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ReligionChristianity“That the world may know.” The invitation from the Global Christian Forum.

“That the world may know.” The invitation from the Global Christian Forum.

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By Martin Hoegger

Accra, Ghana, April 19, 2024. The central theme of the fourth Global Christian Forum (GCF) is taken from the Gospel of John: “That the world may know” (John 17:21). In many ways, the assembly delved deeper into this great text, where Jesus prays for the unity of his disciples by sending them into the world.

This forum had great logic. On the first day, we affirmed that Christ alone unites us. The second, with the visit to the Cape Coast fortress where millions of slaves passed through, we confessed our unfaithfulness to the will of God. On the third day, we recognized our need to be forgiven and healed before being sent. Sending is the theme of the fourth day.

Love is the cement of ecumenism

It is no coincidence that John 17 was chosen as the key text. Indeed, “if the Bible is a sanctuary, John 17 is the “holy of holies”: a revelation of an intimate dialogue between the Father and the Son made flesh,” says Ganoun Diop, of the Adventist Church in Senegal. It is a great mystery: Jesus loved us so that we would be reborn into a new life. GCF is a tool that God uses to bring His love. And love is the cement of ecumenism!

For Catherine Shirk Lukas, professor at the Catholic University of Paris, the ecumenical movement is a movement of love because Jesus prayed for divine love to be spread throughout the world (John 3.16). “That the world may know”: this promise is first and foremost for those who have been victims of violence and abuse. “We have to listen to them, see them and support them, being humble and repenting of our mistakes.”

The Ghanaian Gertrude Fefoame is involved in the network for the disabled of the World Council of Churches. She herself is blind and testifies that there are still many barriers to welcoming them into the community: “Forgiveness and healing given by Christ are a liberation. It frees from all discrimination and includes people with disabilities.”

For Coptic Orthodox Archbishop Angaelos, Jesus’ call to unity is a challenge that requires patience and kindness. “We must function as a body with Christ at our head. This means considering the other parts of this body in our decisions.” Jesus’ prayer in John 17 calls him to live the truth that the Son of God came so that we might have life in fullness. We are ministers of his reconciliation so that the world sees Him and not us.

The effective methodology of the Forum

What pleases Victor Lee, a Pentecostal from Malaysia, is the methodology of sharing paths of faith in the Forum. It allows Pentecostals to make Jesus known by collaborating with other Churches, through the power of the Spirit.

Theologian Richard Howell, from India, recognizes that these sharings transformed his life. “After my mom was miraculously healed when I was 12, I then became a Pentecostal. I thought only Pentecostals were saved. Hearing Christians from other churches share their faith at the Forum, I asked God to forgive my ignorance. I discovered brothers and sisters and that I was missing 2000 years of Christian heritage. It was a new conversion.”

Likewise, a leader of an independent African Church discovered the richness of listening to stories of faith. “I realized that we have the same faith in Christ. If we start to listen to each other, we will love each other and overcome our separations.”

The Forum’s methodology also combines presentations with times of dialogue between six and eight people around a table. This “knitting” is very effective for getting to know yourself better on a personal level. We were thus invited to share on these three questions: “What do you want the world to know? How did you know Christ? How do you make Christ known? » And, at the end of the meeting, this other question: “What inspiration have you received during these days and that you would like to pass on to your home”

A Road to Emmaus

The story of the two disciples walking towards Emmaus is at the heart of what the Global Christian Forum is looking for. For Archbishop Flávio Pace, secretary of the dicastery for promoting Christian unity, it symbolizes the Church on the move, joined by Christ. It is he who must be put at the center, and it is with him that we must open the Scriptures. Reflecting on the recent synod of the Catholic Church, he affirms that there cannot be a true synod without the ecumenical dimension. The prayer vigil at the Vatican “Together” gave a strong sign in this direction.

On two occasions, the delegates were invited to an “Emmaus Way” to get to know a person we did not yet know. As for me, I walked with Sharaz Alam, a young pastor, general secretary of the Presbyterian Church of Pakistan, in the park adjoining the conference center, then in the shade of large trees around a fresh drink. We shared the meaning of the Emmaus story. He also spoke to me about his evangelization work with the 300 young people in his parish and his doctoral project on the challenges that Islam poses to the Church in his country.

The story of Emmaus is also at the heart of Focolare spirituality, which emphasizes the importance of experiencing the presence of Christ among us. It is presented by Enno Dijkema, co-director of the Center for Unity of this great Catholic movement, open to members of other Churches. Indeed, its goal is to contribute to realizing the “testament of Jesus” in John 17. The Gospel is at its basis, in particular the new commandment of reciprocal love given by Christ.

Finally, the horizon of 2033 is like a road to Emmaus towards the jubilee of the 2000 years of the resurrection of Jesus. The Swiss Olivier Fleury, president of the JC2033 initiative, speaks with passion of the wonderful opportunity for witness in unity that this Jubilee represents… “so that the world may know” that Jesus-Christ is risen!

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