WSCF at the 11th General Assembly of the World Council of Churches
KARLSRUHE, GERMANY – The World Student Christian Federation (WSCF) participated in the 11th General Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) held from 31 August to 8 September 2022 in Karlsruhe, Germany. The Assembly is the highest governing body of the WCC where all member churches gather in one place for prayer and celebration, this time under the theme “Christ's love moves the world to reconciliation and unity”.
As a forerunner of the World Council of Churches, the WSCF reaffirmed its commitment to supporting the churches' mission work, helping revitalize and providing leadership formation in the call to service of the entire oikoumene. Marcelo Leites, WSCF General Secretary (GS), greeted and congratulated the assembly, the newly elected leadership and highlighted “may our presence be a reminder of the essential role of young people as promoters of change, recalling that our federation was built by young student leaders when the world needed the voice of the gospel incarnated in the practice of justice and love”.
The WSCF was represented by staff, students and senior friends in different capacities, who participated in 2 pre-assemblies, multiple sessions during the assembly days – including thematic plenaries – and a WSCF gathering. The officers of the federation were also present and were able to have an official meeting together with the WSCF General Secretary on the 6th and 7th of September.
ECUMENICAL YOUTH GATHERING
here to read it) and to envision the role of young people in the ecumenical movement.The WSCF participated in the Ecumenical Youth Gathering (EYG) held on 27-30 August 2022 before the WCC 11th Assembly. Around 400 young people gathered for this event to strategize together a common message that was presented to the General Assembly (click
Our delegation was integrated by student members from all the regions: Julio González from Venezuela and Malena Lozada from Argentina (WSCF Latin America and the Caribbean); Yasmina Rishmawi and Gacia Danaoghlian from Armenia (WSCF Middle East); Hnin Wai Thi Aung from Myanmar and Tsai-Hsun TSAO from Taiwan (WSCF Asia Pacifc); Oleksandra Kovalenko from Ukraine and Alexander Kukhta from Belarus (WSCF Europe); and Cosmas Echezona Obinatu from Nigeria (WSCF Africa).
WSCF AT THE PLANNING COMMITTEE OF THE EYG
By Sarah Eulitz, Links Coordinator WSCF Europe
For the preparation of the Ecumenical Youth Gathering (EYG) in Karlsruhe, a team of 24 youth leaders from different organizations and denominational backgrounds was formed. The EYG with its motto Christ’s love reconciles and restores young people in the church and the society was planned to provide an open space for dialogue and to strategize together a common message for the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC). Special about this event was that not only delegates and advisors to the Assembly participated in the EYG, but also ecumenical interested youth from the different partner organizations of WCC like WSCF. For that reason, we had the chance to gather around 400 youth in Karlsruhe, who had the chance to share their experiences, ecumenical insights, and prayers during the four days programme of EYG.
The planning of this amazing event was a long and intense time. Two and a half years prior to the EYG, we started with the drafting of the programme, finalized the vision of this event, and formed small online working groups to efficiently work on the different sections of the Pre-Assembly. As a German-speaking member of the design team, I got assigned to the logistics working group. I had to coordinate the implementation of our vision of the event to the actual surrounding. We also visited the venue before the event to get a better picture of our ideas. In the end, it was amazing to see all the different ideas for using the space and how our capacities come to life during the event.
Advocacy Workshop led by WSCF GS
On Saturday 27 August, Marcelo Leites, GS of the WSCF, led an advocacy workshop at the Catholic Youth Centre focused on the youth's role in social change based on the WSCF experience and history in empowering and connecting youth to become proactive in society.
The workshop objective was to provide young delegates with tools to develop at the local and national levels different advocacy initiatives and actions. The workshop was composed of testimonies of advocacy in different parts of the world followed by a practical stage in which the participants, divided by regions, were able to plan an advocacy proposal focused on regional contexts and contextual priorities.
Plenary “Transforming Injustices” – Thematic session 3
WSCF participated in the Thematic Panel “Transforming Injustices” at the Ecumenical Youth Gathering in Karlsruhe. Dianet Martínez, Regional Secretary of WSCF LAC, and Yasmina Rishmawi, ExCo member and member of SCM Palestine were speakers of this session.
“Advocating for justice and rights for all people: Campaign +Love+Rights of the SCM Cuba”
by Dianet Martínez Valdés
The Ecumenical Youth Gathering opened the possibility of journeying together on a path of listening and dialogue through “celebrating gifts”, “visiting wounds”, and “transforming injustices”. The testimonies of life and transformative practices brought us closer to diverse realities, deep pains, daily injustices and prophetic voices.
The WSCF had a space to share what young ecumenical people are doing in Latin America and the Caribbean to transform injustices and to advocate for rights and dignity for all people. In particular, to make visible the work in Cuba, a country that is not always ”good news” in the globalized media as a result of its history, its social commitment to resist capitalism and other prevailing systems. The “+love+rights” Campaign of the Student Christian Movement of Cuba was presented, a campaign in favor of a new plural and inclusive family code in Cuba that guarantees rights for all people.
