AMONG the 157 people known to have been killed in the Ethiopian Airlines crash was a staff member of the World Council of Churches (WCC).
The Revd Norman Tendis, a WCC consultant for Economy of Life, was among those killed when the plane bound for Nairobi from Addis Ababa crashed on Sunday, minutes after takeoff.
Mr Tendis, an Austrian Lutheran pastor, was on his way to the UN Environment Assembly, which began in the Kenyan capital on Monday. At least 22 UN staff were also killed.
A statement from the WCC said that Mr Tendis was “instrumental in helping local churches invest their resources to make a better planet”.
In an address to WCC staff on Monday morning at the Ecumenical Chapel in Geneva, the WCC general secretary, the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, paid tribute to Mr Tendis.
He said: “It is a hard shock for all of us who had the privilege to be his colleague and friend, and particularly those of us who worked closely with him in The Economy of Life programme of the WCC.”
Dr Tveit said that Mr Tendis was on his way to Nairobi to present the “Roadmap for Congregations, Communities, and Churches for an Economy of Life and Ecological Justice” to the UN assembly, which had been his “compassion and vision for years”.
Dr Tveit explained: “His focus and enthusiasm was how each local church can contribute to just peace with one another, in the marketplaces, in the communities, among the nations, and with the Earth.”
He went on: “We learn that there were many on board from other organisations, the UN and NGOs, headed for the same environment assembly. The loss of Norman is a great loss for his family, his church, for the WCC colleagues, and fellowship, and for the urgent work to protect and care for God’s creation. This event is also a great shock for many colleagues in organisations we work closely with. It is a loss of many of the experts and those most committed to work for the sustainability of the whole world.
“Norman was a very committed pastor and colleague, and he shared his vision and calling with joy and love. He was not here in the house all the time, but when he was here, we could sense his strong spiritual integrity and his care for all of God’s creation. His work was shorter than we hoped for, but it has not been in vain.”
He said that their condolences, thoughts, and prayers were with all who had lost relatives, colleagues, and friends in the crash, and he prayed for Mr Tendis’s wife and three daughters.
Joyce Msuya, the acting executive director of UN Environment, said on Monday: “The environmental community is in mourning today. Many of those that lost their lives were en route to provide support and participate in the UN environment assembly. We lost UN staff, youth delegates travelling to the assembly, seasoned scientists, members of academia, and other partners.”