THE World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Vatican have jointly urged Christians to respond to the coronavirus crisis with greater interfaith solidarity.
“The Covid-19 pandemic has had an impact on the global community with unavoidable immediacy and with little preparedness on our part,” the joint document says. It was released last weekend by the WCC together with the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
“Interreligious relationships can be a powerful means of expressing and building solidarity, and of opening ourselves to resources coming to us from beyond our limitations . . . inspired and sustained by the hope we find in our respective traditions.”
The 4000-word text, “Serving a Wounded World in Inter-Religious Solidarity”, says that the 2020 lockdown brought the international economy “to its knees”, intensifying world hunger, domestic violence, and isolation, along with “despair, anxiety and insecurity”.
The parable of the Good Samaritan, it says, is a summons to discover the “true meaning of service and solidarity”, in a world wounded by religious intolerance, discrimination, racism, injustice, “and many other sins”.
”The pandemic has reminded us of the scandalous gap between rich and poor, privileged and underprivileged.
“It has exacerbated racial prejudices and led to increased violence against those long considered a threat to the dominant body politic structured and sustained by systems of inequality, exclusivism, discrimination, and domination.”
The joint appeal says that Christians are called to “own up” to their “complicity and guilt in many systems of oppression”, but that they are also collaborating with people of other faiths to “construct a culture of compassion” at individual and institutional levels.
It urges Christians to work with other faiths in promoting inclusivism and “solidarity through spirituality”, as well widen the formation of clergy and lay workers to a greater focus on interreligious links. It also said that religions could help “reawaken and guide humanity in building a new social order”, drawing on the “heritage of moral values common to all human beings”.
“We are made vulnerable by speaking truth to power, and by speaking up for those who suffer injustice,” the appeal says.
“We also believe in justice as a basis for forgiveness, without which conflict cannot be solved, and we stand in a long tradition of Christians who have given their lives in the struggle for it, mirroring the selfless sacrifice of Jesus Christ.”
The document is the latest co-produced by the WCC and Pontifical Council after a May 2019 joint text on education for peace, and coincides with the start, on Tuesday, of an ecumenical programme of environmental prayer and action.
In a press release, the WCC’s Romanian interim general secretary, the Revd Dr Ioan Sauca, said that interreligious dialogue “not only helps clarify the principles of our own faith and our identity as Christians, but also opens our understanding of the challenges — and creative solutions — others may have”.
The WCC, based in Geneva, is made up of 350 Anglican, Orthodox, Protestant, and independent denominations from more than 110 countries and territories worldwide, representing at least 500 million Christians in common witness for unity, mission, and evangelism.
The Pontifical Council seeks to promote understanding and collaboration between Roman Catholics and followers of other religious traditions, on the basis of the Second Vatican Council documents.