Changes and Trends I witnessed at the 10th World Assembly

The 10th World Assembly of WCRP /RfP was held in Lindau, Germany for four days from August 20th. Over 900 representatives from 125 countries gathered in this old town by Bodensee, also known as Lake Constance in southern Germany, official delegates and observers from Japan, about 40 in total, among them.
German government extended her full support in hosting the Assembly. That gave the 10th Assembly a major difference from the past nine assemblies. Not only did the government provide financial support, but it also helped operational and substantial aspects of the assembly from the preparation stage, I learned. Germany has been accommodating a large number of refugees from the Middle East and Africa. With widespread domestic frustrations against immigrants amid the increasing “my country first” trends among European countries, the German government appeared to need the wisdom of global religious leaders.

Many talented people lectured in the plenaries and commission sessions, while intensive debate taking place in various panel discussions through the Assembly. As the fruit of such activities, the Declaration of the 10th World Assembly was adopted on the last day. The last part of the Declaration is titled “Call to Common Action”. It seems to me that proposals and suggestions from the Japan Committee are incorporated into eight points of the nine-point “Call”.

What was remarkable throughout the Assembly was that it shed light on the being and the act of women, which gathered the participants’ sympathy. It was also remarkable that religious leaders from all over the world expressed willingness to act against global warming as the most crucial and urgent issue. In a climate change working group session, I spoke about the Fukushima nuclear power plant incident. I appealed the necessity to consider the danger of nuclear power plants as an environmental problem, as well as an issue of ethics to the religious leaders. However, I had a strong impression that the world doesn’t have a proper comprehension of the graveness of this problem yet.

The Assembly made history to elect Professor Azza Karam as the next Secretary General of WCRP/RfP. Ms. Karam, a Muslim of Egyptian origin, will succeed Dr. William F. Vendley, who had been presided over the organization for 27 years as a Christian Secretary General from the United States.

WCRP/RfP is an international organization that was born in 1970 out of the calls by Japanese religious leaders. We could feel the large presence of Japanese religious leaders in the past Assemblies. But as the idea of WCRP/RfP has spread all over the world, Japan was not in the foreground of the 10th Assembly. I felt some sort of sorrow about that. But I thought that perhaps it was this global reach that the founders aspired for and prayed from the bottom of their hearts.

The Most Rev. N. Makoto Uematsu
Chair of RfP Japan
(The Primate of The Nippon Sei Ko Kai, the Anglican Church of Japan)

(The above is a translation of the front page essay “The Door to the Souls” on the October issue of the monthly newsletter “WCRP” by the Most Rev. Uematsu.)