world council of churches

Issue 33, July 1999

The eighth assembly of the World Council of Churches was in many ways different from previous assemblies. The feature Padare (a Shona word for "meeting place") brought many ideas to the assembly. Traditionally, Padare designates a gathering to deliberate on common issues. Over a period of five days during the Harare assembly, more than 600 exhibits, performances, presentations and discussions on a vast array of issues and activities were presented at the Padare by WCC member churches and related organizations. Some delegates to the assembly said the most interesting and important developments of the meeting occurred at the Padare rather than in the formal plenary discussions.

The assembly had invited guests of other faiths, who at the Padare, together with our advisors on interfaith issues, addressed various themes. We publish some of the contributions in this issue. The themes differ, the approaches differ. We hope that together they give a glimpse of the enriching diversity which assembly delegates and guests experienced in the interfaith Padare. Our only regret is that some of the Muslim guests invited to the assembly for various reasons had to decline the invitation.

Dr Anantanand Rambachan, a Hindu scholar from Trinidad and the USA, addressed the assembly on behalf of the guests of other faiths. I would like to quote one sentence from his address, which I think particularly important: "If there is to be hope for a future in which we can rejoice, arrogance, hostility and indifference must give way to humility in our relationships and attentiveness to each other's experience of the sacred." Dr Rambachan's message is reprinted in this issue of Current Dialogue.

The new structure of the WCC, which is now gradually being implemented, not only wishes to accentuate the need for intentional cooperation between the member churches and their Council, but also to emphasize the interlinkage between the different programmes in the Council. Interreligious relations and dialogue are not an island. They touch upon international relations, education and formation, mission and witness, the concern for peace and justice as articulated by Faith & Order. The need for an intentional interdisciplinary approach to issues of our time prompted an in-house workshop on the role of interreligious relations in the life of the Council. A discussion paper "The Interfaith Dimensions of Our Work" highlights some aspects that we in cooperation and collaboration within the Council would like to focus on in the years to come.

We appreciate that you send us articles and reports to share with others. We try to publish some of these. With this issue you will find a report from the European Network of Buddhist-Christian Studies' conference earlier this year. The title is "Jesus through Buddhist Eyes." The author is John D'Arcy May, Irish School of Ecumenics in Dublin.

We have received some news and statements on the Jewish-Christian relationship, some of which you will find in this issue of Current Dialogue. The indicated URL will help you find the complete material on the web. If you do not have access to the internet, we will be glad to assist you in getting the documents and statements.

  • Christian Peacemaker Teams ( have written a letter on anti-semitism.
  • United Church of Canada ( has elaborated Bearing Faithful Witness, a study guide on Jewish-Christian relations.
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America ( has published Guidelines for Lutheran-Jewish Relations, which elaborate on an earlier declaration to the Jewish community, repudiating the anti-semitism of Martin Luther.
  • During a parliamentary debate in 1997, the Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson launched an educational and information project about the Holocaust. The project had children in schools and their parents in mind and wanted to counter the re-emergence of Neo-nazism in society. The book Tell ye your children ... A book about the Holocaust in Europe 1933 - 1945 was published and distributed widely. It has now appeared in English with the above title. More information can be obtained by writing to: Living History Project, Government Offices, S-103 33 Stockholm, Sweden.
New publications

Testing the Global Ethic: Voices from religious traditions on moral values
Edited by Peggy Morgan and
Marcus Braybrooke

Although religious differences often seem to aggravate conflict in the modern world, many people hope that the moral values that are shared by people of faith can provide the basis for communities and nations to live together in a more peaceful and harmonious way. This hope was articulated at the 1993 Parliament of the World's Religions in The Declaration Toward a Global Ethic. But do people of faith really agree on how we should live?

In Testing the Global Ethic members of several faiths and a contributors from a non-religious standpoints explore significant agreements and important differences of emphasis in the ethical teachings of the world's religions.

Testing the Global Ethic is published by and available from: The International Interfaith Centre, 2 Market Street, Oxford OX1 3EF. ISBN 0 95 24140 1 5 : 11.99 plus 1.60 postage. CoNexus Press, 6264 Grand River Drive, Ada, MI 49301, USA. ISBN 0-9637897-6-7 : $19.99 plus $3 postage

Not Without my Neighbour
Issues in Interfaith Relations

by S. Wesley Ariarajah

Meeting people of other faiths is an everyday experience not only for minority Christian communities in Asia and the Middle East but more and more for Christians elsewhere. Yet although interfaith dialogue has established itself as a key concern for the churches and the ecumenical movement, it continues to raise spiritual, social, political, practical and theological concerns in many quarters. The insights in this book draw on the author's wide range of personal experiences - as a child, student and Methodist pastor in Sri Lanka; as a participant in the controversial discussion of interfaith dialogue at the World Council of Churches' fifth assembly (Nairobi 1975); as a student of Hinduism, and especially as a longtime staff member and director of the WCC's dialogue programme. Weaving together accounts from daily life, ecumenical texts and discussions, and theological reflection, this book offers a clear and challenging introduction to key issues that arise again and again when Christian and churches enter into conversation with their neighbours of other faiths C among them interfaith prayer, interfaith marriage, religion and conflict, and dialogue and mission.

S. Wesley Ariarajah is professor of ecumenical theology, Drew University School of Theology, Madison, New Jersey (USA).

Not Without my Neighbour is a WCC publication. ISBN: 2-8254-108-9. No. 85 in the Risk series. Selling Price: SF15, US$9.95, 6.25. Click here to order.

In the next issue of Current Dialogue we will among other things publish the material and report from a workshop "What Difference Does Religious Plurality Make?" This workshop, held at the Bossey Ecumenical Institute earlier this spring, brought together some 20 participants of different confessions and faiths.

Among other news from the WCC we would like to share with you is that Bossey's 48th Graduate School of Ecumenical Studies will deal with the theme: "Christians in a Religiously Plural World: Challenge and Opportunity." Some 60 students from all over the world will participate in the Graduate School, sharing experiences and reflecting on the significance of religious plurality for the self-understanding of the church.

Hans Ucko

Inside this issue of Current Dialogue . . .

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