The +love+rights Campaign takes place within the context of updating the laws that guarantee the implementation of the principles of the new Constitution approved in 2019. It also emerged because, in fact, gender issues are relevant and timely today as we live in patriarchal societies with many stereotypes and prejudices towards women, families, sexualities, and gender identities. However, it rather and mainly emerged, as a result of the training processes and liberation, contextualized theologies that the WSCF has historically engaged with and that has allowed us as young ecumenical leaders to experience our faith in God with love, justice and inclusion in the face of the prevailing rejection and hate speeches of church leaders.
Our testimony affirmed an ecumenism where people encounter to include, to love, to celebrate and welcome one another as we are in Christ´s love.
“Palestine and Palestinian Christians: Reconciling our identities”
This text is an adaptation of Yasmina Rishmawi’s speech.
As Palestinian Christian youth, we witnessed, growing up, the calls from many politicians, theologians and lay people affirming that our land, historical Palestine does not belong to us, the original inhabitants of the land. We witnessed and are still witnessing the utilization of our Bible – through certain interpretations – as a weapon to our very existence and as a tool to legitimize and support political options that are dehumanizing us and perpetrating injustices on our people.
We also witnessed our land being confiscated, our family members being incarcerated, our rights being liquidated, our water, forests, olive trees, culture, language, and traditional food all being either stolen or destroyed before our own eyes, and we were required to keep silent because otherwise, we will be breaching “God’s Promise”, and we will be going against God’s will, we won’t be “good Christians”.
This has raised the question for me and for Palestinian Christian youth: Does God, good and just God, require us to give up our rights to be “good Christians”? Does God ask us to surrender our dignity, our independence and our existence in our own land? (...)
They have turned our Bible into an enemy for us as Palestinians and as Palestinian Christians (...). Such translations and interpretations of the Bible are molding Christianity to match the colonial, imperial, and hegemonic ideologies(...).
Therefore, this colonial theology, that justifies occupation, apartheid, and domination of one people over the other is further alienating us from ourselves and inciting our clash of identities. A reconciliation between both of our identities as Palestinians and Christians is only possible through a Christianity and a theology that recognizes our humanity, dignity, and right to exist in our own homeland. A theology that recognizes the injustices befalling our people and aims for working together to make peace and justice prevail.
So now what? What can you do? Today we need to tap on our prophetic voice as Christians and as churches. So we ask you to:
- To use the right terminology. Start calling things with their actual names. It is not a conflict. It is ethnic cleansing. Israel is a settler colonial regime that enforces a structure of apartheid from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.
- To drop both sides of the narrative. This narrative disregards the power dynamics by portraying the image of equal parts. Those are not equal parts, unarmed occupied protestors vs. heavily weaponized settlers colonialists and soldiers, oppressors and oppressed, occupiers and occupied.
- To stop funding companies and corporations that are complicit and profiting from the apartheid and human rights violations. Actively support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign. If you stand against colonization, apartheid, occupation and ethnic cleansing, then stop funding it.
- To actively advocate for Decolonizing Palestine. Our fight for justice is international. No one is free until we are all free.
- To self-reflect on positions and affiliations. Revisit, challenge and defy theologies that justify injustice, colonialism, apartheid, and oppression. Being silent renders you complicit in the oppression, colonialism, apartheid, and ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
WORKING GROUP ON CLIMATE CHANGE
The Climate Change Working Group pre-assembly gathering was held at Karlsruhe, Germany from 28 to 30 August. WSCF participated and was represented by Marcelo Leites, WSCF General Secretary, who is a formal member of this working group of the WCC since 2011.
Several topics were discussed regarding the group's future after the Karlsruhe Assembly, which included a planning process for the ecumenical coalition at COP 27, to continue exploring the work together with the WCC Indigenous People Reference Group, and discuss the future of the Ecumenical and interfaith coalition on climate justice and the structure of the Climate Change Working Group. One of the most important inputs the group discussed was the report from the joint meeting of the Climate Change Working Group and the Indigenous People Reference Group presented to the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe.
THURSDAYS IN BLACK
The WSCF joined the #ThursdaysInBlack campaign by wearing black during the WCC General Assembly to raise awareness against gender-based violence.
“We cannot be part of the path for justice and peace without recognizing the unfair relationship we have between women and men. We continue perpetuating this unfair relationship of inequalities, even in the ecumenical movement and churches. So, as an advocator for youth, justice and peace, I think we need to fight against gender-based violence in a way that all forms of violence can be eradicated in our communities, countries, churches and ecumenical movement”. – Marcelo Leites, WSCF GS, Ambassador of #ThursdaysInBlackCampaign
Click here to watch all the interviews of the Thursdays in Black Ambassadors.
CLIMATE PROTEST – FRIDAYS FOR FUTURE
The WSCF was part of the climate protest at the “Fridays for Future” event held on September 2 during the 11th WCC General Assembly. Malena Lozada, WSCF Exco Member from WSCF LAC; Marcelo Leites, WSCF General Secretary; Dianet Martínez, WSCF LAC Regional Secretary; and Mira Neaimeh, Regional Secretary of WSCF ME, we're speakers at the stage. The emphasis of our message as a Student Christian fellowship committed to justice and peace was: climate justice is social justice.
