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20.05.05 15:00 Age: 7 yrs

Churches are growing more swiftly in the South, said Letter from Athens

GENEVA, Suiza - A letter from participants at the World Council of Churches (WCC) Conference on Mission and Evangelism recognizes that the centre of gravity of world Christianity has moved from the Northern hemisphere to the South and East.

"We stand now at a particular moment in the history of mission. While the centres of power are still predominantly in the global North, it is in the South and the East that the churches are growing most rapidly," stated the letter.

According to 2004 data from the Encyclopaedia Britannica, of the 2 billion Christians in the world, 1.246 billion are in Africa, Asia, Oceania and Latin America and 821 million are in Europe and North America.

This growth is "a result of faithful Christian mission and witness, said the letter signed by Ruth Bottoms, George Mathew Nalunnakkal and Jacques Matthey, leaders of the Evangelism and Mission conference that took place in Athens from May 9 - 16.

The Conference, attended by more than 600 people from 100 countries in the world and different Churches, including the Catholic Church and many Pentecostal Churches that are not members of the WCC was held under the slogan "Come Holy Spirit, Heal and Reconcile."

The letter recognizes the need for Churches to promote reconciliation in the world, between East and West, North and South, and between Christians and people of other faiths.  "We have become painfully aware of the mistakes of the past, and pray that we may learn from them," it stated.

It warns that "we have become conscious of our own tendency to reinforce barriers by excluding and marginalising on grounds such as race, caste, gender, disability" and calls for solidarity with marginalized people, in particular indigenous communities and displaced people.

The statement mentions the pain caused by the division among Churches and "the inability to overcome the barriers that prevent us from celebrating together the most healing and reconciling of sacraments, the Eucharist - the Lord's Supper."

The declaration concludes with a vision of what Church communities should be. "God calls us to be a community of hope.of reconciliation and healing that bears witness to the Gospel in word and deed," it stated.

"God wants a community that offers young people leadership roles; that opens its doors to strangers and welcomes the marginalised within its own body; that engages with those who suffer, and with those who struggle for justice and peace; that provides services to all who are in need; that recognises its own vulnerability and need for healing; and that is faithful in its commitment to the wider Creation," it concluded.