Report to LWF Council Underlines Prophetic Sign of Communion
LWI Council Press Release No. 02/2012 | BOGOTÁ, Colombia/GENEVA, 15 June 2012 (LWI) – The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) General Secretary Rev. Martin Junge emphasized the biblical understanding of “communion as an important prophetic sign.”
In his report today to the LWF Council meeting in Bogotá, Colombia, Junge said, “We are indeed living in times, in which insecurities triggered by rapidly changing contexts and by the awareness of important global challenges … seem to move human beings and entire communities to withdraw into protected comfort zones.” The notion of being churches in communion, he said, challenges this “retrieve mood” and encourages churches to remain “available and open to the other.”
His report highlighted the different contexts in which member churches of the Lutheran communion find themselves, and their commitment to issues of justice, peace and reconciliation.
“Together for a Just, Peaceful and Reconciled World” is the theme of the 15-20 June Council meeting hosted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Colombia (IELCO). Junge thanked the Colombian people and churches, who, despite conflict for more than 50 years, persevere in working to realize their vision of a country in which peace with justice is possible.
From other regions of the Lutheran communion, Junge noted that the Lutheran Council in Asia continued to explore how to accompany churches to strengthen relationships and connectivity in contexts both of a low standard of living and in economically well-off countries.
In Africa, said the general secretary, more established churches are accompanying young and growing churches, and theological education is supporting leadership development.
From Latin America and the Caribbean, where the two LWF member churches in Chile are deepening relationships and dialogue about unifying their structures after 39 years of separation, Junge noted that while it may take only months for division to occur, rebuilding trust and reconciliation can take several years.
He said his visit to churches in India had revealed how the Gospel of Jesus Christ had taken firm rooting among Dalits as some courageous missionaries ignored the untouchability system and purposely sought out marginalized people.
For the Indian churches, telling the story of the Reformation would include this “experience of liberation because of faith in the Triune God,” Junge noted. He said he was eager to see these experiences lifted up for the Reformation anniversary, “and that they engage with the theological insights that have been developed in other corners of this world.”
On diaconal work, the general secretary noted that in 2011 the LWF had been responsible for 1.2 million refugees, representing five percent of the world’s refugees. He expressed gratitude to all LWF member churches “who, in an extraordinary effort,” had scaled up their contributions to the organization’s work for people fleeing their home countries, especially in the Horn of Africa where more than 13 million people had been affected by severe drought.
In the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) camps in Dadaab in northeastern Kenya—home to more than 465,000 refugees, mostly Somalis—LWF ensures that those seeking refuge there are well received and that they get food and water as well as other services.
Recalling the LWF’s longstanding solidarity with the people and churches of South Sudan, the general secretary expressed concern about the heightened tension with its northern neighbor Sudan, which was hampering humanitarian access to people caught up in the resulting conflict. He expressed hope that the recent intervention by the international community would restore peace.
“In contexts where religion is misused in violent conflicts, it is even more important that we, as a well-known and well-respected Christian organization, continue to work with and for Muslims and in Muslim countries. In doing so, we give evidence to the world that reconciliation and peaceful and respectful cooperation are possible between people of different faiths, cultures and nations,” Junge added.
His report also focused on the implementation of the LWF Strategy and the Communion Office Operational Plan. Highlights from program work included the process of developing a gender policy and a communication strategy for the LWF, capacity development for churches, and mainstreaming HIV and AIDS response in theological training. (695 words)