Although this event was initially coordinated by the Climate Change Group of the WCC, young people were the protagonists of the event both as attendees and speakers.
“It was almost an hour and a half where we, as people of faith shared our feelings, concerns and climate threats that are happening already”, said Malena Lozada.
She added: “The message is clear: the time to act is now. The debt is with the global south. Churches and ecumenical organizations cannot look the other way”.
Co-sponsored Workshops and Activities
WORKSHOP ON ADVOCACY AND POLITICAL ASPECTS OF CHURCHES ENGAGEMENT WITH CLIMATE CHANGE
A joint workshop was organized by the Conference of European Churches and Climate Change group of the World Council of Churches on September 2. The workshop emphasized the differences between the global north and the global south but highlighted how these differences can bring us together to generate more meaningful actions and fight for a world in which we can all live with dignity.
Malena Lozada, WSCF ExCo member, participated in the workshop and wrote: “It was pretty interesting to hear the perspectives and experiences of the global north in decision-making processes and the different policies and actions that are being taken. On the other hand, participants from the global south raised issues regarding real integration, the need for a real policy of loss & damage from the historically polluting countries, and the urgency to open decision-making spaces for countries from the global south”.
She also wrote about the agreement among the participants on the key role of the churches and the ecumenical movement in fighting climate change. “We can`t stay in our church bubbles because we must care for creation and the marginalized people. As Christians, we should keep alive the promise of Jesus about “Life in Abundance”, which today means fighting against climate change and social inequalities”.
MESSAGE TO THE 11TH GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES FROM THE WORLD STUDENT CHRISTIAN FEDERATION
On behalf of the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF), I would like to extend our greetings and congratulations to the World Council of Churches as you gather for the 11th General Assembly. We are very honored to be with you as you continue to discern and reaffirm that Christ's love moves the world to reconciliation and unity.
Since its inception in 1895, the World Student Christian Federation (WSCF), the world’s oldest ecumenical youth and student movement, has formed and nurtured generations of young critically-minded ecumenical leaders in faithful service and witness to the mission of Jesus Christ in different parts of the world, encouraging young people from Protestant, Orthodox, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic and Anglican traditions to dialogue and cooperate for justice. As a forerunner of the World Council of Churches, the WSCF from the outset has been crucial in forming leaders for the churches.
Today on the occasion of the WCC’s 11th Assembly, we in the WSCF reaffirm our commitment to supporting the churches' mission work, helping revitalise and providing leadership formation in the call to service of the entire oikoumene. The council's leadership in the search for Christian unity has historically been a witness for all humanity. Its work in the mission field has shown people of faith and those who are not that the Reign of God and his justice seek together with everyone without distinction of any kind.
This shows us the importance of continually developing the role of the youth and students in the ecumenical movement. Their presence in church and society has envisioned the past and present of ecumenism: providing ecumenists, church leaders, world leaders, and theologians. Many of them have served the WCC (...)
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PLENARY 5: THE BOND OF CHRISTIAN UNITY AND THE CHURCHES COMMON WITNESS
The last thematic plenary of the 11th WCC Assembly held on September 7 was focused on “The bond of Christian unity and the churches common witness”. Bran Friesen, former ExCo member of the WSCF and member of the Mennonite Church in Canada, talked about a future with reconciliation from a youth perspective and the role of churches to move from “only-words” to efforts of reconcil-action”.
Bran shared 7 points of how the future of reconciliation will look like:
- For the churches to turn inward, together, and heal our structural and personal wounds of colonialisation, and to make public efforts to alter church behaviors that continue to harm;
- to pursue radical acts of accountability, to protect the earth, and to unquestionably return the land to Indigenous communities;
- To quietly fund the costs of finding the thousands more graves that are expected to be found in North America, and surrender any records the church archives may still hold;
- To diligently ensure every Indigenous community has clean drinking water and food security and housing security;
- To personally and structurally engage in practices of deep listening with Indigenous voices, and to follow their lead;
- To protect women and girls, and to believe them when they are brave enough to tell us how they have been hurt;
- To respect the cultures of Indigenous peoples, and learn their languages, To celebrate their strengths and joys, This is the future my generation craves. Do these things united across denomination and color and privilege and location, inclusive of youth, and it will be the witness of Love needed in a rapidly changing landscape.
Click here to watch the video.
WSCF FRIENDS GATHERING AT KARLSRUHE
In the framework of the 11th General Assembly of the WCC at Karlsruhe, Germany, the WSCF family gathered on September 6 at the assembly venue. It was a very touching and transformative moment for all the participants of the gathering as they celebrated the Federation's identity with music, deep in the outcomes of our last 37th General Assembly to look together toward the future, and shared agape.
The WSCF continues to rejoice in hope with the commitment to work for a better world!
NEW LEADERSHIP OF THE WCC
Visit the following links to read more about the election of the new leadership of the WCC:
- WCC elects executive committee
- WCC 11th Assembly elects new central committee
- WCC 11th Assembly elects eight new presidents