COI Gazette – 6th January 2017

Speaking in Bethlehem, WCC General Secretary says, ‘Together we are stronger’

Dr Olav Fyske Tveit (Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC)

Dr Olav Fyske Tveit (Photo: Albin Hillert/WCC)

Speaking in Bethlehem shortly before Christmas, the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, re ected on the light from the very rst Christmas in the very same town, and what that light means in a global search for a just peace.

“Our search for just peace is a response to the call to be the light of the world, a way to reflect the light of God, the light of faith, hope and love,” he said. “A just peace is needed all over the world.”

Dr Tveit was speaking at a conference marking the 7th anniversary of Kairos Palestine, a broadly ecumenical group of Palestinian Christian leaders calling for a strong commitment to participate fully in creative resistance to end Israeli occupation.

The conference, titled ‘Faith, Sumoud [Steadfastness] and Creative Resistance’, offered a forum for theological reflections on justice as well as practical discussions on current challenges to the Kairos Palestine movement.




The past year has not been an easy one for so many people. The refugee crisis continues unchecked. There have been terrorist attacks on US and European soil carried out by so-called Islamic State forces – or at least by those claiming to act in its name. Terrible atrocities, including the ongoing persecution of Christians, have been and continue to be carried out in different parts of the world. There are so many places of suffering, making the world of today a truly perplexing place.

Such an accumulation of human misery has been cited as being among the causes for seismic events in world politics. The greatest of these is arguably the election of Donald Trump as next President of the United States of America, closely followed by the decision, by way of popular referendum, for the United Kingdom to end its membership of the European Union.

Concerning the former, the world media continues to express shock, and indeed outrage, that such an event could have taken place. There was a similar outpouring of rage and dismay in the aftermath of the UK vote to leave the EU. Not surprisingly, there are fears that the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit decision will have knock-on effects in other jurisdictions. The idea that the Republic of Ireland might decide to follow its nearest neighbour out of the EU is being cautiously mooted in some circles. And until recently the likelihood of the election of Marine Le Pen, the President of the far-right National Front in France, as the next French President would have seemed like a remote possibility.

Such an occurrence now seems far from impossible. Indeed, the fact that the media continue to assert that there is little realistic possibility of such an event taking place is far from comforting for those who are concerned about the eventuality, given how wrong
media commentators were with regard to the outcomes of the UK referendum and the US election.

Despite this, the most important question to ask oneself, perhaps, is just how right it is to be so concerned. Brexit, Trump and Le Pen reflect a rising popularity of conservative values in western society and the media, which acknowledges itself to be pre-dominantly liberal, is predictably appalled. However, society has become increasingly liberal over the past number of decades and it would be unrealistic to expect that this trend could continue indefinitely. The pendulum had to swing back at some point.

The important thing, having acknowledged that these events have occurred, is to make sure that they are not taken advantage of by the unscrupulous to allow for the abuse of certain groups within western society. Refugees, for example, continue to be particularly vulnerable to the effects of such changes and the dangers posed to those Muslims who have become part of our society could well be very serious should the rise of conservative forces lead to a failure to recognise the duty of the just treatment of all who live within the borders of western society. Those of a ‘hawkish’ disposition must not be allowed to use the changing shift in popular opinion as a pretext for unwarranted military action in the Middle East, thereby putting yet more innocent lives at risk.

Christians must continue to do their best as the people of God to ensure that everyone is treated fairly. The Church must also continue to keep all those affected by the less fortunate events of 2016 in her prayers. Looking ahead into the days, weeks and months of another new year, there must be gratitude for the time that is given to us, coupled with a determination to use it well and to God’s greater glory.


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