"The church's place is at the World Social Forum"

Jan 30, 2003 12:55 PM EST

"The way the ecumenical community joined forces at the third World Social Forum showed that local, regional and international levels can work together. This was a qualitative leap forward in terms of strategic vision," said World Council of Churches (WCC) director of Programmes Geneviève Jacques. "We heard many calls for the WCC to increase its participation in the Forum in the future, possibly as part of the international council that organizes the event."

For Jacques, these calls are logical. "We don't need to invent anything new," she observed. "We only need to articulate the voice of the churches effectively. They are already on the frontline, on the side of the poor and excluded, taking part in movements for change." Which is why, she said, "although we may also attend other fora like Davos, the churches belong at the World Social Forum."

Her opinion was shared by the local ecumenical coalition and the inter-faith group at the Forum. Marta Palma, WCC secretary for Latin America and the Caribbean, reported that both groups felt that they had ensured an effective ecumenical and inter-faith presence at the Forum.

"It is good to experience this collective conviction that it is possible to change things and build a different world, good to share people's readiness to personally commit themselves to achieving this change, without neglecting spirituality as an integral part of what we need to build," Palma said.

What will the World Social Forum be like in, say, five years from now? "There's no answer to that question," said Jacques, "because we're talking about dreams." But "It would be good if other continents - Asia, Africa - could also benefit from this powerful and dynamic experience."

The WCC delegation is participating at the World Social Forum within the framework of an Ecumenical Caucus set up by the WCC, the Lutheran World Federation, the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, the Latin American Council of Churches and an ecumenical coalition of Brazilian churches and related organizations.

Delegation members are leading a series of workshops showing links between Christian spirituality and examples of resistance against the unjust world order by churches and social and ecumenical organizations.

Further details of how the WCC is participating in the World Social Forum, including descriptions of the workshops and the text of the presentations, can be found at:

http://www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/what/jpc/wsf-e.html (English)

http://www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/what/jpc/wsf-s.html (Español)

http://www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/what/jpc/wsf-g.html (Deutsch)

http://www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/what/jpc/wsf-f.html (Français)