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30 October 2013

Thousands attend global Christian event in South Korea

Thousands attend global Christian event in South Korea

Photo credit: Peter Williams/WCC

Chine Mbubaegbu, the Alliance's head of media and communications, reports from the World Council of Churches assembly in South Korea…

This is no ordinary church service. I am sitting in a huge hall at the Bexco Convention Centre in Busan, South Korea, which for the next 10 days has been transformed into the worship hall for the 10th World Council of Churches (WCC) assembly

Today is the opening prayer meeting and marks the arrival of the 5,000-plus participants who have travelled from all over the world to take part in the event which takes place every seven years.

Never have I seen such a visible display of the unity and diversity of the global Church. Asians, Africans, Caucasians. People from Latin America, from the Pacific Islands, from Europe. Some sporting their traditional attire; some the distinct get-up of their church denominations. There is moving music from a Korean Choir who sing a resounding anthem: God of Life; as well as a heart-wrenching earth dance from a group from the Philippines who perform while prayers are said for different world regions.

I have joined the Archbishop of Canterbury, representatives from the World Evangelical Alliance and thousands of participants at the assembly, which is the highest governing body of the WCC and meets every seven year.

Previous assemblies have taken place in Brazil, Zimbabwe, Australia, India and Kenya.

It is the only occasion in which the WCC's 345 member churches come together in prayer and celebration, making it one of the most diverse Christian gatherings of its size in the world.

It is a unique chance for the Church to demonstrate visible unity "so that the world may believe" as outlined in Jesus's prayer in John 17.

This assembly's theme – "God of life, lead us to justice and peace" – is a call for the Church to wake up to some of the very real ills that are being experienced by people around the world.

Over the past few days at pre-assembly meetings and at this morning's opening service, we have heard of the plight of victims of domestic violence in regions of conflict around the world. We have prayed for orphans and children displaced and unwanted. We have been awoken to the very real and present issue of climate change which is leaving some communities facing the prospect of losing everything in the wake of rising sea levels.

But speaking at this morning's opening, His Holiness Karekin II said: "Our Lord was … clear that any 'solution' to the problem of poverty – and all human ills – would only come through Christ himself: through our acknowledgement of Christ's dominion, our grateful acceptance of his sacrifice and resurrection, and our wholehearted reply to his loving invitation to 'follow me'.

"With this understanding, our Lord established the Church, to be the vessel of Christ's 'nearness in the world'. And that is why the theme of this assembly is more imperative today than ever before."

The World Council of Churches assembly takes place from 30 October – 8 November.
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