Every year, the World Council of Churches invites a new class of interns from across the globe to bring fresh insights and voices to the work of the largest ecumenical body in the world. This year, six interns came from “the four corners of the earth” to represent faith communities from different cultures and backgrounds.
Katherine Pastukhova, 28, represented the Russian Orthodox Church in Belerus. Currently working on the WCC study on Ecclesiology and Baptism, Katherine described the council as “a living organism exuding a positive impulse of ecumenism and unity”.
According to Katherine, her ecumenical ideas have not always been well received, but she still ecumenism to be more relevant, more necessary than ever before. Through her experience at the WCC headquarters in Geneva, Katherine will be able to share her visions and her perspective, giving shape to an ever-changing youth constituency back at her hometown.
“It is an important asset for the WCC to have young people with ecumenical knowledge and experience in the churches, people we can count on to bring ecumenism further and who can contribute with substance”, said Rev. Freddy Knutsen, WCC program executive in charge of the internship program.
Marlone Zakeyo, 23, represented The Church of the Province of Central Africa in Zimbabwe. Currently working with International Affairs, he said he hopes to become “better equipped to tackle human rights issues with fellow Christians in Zimbabwe”.
While working for the ecumenical movement, Marlone said he hopes to be actively involved in political progress through the time of economic stress and high inflation in his nation. Through his hands-on experience with ecumenism, he continues to question his government’s domestic policy and its treatment of human rights activism in the country.
“For me”, he says, “the emphasis on service, human rights and economic justice is among the most vital work that the WCC is doing”.
Mrinal Lankapalli, 26, represented the Andhrea Evangelical Lutheran Church in India. Currently working with the WCC Dalit program, Mrinal is getting involved with other Christian movements in India that would promote ecumenism.
Mrinal said he sees the internship program as an opportunity to observe ecumenism more closely while contributing to the relationship between the WCC, Dalits and the churches. Through his internship and his ecumenical study with the WCC, he hopes to gain “a rich experience” to bring back to his country and his cause.
“The interns challenge us as an organization to see things from a new perspective,” said Knutsen, emphasizing the importance of the ecumenical realities that young people bring to the WCC. Though their contribution to the ecumenical movement is not only in what they bring to the WCC, but also in what they take back home.
Rachel Medema, 24, represents the Reformed Church of America. Rachel, an U.S. citizen, studied Latin American development issues in Guatemala and Honduras.
“I am beginning to think about graduate school in theology, specifically related to social ethics,” she says, “and this is a great introduction,” said Rachel.
Eva Osterlind, 25 from Denmark, represents the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark. Following her internship in the general secretariat of the WCC, she will return to her studies to become a pastor.
“Practical experience, and knowing what goes on in the real world is as important - if not more so - as theoretical knowledge”, she said.
Lisa Yablonsky, 22, of the United States, represents the Presbyterian Church USA. She says that since her arrival in September, she learned a lot, shared a little, and begun to search for more direction in her own academic future, as well as her role as a Christian and an ecumenist.