Ecumenical Presence at the World Social Forum

The 2005 World Social Forum opened in Porto Alegre, Brazil, with over 120,000 participants from around Brazil and the world, January 26, 2005. The participants geared up for five days of conferences, worshops and panel discussions tackling a wide range of social issues such as environmental conservation, sexism, poverty and the world in Iraq.

While the WSF, whose main focus this year is on eliminating poverty, is a secularly organized event, a large ecumenical coalition made the Christian presence known through panel discussions and services.

The members of the ecumenical coalition, organized by the World Council of Churches, brought together over 200 different theologians and lay and ordained leaders in a setting where they were able to seek ways of achieving greater justice and solidarity in a globalized world.

The first WCC-led panel discussion, entitled “Women’s spirituality, life and dignity,” attracted hundreds of interested Christians and non-Christians alike, on January 27.

The panel presented different views on “how women from their particular perspective can contribute to build another world that overcomes sexual and racial discrimination, violence and hierarchical structures,” according to the WCC.

“It has always been the women who have refused the decisions of the powerful and the destruction of mother earth. It has always been the women who shout out: no more mouths to suffer hunger, no more hands to remain empty, no more children to became the target of machine guns,” said Rev. Eunice Santana from the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) Puerto Rico, as she opened the panel.

Another panel speaker, Rev. Dr Wanda Deifelt of the Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil, emphasized that Christianity has to rediscover the human body.

“We are concerned about the well-being of the soul, but not about the body,” she said, “although our faith proclaims the incarnation of Christ and the resurrection not only of the soul but also of the body.”

”The human body should be more integrated into theological thinking and Christian spirituality,” so that theology might become more aware of the fact that “the body is a part of the wholeness of creation” and that “community is also a gift of God,” she continued.

The World Social Forum will continue through January 31.