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21 July 2011

Christian witness in a multi-religious world

Representing over 90 per cent of Christians, three main Christian bodies have released the document Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Recommendations for Conduct. Unveiled in Geneva in June and five years in the making, these recommendations attempt to lay out a code of behaviour for Christian mission.

The recommendations are a collaboration between the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Vatican's Pontifical Council on Inter-religious Dialogue (PCID) and are intended to "address practical issues associated with Christian witness in a multi-religious world." The three groups represent hundreds of Christian denominations, including Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, Evangelical, Pentecostal and independent churches.

The concept emerged in 2006 partly as a response to accusations of "unethical methods" used by Christian missionaries, which the WEA has said in some cases have "led to anti-conversion laws and violence". Daniel Madigan, an expert on Muslim-Christian relations at Georgetown University, said that the document represents "an admission" that such practices have been occurring in Christian missionary work.

Geoff Tunnicliffe, secretary general of the WEA, notes: "In some places, dynamic public witness to Jesus Christ has been accompanied by misunderstanding and tension. This document is a valuable resource for church and ministry leaders for reflection and practice on how to best witness in ways faithful to the call of Christ." He also commented that the recommendations will be a great resource for Christians lobbying against anti-conversion laws prohibiting people from converting to Christianity.

The WEA, WCC and PCID are urging Christians to "conduct themselves with integrity, charity, compassion and humility," when talking to non-Christians. While this document doesn't say anything new, Geoff Tunnicliffe comments that "it states what many would consider being obvious to the core of Christian mission, and yet has never been said before in this way!" The five-page document outlines 12 principles for Christians including building inter-religious relationships, freedom of religion and belief, rejection of violence and imitating Jesus Christ and looks at principles of sharing the Christian faith while being respectful of other faiths.

The WEA will be translating the document into a number of languages and encourages its use among evangelicals, calling them to look at this historic document and apply it in their own lives. It's also hoped the document will "stir up desire for greater Christian mission and evangelism in obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ." Jean-Louis Tauran, president of PCID, said that the text "will help us reduce unnecessary tensions and present the truth of God in a credible way to the world around us".

To read Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Recommendations for Conduct click here

To read Dr. Geoff Tunnicliffe's speech click here