The Future of Ecumenicalism Lies in Interfaith Dialogue

The world is becoming more and more polarized religiously and the ecumenical movement needs to adopt interfaith dialogue and cooperation as a priority in the 21st century, at least according to Samuel Kobia, the head of the World Council of Churches (WCC).

In a seminar on Ecumenism held in Bangladesh, a nation known for violent clashes between majority Muslims and minority Christians, the Rev. Kobia emphasized that church bodies must strengthen interfaith dialogue at the grassroots level where most of the negative impact of religious intolerance and violence is felt.

His comments were made during his first visit to Bangledesh as the WCC’s general secretary. In addition to speaking at the seminar, Kobia shared a discussion on the rights of minorities, increasing trends of religious intolerance, and political violence with the President of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh.

Prof. Dr Iajjudin Ahmed, the nation’s president, assured Kobia that terrorist activities – which has steadily risen over the years – is only the responsibility of a handful of people. He also told Kobia that the government is determined to prevent such activities and not to allow the extremists to have an impact, according to a WCC press release.

Meanwhile, Kobia asked president Ahmed to consider declaring Easter Service a public holiday; Ahmed said he would support the proposal, and encouraged Christian leaders to start negotiations with the government.

Prior to his meeting with the president, Kobia also inaugurated the "Human and Organizational Potential Enhancement (HOPE)" international training centre of the Christian Commission for Development in Bangladesh (CCDB) in the capital city of Dhaka.

The CCDB, which works toward strengthening civil society, hopes to sustain and protect justice and freedom in society.

In the inaugural ceremony, Kobia affirmed that the CCDB is needed in a nation such as Bangladesh, where high levels of human deprivation exists. Such systematic efforts under the Commission will ultimately ensure freedom and human dignity for all, Kobia said.

Kobia was joined by his wife, Mrs. Rush Kobia, the WCC Asia secretary Dr Mathews George Chunakara, National Council of Churches President Sudhir Adhikari, Baptist Church President Sheila Mong Chowdhury, and Christian Development Commission Director Joyantha Adhikari, throughout his stay in Bangladesh.

Kobia’s trip lasted from March 26-28.