World churches leader urges African Christians to be self-critical

Published September 23, 2010

General secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit Photo: Peter Williams/WCC

The general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, has praised churches in Africa for their resilience against the challenges they face but has also urged them to be self-critical.

Tveit, a Norwegian Lutheran, was on his first tour of Africa as WCC general secretary after taking over from his Kenyan predecessor, the Rev. Samuel Kobia, in January. Tveit’s September 21 to 27 trip will take him to Kenya and Ethiopia.

"I commend your resilience and your strength and your hope which you have shown, and which you continue to show in your many struggles for justice and peace in Africa, often in very difficult and very challenging times," said Tveit in a sermon at the headquarters of the All Africa Conference of Churches in Nairobi.

During his September 12 sermon, he stressed the need for reconciliation and forgiveness, and added, "You know more than I do what it is not to have the freedom you are longing for: freedom from violence, freedom from discrimination, freedom from poverty, freedom from war."

The following day, Tveit addressed church leaders from different African countries, who were attending a seminar titled, Overcoming Violence, and Lasting Peace in Africa. He noted, "We need the churches to have counter action, to have a word against violence, a word against sin, a word against what can break down our human fellowship and our human future together."

The seminar was held to mark the International Day of Prayer for Peace. Tveit told those present, "We have to realise how difficult it is to criticise ourselves, and particularly if there is a group that is depending on one another.

"I think we as church leaders, we need one another for the right way of making one another mutually accountable to the mystery of good," said Tveit, who then asked, "How are we as churches accountable to this mystery of being good, and able to criticise one another without fear?"

He believed it should be done, "without defending ourselves, and without thinking this is destroying my authority". This, said Tveit, is needed so that church leaders are, "able to give one another proper critique for the sake of building a stronger fellowship".

Those who Tveit will meet on his Africa trip include government officials, church leaders and people living with HIV and AIDS.

In an interview with ENInews, Tveit said, "The churches here contributed strongly to the world Christian fellowship through their faith, resilience and hope." He called on African churches to be a voice for freedom, which, he said, leads to justice. "We [the worldwide Christian fellowship] want to stand together with them to be one in the work for peace."


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