LWF Virtual Conference on Diakonia’s Transformative Power
Over 200 Participants Join Online Discussion
(LWI) – From a key note address that challenged Christians to bring liberation to the poor by questioning power structures in society to perspectives on the role of the church in post-conflict situations, speakers at the second virtual conference of The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) on 18 September discussed how diakonia can help to transform both church and society.
Over 260 congregational workers, pastors and diaconal workers from 60 countries joined the conference organized by the LWF Department for Mission and Development (DMD), and focused on the theme “Called to be Transformed and Transforming.” It included workshops and presentations, and live video responses to questions from participants and video commentaries.
The church should be recognized as a communion where people not only care for themselves but for all, said keynote speaker Bishop Niels Arendt (Denmark) in his presentation elaborating Lutheran churches’ engagement in diaconal actions.
Speaking about how diakonia can transform society in a post-conflict situation, Liberian Bishop Dr Jensen Seyenkulo explained how the church’s trauma healing and reconciliation program (THRP) is helping to rebuild trust in society, restore hope and values, encourage dialogue, and empower people to take initiatives and understand their own rights and the rights of others.
Through several Lutheran Church in Liberia (LCL) workshops involving community members, security agencies and other actors, the THRP has helped people who were traumatized by war, both victims and perpetrators, to “have the power to make things happen instead of seeing themselves as victims, and therefore value themselves and take part in leadership,” Seyenkulo said.
Explaining why the HIV and AIDS epidemic is on the rise in North Sumatra, Indonesia, Erlina Pardede said stigma and discrimination was high and prevalent. “There are many houses of people who are infected, and they are often reprimanded by the local inhabitants and in some cases, stoned or almost burned," she said. She, however, noted that the churches are able to do prevention work through a “train the trainer” program of the LWF National Committee in Indonesia.
Bolivian Lutheran church leader Rev. Emilio Aslla Flores, speaking about the rights of indigenous people, said justice, health and education were the three human rights that are most violated in the country.
On climate justice and the interfaith “Fast for the Climate Campaign”, Martin Kopp (France) emphasized the need to “have a real shift in paradigm, a real shift in our way of lives so that we emit less carbon and lead a more eco-friendly way of life.” One of the calls of diakonia, he noted, “is to change the very essence of society itself when it leads to injustice and impacts on poor and vulnerable people.”
Defining the goal of advocacy in the church, Mr Godfrey Kalugendo (Tanzania) said churches must stand for the marginalized people. “Despite opportunities which are vividly opening up in Africa, with many economies booming, poverty is deepening.”
Rev. Imad M. D. Haddad (Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land) emphasized the role of education in advocacy in order to raise a generation that is able to “understand the other and accept the other and work together work for a better situation.”
“Advocacy is a learning and teaching process. A process that needs a long breath. So do not lose heart and keep advocating for a better life under the guidance of God's will,” Haddad added.
Diakonia, noted DMD director Dr Carlos Bock, “belongs to the core essence of the church of Jesus Christ. It is about serving people in need, accompanying the sick, the poor and the suffering on the margins of society.”
The DMD plans to hold follow-up virtual conferences in 2016, focusing on relevant themes that help to promote peace and justice in society.