WCC statement urges confronting racism, revisiting “complicity of some religious bodies”

Declaring that “there is no justification in either faith or science for the racism, xenophobia and discrimination that we are witnessing in the world,” the leadership of the World Council of Churches (WCC) central committee adopted a public statement that condemns these social forces.

The statement was prepared by the Public Issues Committee at the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany.

“Our work on these public statements reflects more than mere words: it reflects the prophetic voice of the World Council of Churches,” said H.E. Archbishop Angaleos, moderator of the Public Issues Committee. “May these words lead to action against the injustices perpetrated against vulnerable communities.”

The statement urges member churches, ecumenical partners, faith leaders and all people of goodwill to “confront racism, xenophobia and related forms of discrimination in church, society and around the world, and engage in dialogue with policy makers and leaders in their national and local contexts to dismantle structures” that perpetuate these scourges.

Speaking in particular to stateless people who suffer from discrimination, the statement affirms the recently developed Interfaith Affirmations on Belongingness, which encourage interfaith cooperation to eradicate statelessness.

The statement further encourages the WCC “to revisit the complicity of some religious bodies in the painful past of enslavement, colonialism, and its current expressions to journey towards repentance, confession, reparations, reconciliation and healing.”

In July 2021, the WCC secretariat began a new transversal programmatic area to scale up the WCC’s response to racism. The statement commends this recent initiative.

The statement notes the WCC’s several decades of confronting racism, including a statement from its 4th Assembly in 1968 in Uppsala, Sweden, which led to the launch the following year of the Programme to Combat Racism. That programme became one of the most effective but controversial WCC programmes, playing an important role in dismantling apartheid in South Africa and contributing to the liberation of Zimbabwe.

The statement notes that, despite gains in fighting racism in prominent historical situations in the 20th century, “both racism and colonial mindsets remain existential evils that the people of God continue to struggle against.”

The statement identifies negative use of social media and anti-foreigner nationalist movements in several countries as recent contributors to racism, xenophobia, and other forms of discrimination and hatred. According to the statement, “The principle of non-discrimination is deeply rooted in our Christian faith” and “as Christians, we believe that all people are created in the Image of God (Gen. 1:27)” and therefore deserve to be treated with dignity and equality.”

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