Churches must focus on world's brokenness, new exec says
10/28/2003 News media contact: Linda Green · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn
A head-and-shoulders photograph of the Rev. Samuel Kobia is available.
By Linda Green*
World Council of Churches logo, Photo number W03068, Accompanies UMNS#513
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - The newly elected top
executive of the World Council of Churches says the organization's most
critical task is helping humans respond to the brokenness affecting most
of the world today.
"We live in a world ... where people feel
insecure (and) ... are suffering because of poverty. Part of the vision
is to bring about the fullness of life or the abundant life to all human
beings," said the Rev. Samuel Kobia, a member of the Methodist Church
Anything that causes individuals to feel less than
whole is an issue the World Council of Churches should address as the
ecumenical advocate for justice and peace, he said.
examining the "relational dimensions of the way humans live" will be one
of his first objectives when he takes office in January. He wants to
assist the council in promoting relationships and reconciliation to
alleviate pain, insecurity and strife throughout the world.
the council's special representative for Africa, Kobia was elected to
the top post last August. When he succeeds the Rev. Konrad Raiser, he
will become the first African head of the 55-year-old association.
in Geneva, the World Council of Churches is a fellowship of 342
churches in more than 120 countries. The United Methodist Church is a
member and major supporter. The council's governing assembly meets every seven years.
"It is a very unique organization in the world today," Kobia said of the organization.
Born in 1947, Kobia holds degrees and diplomas from academic institutions in his native Kenya and the United States.
promoting Christian unity, the council seeks to address the divisions
that have arisen in Christianity throughout history and to help people
meet their needs, he said.
"We feel that the time has come for churches to work together and unite," he said.
a statement following his election, Kobia talked about strength. "To
gain the capacity to inspire the world we need inner strength. Our
strength lies also in our unity. As we reiterate that the WCC is first
and foremost a fellowship of churches whose primary purpose is to call
one another to visible unity in one faith and one eucharistic
fellowship, and 'to advance that unity so that the world may believe,'
we must work together and be seen to be working together."
Kobia said he will have three priorities in his new role.
first is to alleviate violence in all of its forms. He wants the
council to continue working within the framework of its "Decade to
Overcome Violence," a focus through 2010. The effort calls for
Christians to empower those oppressed by violence and to act in
solidarity with those struggling for justice, peace and the integrity of
In the United States, the council is focusing on
resourcing churches and movements working for peace, encouraging a
commitment to mutual accountability, and deepening the churches'
understanding of issues such as power, militarism and
community-building. "I would like to put a lot of effort into that,"
Interreligious dialogue is the second part of
Kobia's vision. "The council believes very strongly that faith could
unite people," he said. What is needed is an emphasis "to turn around
the different faiths that have sometimes been used to divide people," he
The commonalities and shared values among faiths today
can be used as a basis for dialogue and collaboration in dealing with
practical groundwork issues, he said.
The final priority
addresses wholeness and health. "We live in a broken world," Kobia said.
"There is a lot of poverty that I really feel many people are living
The greatest health crisis facing the
world today, especially in Africa, is HIV/AIDS, he said. "I believe
there is no other problem that Africa is facing that is as devastating
as HIV/AIDS, whether we look at it from the political, economic or
social point of view."
If the council is to be an effective
champion of peace and justice, it must deal with the problems that make
it difficult for the majority of humans to experience fullness of life,
"Jesus Christ said, 'I came so that humans may have
life and have it in all of its fullness.' I think we are very far away
from that when we look at the way the world is suffering today." # # # *Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer in Nashville, Tenn.