The time is ripe for Ecumenical Diakonia

ACT’s General Secretary Rudelmar Bueno de Faria addressed the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC) on 15 June 2018 at a Plenary Session entitled Ecumenical Diakonia and Sustainable Development.

ACT, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) and the WCC have developed a study document on Ecumenical Diakonia with the aim of encouraging dialogue and building the capacity of churches and ecumenical partners to engage in diakonia and sustainable development.

In his address, de Faria acknowledged the efforts and influences of churches and faith based organizations (FBOs) in communities. “Historically, churches have played a prophetic role, they have shaped local and global political and development agendas and have emphasized values of inclusion and human dignity,” he said.

Despite these positive contributions, there is at the same time a growing level of polarization occurring between communities on certain social and political issues. The increased amount of segregation and discrimination occurring in different parts of the world is bringing the human rights framework and sustainable development under attack. “Even some churches are associating themselves with populist politicians, political parties and economic groups that promote agendas that deepen exclusion and undermine human dignity,” said de Faria.

De Faria acknowledged the crisis of values that is occurring around the world and urged churches and FBOs to raise their prophetic voice to support marginalized communities. “The time is ripe for ecumenical diakonia. We need to leverage our Christian values and uniqueness as FBOs and to establish strategic partnerships with religious and secular organizations that are fighting to uphold human dignity, peace and justice,” he continued.

Agenda 2030 and its Sustainable Development Goals provides churches and diaconal organizations and institutions with a political and transformational framework to engage in ecumenical diakonia and to address the factors that are undermining development and human life and are putting God’s creation at risk.

De Faria further noted that the increasing recognition of the role of religion in development also presents an opportunity for diakonia and building alliances with people of faith and religious communities in the struggle for justice.

“We have to recognize that we are in an era of change and we should together identify the potential for the prophetic and political engagement of churches and diaconal organizations,” he said. “Although there is much work to still be done, the first step is to recognize that we are a part of one ecumenical movement and we will work together,” concluded de Faria.