A recent meeting of representatives from ecumenical, Catholic, Evangelical and Pentecostal churches in Strasbourg, France has promised to address more effectively discrimination, persecution and violence faced by Christians around the world. This theme will be explored in depth through an international consultation to be held in 2015.
The meeting in Strasbourg was convened by the Global Christian Forum (GCF) with participation from the representatives of the Vatican, the World Council of Churches (WCC), the World Evangelical Alliance and the Pentecostal World Fellowship. The meeting was held from 8 to 9 September.
The planned 2015 consultation will address the theme “Christian discrimination, persecution and martyrdom”. The event will bring together representatives of the churches and Christian communities who have faced discrimination and persecution in their local contexts.
As part of the planning for the consultation, organizers will collect data on religious persecution sourced from international organizations. Production of a glossary and examination on the use of the language of discrimination, persecution and martyrdom will also be developed given that some words and concepts are often ill-defined and employed in various ways. Team visits to a number of countries will be planned to explore the different natures of religious persecution.
The process of planning for the consultation will also examine cases of discrimination and persecution in secular societies, especially within first world nations.
Rev Dr. Hielke Wolters, WCC associate general secretary, said, “It is a strong sign of hope that churches and ecumenical organizations with such a diverse background are ready to work together to support Christians who go through difficult times.” He said that “religious freedom is important for all of us, whether Christian, Muslim or adherents of any other religion”.
Wolters went on to say that this joint initiative is very much in line with the WCC’s efforts to accompany Christians and churches in countries like Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Nigeria. “We are grateful that we can strengthen this important work in cooperation with the churches and organizations from the Catholic, Pentecostal and Evangelical traditions,” he added.
Larry Miller, secretary of the GCF, said “The GCF exists to enable churches of all traditions to face common challenges together. It is highly fitting that the first of these initiatives is to support Christians around the world as they face discrimination, persecution and martyrdom in their communities.”
Pastor Ingolf Ellssel from the Pentecostal World Fellowship said that he was “excited about this initiative of the Global Christian Forum bringing world Christianity together and lifting up the voices of those suffering discrimination, persecution and martyrdom. I hope this is the beginning of a new process of unity in the Body of Christ.”
WCC and the ecumenical movement in the 21st century
The Global Christian Forum website