The World Council of Churches’ (WCC) Central Committee, currently meeting in Kolympari, Greece, adopted several statements on a range of faith and humanitarian issues in several countries.
The committee, the primary decision-making body of the WCC, is meeting at the Orthodox Academy of Crete. The statements it adopted concerned situations in Pakistan, Myanmar (also known as Burma), French Polynesia and Syria.
The committee said on Sept. 4 it is concerned about abductions, forced marriages and forced conversions of young women from Christian and Hindu communities in Pakistan.
Pointing to the fear spread among the religious minority communities by radical groups in the country, the statement speaks of “a significant number of young women of religious minorities, especially Hindus and Christians who live in Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan provinces,” who “face violence, including sexual assault, including rape, threats, and persecution.”
The statement calls on the Pakistan government to “ensure adequate protection mechanisms for all religious minorities in the country” and to take immediate action over the crimes and discrimination against religious minorities.
It also appeals to international civil society organizations, interfaith groups and churches to “exert continued pressure on the government of Pakistan to prevent the abductions, forced conversion to Islam and forced marriages of young women from religious minorities.”
Concerning Myanmar, the committee said it supports the active participation of Christians in Myanmar who promote peace at the grass-roots level.
On Sept. 4, the committee recommended that the WCC’s Commission of the Churches on International Affairs “continue to monitor the situation and global advocacy on peace, security, reconciliation” and “support the Myanmar Council of Churches in its mission and witness in coordinating peace and reconciliation initiatives.”
The WCC pledged to encourage “the Myanmar churches to advocate for the cessation of violence against the Muslim Rohingyas and a safe return of internally displaced Rohingyas to their homes.”
On French Polynesia, the committee on called for re-inscription of French Polynesia (Maohi Nui) on the list of countries to be decolonized.
In 1947 the French government had Maohi Nui removed from such a list drawn up by the newly-formed United Nations. A public statement adopted by the Central Committee calls on French authorities “to fulfill their obligations and provide all necessary means for the economic, social and cultural development of the Maohi people” and “urges France to compensate all those affected by nuclear testing and radioactivity” in the vicinity.
It also invites Christians to pray “for the people and the churches of Maohi Nui as they embark on their peaceful and just struggle for self-determination.”
Turning to the current deadly conflict in Syria between government and opposition forces, the committee on Sept. 4 called on “all parties to engage in dialogue — as the only solution — in order to safeguard the unity and pluralistic nature of historic Syria.”
The statement noted that “the Christian presence in the Middle East is part of the social and cultural constituency of the society they live in” and that Syrian Christians “have a historical role to play in building up a future society based on the mutual respect and dialogue of life” within the country. Christians make up approximately ten percent of the Syrian population.
The statement concludes with an assurance that the WCC “prays for the reign of peace with justice in Syria and in all countries in the Middle East.”
The Central Committee also appealed “to the international community to respect the ability and responsibility of the Syrian people to find solutions to the crisis, and to refrain from outside military interventions.”