On 9 December, a delegation led by World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit met with the South African president Cyril Ramaphosa and cabinet ministers in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The high-level delegation of the WCC with 16 representatives from all over the world, will be in the country on a social-justice mission to South Africa from 7-12 December.
This WCC Pilgrim Team Visit is intended to be both a journey of solidarity and spirituality which seeks a mutual transformation between people – both those who have visited and those who have been visited – walking together on a Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace. The South African Council of Churches is hosting the visit.
The visit by the WCC is aimed at learning about two critical matters in South Africa: gender-based violence and femicide; and incidents of violence toward foreign nationals.
The WCC delegation, led by WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, along with the WCC deputy general secretary Prof. Dr Isabel Apawo Phiri, includes members of the WCC Commission of the Churches on International Affairs, moderated by Rev. Frank Chikane of South Africa.
Tveit said, after the closed meeting with the Ramaphosa and the delegation: “The meeting with president Cyril Ramaphosa was a unique occasion to raise global issues on the agenda of the World Council of Churches which are also significant challenges for the churches and the society of South Africa today.”
Tveit added: “Together we could affirm the joint history we have from the struggle against the unjust apartheid system, through the WCC Programme to Combat Racism. Racism is not dead, and is a global problem with many new faces that the WCC needs to address and combat together with our churches and partners. We shared our work on gender-based violence and how we work against xenophobia, and asked for a renewed commitment and cooperation with partners here in South Africa on these issues.”
Tveit underlined that the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace has helped the WCC to continue its commitment to address racism and the related challenges, through pastoral work and public advocacy, and also through preaching and teaching. “The meeting affirmed the significance of the contributions from churches in these issues, and also our readiness to speak the truth publicly and self-critically to ourselves,” said Tveit.
Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi and a delegation from the Department of Home Affairs were also invited to meet with the WCC delegation to discuss the issues of migration, and refugees and their rights.
This WCC visit is a historic occasion as it is the first time in a number of years that a delegation of the WCC has come officially on a justice mission to South Africa.
“The churches of the world, through the WCC, have heard and wish to hear from us and various stakeholders how we see the situation and what we are doing about it, so that they can accompany us in any efforts we may be making,” said Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, general secretary of the South Africa Council of Churches.
Tveit added: “South Africa has a very special place in the history and the heart of the WCC and its leadership, also today. The struggle for justice and human rights and dignity in the WCC Programme To Combat Racism, contributed to change the reality in your country, but it also changed the churches worldwide. South Africa has been a lighthouse in the world for how to work together for truth, justice and peace, as churches seeking unity. Today we learn how the people in South Africa and in the neighbouring countries struggle again with violence and economic and racist injustices.”