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WCC 11th Assembly, Karlsruhe Report

New WCC Executive Committee adopts statements

At its November Executive Committee meeting, the World Council of Churches (WCC) adopted statements on technologies being for people, global health-promoting churches and action for human dignity and human rights.

The WCC believes that "technologies are placed at the service of people rather than governments or corporations."

The statement says new technologies raise ethical challenges as they transform the world and the spaces where people live, work and witness. Technologies offer new ways to create, heal, communicate and navigate the world, but also have social, environmental and ethical impacts.

Digital communication platforms have become prevalent in daily lives worldwide, but because laws of many countries fail to be updated fast enough, injustices result.

The WCC calls on churches and ecumenical partners "to equip themselves with knowledge on technologies that are shaping our common future," so they can inform communities and engage in the public discourse.

It challenges the idea of fully autonomous weapons systems, and urges action to counter misuse of social media and digital communications platforms when they spread misinformation, promote hatred and encourage distrust and division. It calls for communication spaces that are inclusive, accessible, interactive and participatory.

In the "Global Health and Wellbeing" statement, the  WCC executive committee noted how COVID-19 awakened the world to the real threat of pandemics "in our hyper-connected and over-exploited world."

It points out that challenges to health and wellbeing have been "masked or exacerbated by the pandemic," which brought pressures on "the physical and mental health of overburdened, under-supported frontline medical and health workers, many of whom suffered burnout and health consequences while seeking to care for so many others."

COVID-19 also highlighted obstacles to health and wellbeing for all, including the need for churches and healthcare professionals to have greater interaction. 

The statement notes that population growth is outstripping socio-economic development in most countries. It points out that "increasing expenditure on military and armaments by many countries continues to reduce public investment in health and other social sectors." It adds that "neglected tropical diseases, sometimes called diseases of the poor, still serve as an example of persisting lack of equity and justice in health."

The statement calls for establishing an ecumenical commission on health and healing, and invites WCC member churches to be "health-promoting churches" by 1) running evidence-based health promotion ministries, 2) evaluating their national health systems to identify areas where they can intervene to ensure comprehensive, inclusive health services, 3) assessing their health programs related to community needs and gaps in services, and 4) revitalizing ecumenical commitment to primary health care for all.

A third statement by the executive committee urges "Christian witness and action for human dignity and human rights." The WCC body recognizes "our unfulfilled responsibilities to protect and lift up those whose God-given dignity and worth is not respected."

It acknowledges that the current global context is marked by escalating conflicts, divisions, inequalities, racism, xenophobic attacks on migrants, antisemitism, violations of the rights of women, threats against human rights defenders, plus authoritarianism, populist nationalism, and religious and other forms of extremism that threaten physical security, human dignity and human rights of diverse communities and individuals around the world. 

Today recalls the time the WCC was founded after World War II when there was widespread revulsion against the violations of God-given human dignity during that conflict. The international ecumenical movement then committed to and engaged with other members of the international community to develop international legal frameworks to promote and protect human rights, including freedom of religion or belief. The statement notes that, "in recent years, the universality of human rights has been increasingly called into question, not least because of obvious double standards in the application of international human rights law."

States misusing these principles for political purposes have damaged the credibility of the standards for some. Differences of opinion on the relationship between Christian faith principles and the principles of international human rights law have grown, despite the WCC's role in developing international human rights law as a framework for accountability.

The statement affirms the need for a universal framework of legal accountability. It also calls for the WCC global fellowship to "listen to the victims of human rights violations and stand in solidarity with them" and to "rediscover the biblical narratives that affirm human dignity, justice and the rule of law."

"We affirm that advocating for universal human dignity and rights is part of striving for justice, peace and integrity of creation, a means of reconciliation, and a witness for unity," it reads. "We commit to continuing to work towards common recommendations for churches to recognize and affirm the biblical roots of human dignity as the basis of the modern codification of human rights."

world 'to give the climate emergency the priority attention that a crisis of such unprecedented and all-encompassing dimensions deserves…' "

The WCC executive committee, elected during the WCC 11th Assembly, held its first meeting on 7-11 November, focusing on follow up from the assembly, planning for 2023—including the budget and programme plans—and making statements that respond to critical situations affecting the fellowship of WCC member churches.

Copyright@ The Fig Tree, December 2022