The World Council of Churches' General Assembly

20th September 2022 | International

The Clewer Initiative

At the start of September, delegates from The Clewer Initiative attended the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Karlsruhe, Germany.

The WCC is the broadest and most inclusive, modern, ecumenical movement and brings together churches, denominations and fellowships from more than 120 countries. Member churches represent more than 580 million Christians and include most of the world's Orthodox churches, Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed churches, as well as many United and Independent churches. The assembly convenes every eight years and provides member churches with a unique space to reflect, speak, act, worship and work together.

The Clewer Initiative has been formally working with the WCC since March 2020 on a pilot project to challenge issues on modern slavery, particularly as it affects children. Early stages of the pilot have involved developing relationships with the Christian Councils in Ghana and Tanzania and with The Federation of Evangelical Churches in Italy and discerning an effective and sustainable work programme. We were able to present our joint learnings at the Assembly. In addition, our director was able to be involved in an Ecumenical Conversation on migration: conversations provide an opportunity to draw on the insights of WCC networks, member churches, and partners, and discuss emerging ecumenical and global concerns.

The migration Ecumenical Conversation, taking place over four days, explored Human Mobility, Displacement and the Public Role and Witness of the Church. It considered the tensions and intersections between human rights and Christian faith; and the Church’s pastoral, prophetic and public role. It also thought about the changing and extremely diverse profiles of people on the move, the challenges migration raises, and the many ways migrants transform ecclesial life, mission, and praxis. Finally, it discussed why it is necessary for churches to be strong witnesses and advocates in the public sphere as well as addressing current, emerging, and future migration challenges.

Bishop Alastair Redfern, Caroline Virgo, Revd Janice Price and Francesca Geach (The Clewer Initiative), Joyce Larko Steiner (Christian Council of Ghana) and Esther Muhagachi (Christian Council of Tanzania) presented a workshop on their mutually developing work targeting child modern slavery.

WCC photo

Caroline Virgo, director of The Clewer Initiative, explains: “It was a privilege to attend and speak at this global gathering. Each of us presenting are involved in modern slavery work in different contexts and we were in a unique position to talk about the on-the-ground projects we have been a part of in Ghana, Tanzania and Italy. We were also able to share how we think these could develop to tackle trafficking and exploitation in other countries.

"The issue of migration and modern slavery arose again and again during the Assembly, and it was clear there is a real urgency to the debate. A specialist and joined up approach is needed which transcends geographical boundaries. This will not be easy to achieve. The need for effective, collaborative and joined up working is clear but a challenge to all of us in the church, especially policy makers, pastoral carers and theologians."

In its closing statement, the WCC said: “The Assembly encourages the WCC to continue exercising a convening role, and creating spaces for encounter and dialogue on migration with member churches and partners for the sharing of information, solidarity, advocacy and accompaniment... Consideration should also be given to how the WCC might support member churches and their specialized ministries in addressing human trafficking, especially of refugee and migrant women and children, including by facilitating networking between churches and partners in countries of origin and those in countries of arrival.”

Caroline Virgo concludes: “We are excited about playing our part in convening churches, organisations and charities from around the world so that we can better work together to tackle modern slavery and care for vulnerable people in our midst.”

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