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LWF President: Peace between World Religions a Priority for Christians

Poverty, HIV/AIDS, Major Global Challenges for World Community

WINNIPEG, Canada, 22 July 2003
– Peace between the world’s religions and a common front against terrorism are among the top challenges facing Christians in the 21st century, the president of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Bishop emeritus Dr Christian Krause, said here today in his address to the LWF Tenth Assembly.

Krause was speaking to some 800 participants, including some 380 delegates from member churches, in the first plenary session of the July 21-31 Assembly.

It is no longer enough that states commit themselves to ending their conflicts by peaceful means, the LWF’s chief officer said. They need to form global alliances “in order to combat terrorism together and to guarantee their citizens civilized life in society.” The fight against terrorism cannot be separated from the struggle for justice and human dignity, LWF’s chief officer said.

Krause expressed concern that the United States, the only remaining world superpower, is now militarily so superior that it does not need to fear any military opponent in the world. “It has resolved to use war as a political means when that serves its own interests,” he said. He noted that the war against Iraq was waged in spite of the United Nations' own opposition and the anti-war demonstrations by millions of people worldwide. International law cannot safeguard peace if the USA do not respect this international law and prefer to replace it by the right of the mighty one,” he noted.

Islam or other religions should not be equated with terrorism, Krause warned. While fundamentalism attracts very few supporters, the phenomenon is also present among Christians and among Jews. Some 1.2 billion people in the world are Muslims and only a very small number of them sympathize with terrorism, he said. The fight against terrorism must include as many states worldwide as possible, especially those with majority Muslim populations. “But it must never become a clash of civilizations or even of religions.” What is imperative for the 21st century is not a crusade against Islam, said Krause, but peace between the religions and their common struggle against terrorism and its contempt for human beings.

The aim is to find common ground between the two world faiths, as with similar efforts in ecumenical dialogues between Christians. The concept of “reconciled diversity,” developed for relations between churches, may also be a useful goal for relations between Christians and Muslims.

Poverty and the HIV/AIDS pandemic are two other top challenges facing the world community, Krause said. He pointed out that the call for communio, which has been discussed with growing intensity in recent years, is not primarily a call for humanitarian aid in view of poverty and HIV/AIDS, much as that is also important, but a call to a worldwide community of trust and hope in discipleship of Jesus Christ. “Are we ready for this – the rich with the poor?" Krause asked the Assembly participants.

Krause declared the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification to be the most significant theological achievement since the previous LWF Assembly held in 1997. The landmark declaration was signed by representatives of the LWF and Roman Catholic Church on 31 October 1999.

The number of member churches has nearly tripled to 136 since the LWF was founded in 1947, Krause noted. The expansion of the Federation mainly involved churches in the South becoming members. While the churches in the North are faced with shrinking memberships, churches in the South are growing significantly, mainly among charismatic, spirit-filled congregations and communities. According to the LWF president, the future of Christianity will mainly depend on whether it is possible to gather together the historical confessional churches and the charismatic congregations and movements.

He said there is need for new ecumenical models in order to meet one another also across internal barriers, and deal constructively with the existing controversies and be able to celebrate worship together.

Krause expressed his deep sense of gratitude “for the gift of communion in Christ which transcends all borders and divisions.” He paid tribute to the hospitality of the many people who have received him together with his wife Gertrud during visits to member churches of the global Lutheran communion. “I then had the strength to persevere even when the strain was great. That gave me the resolve to stand up for our cause also before the governments and the powerful of this world,” he noted.

He thanked the Assembly host the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada and its National Bishop Raymond Schultz, the LWF Geneva staff and the many other people who prepared the Assembly.

Krause was elected LWF President at the 1997 Ninth Assembly in Hong Kong China.

The Tenth Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) is taking place 21-31 July 2003 in Winnipeg, Canada, under the theme "For the Healing of the World." It is being hosted by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC).

There are around 820 men, women and youth participants in the Tenth Assembly including 380 delegates from the 133 churches with full membership and three associate members. The Assembly is the highest decision-making body of the LWF, and meets normally every six years. Between Assemblies, the LWF is governed by its Council that meets annually, and by its Executive Committee.

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