Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace

Prof Isabel Phiri.
One of the questions to Professor Isabel Phiri, from the World Council of Churches, was about leaving or rather dropping the weapons on the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace. Should one do that temporarily or permanently? Prof Phiri answered:
Pilgrimage is about transformation. You are not the same at the end of the pilgrimage.
This conversation took place at a Theological Café at the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics at the University of  KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa. Guest speaker was the former Head of School, Isabel Phiri, who is now Associate General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

She was welcomed by Professor Roderick Hewitt but also by the present Head of School, Professor Jannie Smit. The Question and Answer slot was chaired by Dr Lilian Siwila. The topic of the presentation was:
Theological Reflections on the WCC Programme of Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace
She started with a brief background. The WCC was formed in 1948 and the aim was for churches to live together (or stay together, as it was put). At the 10th General Assembly in Busan, Republic of Korea, the phrase was coined:
We intend to move together!
Thus a pilgrimage. Starting in 2013 and going on, at least until the next General Assembly in 2021. A pilgrimage open to member churches, partners but also to all people of good will. A Pilgrimage for Justice and Peace.

One important aspect was the built in conflict between Justice and Peace. According to Prof Phiri many people do not think that they can be combined. You have to choose. The calling of the ecumenical movement is to let  
Justice and Peace kiss each other (Psalm 85:10)
Therefore the image of a pilgrimage is helpful. On a pilgrimage you travel lights. Hence you have to leave some of your burdens. Things that wears you down. The ecumenical movement therefore needs to drop some of their conflicts. Or weapons, if we put it like that. Issues that divide us. Knowing that we all share in the brokenness of this world.

This is of course easy to say. But how do we do it? And what do we focus on? In this global pilgrimage there are eight focus areas. Eight countries, where there is brokenness specifically. The Korean peninsula, Syria, Iraq, Palestine/Israel, DRC, South Sudan, and Nigeria.

There will also be some milestones. In 2015 there is a focus on Climate Justice. People in Europe are literally making a pilgrimage to the COP21 in Paris. In Africa youth are making a similar pilgrimage – but on bicycles – to Nairobi. In 2016 the focus will be on the Middle East and especially the Christian Presence in the region. In 2017 the focus will be on Africa.

The Pilgirmage for Justice and Peace is the framework for all the work within the WCC this period.

Dr Lilian Siwila and Prof Isabel Phiri.

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