Photo Credit: Marianne Ejdersten / WCC
[ACNS] A global consultation on discrimination, persecution and martyrdom facing Christians in different parts of the world, that took place Albania this week, has been described as “significant” by the Bishop of Woolwich, a member of the Anglican Communion’s Network for Interfaith Concerns (NIFCON) management group.
The Rt Revd Michael Ipgrave was one of 150 church leaders who attended the five-day Global Christian Forum (GCF) event at the Resurrection of Christ Orthodox Cathedral of Tirana.
Churches and Christian organizations from a diverse spectrum of denominational affiliations reflected at the event on how to accompany churches suffering from persecution, especially in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Expressions of solidarity were shared by both the “suffering churches” and the ones struggling to support them.
Speaking from personal experience about the persecution of Christians and other religious communities in Asia, and particularly her home country Pakistan, Dr Farhana Anthony Nazir, an academic and theologian teaching at the Gujranwala Theological Seminary, part of the Church of Pakistan’s Diocese of Raiwind, said that “Christians in Pakistan are not alone in their quest for justice, as there are other communities who share a sense of vulnerability.”
Dr Nazir expressed her hope that by addressing these issues with support from the global churches it should be possible to ensure equal rights for all.
“It is wonderful to see how suffering and persecution can create a strong sense of Christian unity among those coming from extremely diverse backgrounds,” Bishop Ipgrave said. “It is important for Western churches like us to learn from experiences of suffering and persecution from churches that can enrich us by their witness in the world.”
“An increasing number of churches and Christians go through different types of darkness at this moment of our history as one humanity,” the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, said. “During my visits to churches in countries in the Middle East, but also in Africa and Asia, Latin-America, Central-America and in North America, and also in Europe recently, I hear and I see and meet with many who are not treated properly.
“I have become deeply saddened by the harsh realities, the violence and the suffering of so many people because of tensions and conflicts in our time.
“It is so significant that we start with listening to those whose churches are going through challenging times right now. All of us need to learn from those voices among us that on a daily basis experience the reality of discrimination and persecution. We need to listen to those who know how martyria, witness, and martyrdom are closely interrelated and inter-connected,” he said.
The significance of the GCF consultation was highlighted by the Revd Dr Hielke Wolters, WCC associate general secretary, who has been deeply engaged with the process which led to the holding of the event.
“The consultation has turned out to be a unique event, where Christians from different traditions came together in a very effective way to support the churches going through difficult and challenging times,” he said.
Bishop Dr Chibuzo Raphael Opoko from the Methodist Church Nigeria, said the consultation has provided churches to come out of their comfort zone and deliberate together on what discrimination, persecution and martyrdom actually mean. “We have come together to listen to the voices of suffering churches and Christians from around the world, strengthening the oneness of Christ's body and the call for unity,” said Opoko.
The GCF is global body which brings together Christian churches and organizations from all the major streams of world Christianity. It is an open space where all Christians can meet to nurture unity by fostering mutual respect and understanding as well as by addressing together common challenges.
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