church is called to serve as a model of reconciled diversity, rejecting imposed patterns of uniformity", Christians need to put their own house in order first. And so they need to "build positive, respectful relationships" with those around them "who are members of other faiths and of none".
What it takes to achieve this goal is nothing less than "absolute honesty" - to the extent of risking to appear impolite - as well as "listening skills" and "mutual respect", Kobia asserted in another sermon he preached at the convention the previous day. To build "a community that may hope to achieve justice, people must be honest with one another and find ways to explore their differences as well as to celebrate the common ground they share", he said.
The energy of youth
On the same day Kobia inaugurated the year-long celebrations of the Platinum Jubilee of the Mar Thoma Youth Association - The Mar Thoma Yuvajana Sakhyam- which has over 900 branches in India, the Middle East, Africa, North America and Europe.
In his inaugural address Kobia hailed the work of the youth association, which during its 75 years of existence produced "many outstanding leaders", not only for the church but also "for the ecumenical movement and society at large".
Earlier on the week, the WCC general secretary had addressed a national ecumenical gathering of Christian youth leaders convened by the Student Christian Movement of India (SCMI) at its headquarters in Bangalore (see: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/news/news-management/all-news-english/display-single-english-news/article/1634/contest-between-the-bible.html).
At that opportunity Kobia congratulated Dr Ruth Manorama, winner of the Right Livelihood Award 2006, often referred to as the Alternative Nobel Prize. Kobia praised Manorama, the first Indian Dalit woman to receive the award, for her advocacy on behalf of Dalit women, who belong to lower castes formerly known as "untouchables".
Manorama, Kobia and Mr Samuel Jeyakumar, SCMI general secretary, unveiled the foundation stone of the Dalit Womens Resource Center at the SCMI, aimed to provide women with leadership resources to advance the cause of the Dalit community.
In a statement issued at the end of the meeting, participants at the SCMI gathering requested "more involvement of youth in the churches councils and committees". "The positive restlessness, anger and energy of us, youngsters, must be accepted on every forum", they affirmed.
A photo essay on Samuel Kobia's visit to India is available at: http://www.oikoumene.org/index.php?id=3149
Additional information on the visit to India is available at: http://www.oikoumene.org
On-site coverage of the visit by Ecumenical News International is available at: http://www.eni.ch
Media contact in India:
Mathews George Chunakara 094.4795.8970 (mobile)
This material may be reprinted freely.
Additional information: Juan Michel, +41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363 email@example.com
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The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 348 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church. The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, from the Methodist Church in Kenya. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.