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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Women ask that solidarity of churches continues

A four-day festival marking the end of the Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women 1988-1998 preceded the December World Council of Churches eighth assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Some 1,200 women — and a few men — from around the world drew up a letter that was sent to the assembly. It spoke of women's "secret pain" of "isolation, economic injustice, barriers to participation, racism, religious fundamentalism, ethnic genocide, sexual harassment, HIV/AIDS and violence against women and children."

The letter also listed sensitive issues that "have implications for participation and which are difficult to address in the church community" — women's ordination, abortion, divorce and "human sexuality in all of its diversity."

Now that the Ecumenical Decade is over, said Aruna Gnanadason, an Indian who works at WCC offices in Geneva, Switzerland, "the challenge ... is to ensure that the solidarity we seek is sustained."

She cited women's economic issues and violence against women as "ecclesiological challenges," saying, "These are all concerns that threaten the unity of the churches."

WCC General Secretary Konrad Raiser said the decade was an "essential part of the search for a vision and profile of the ecumenical movement in the 21st century." He added that the commitment to solidarity with women was "central to our ecumenical vocation" and "as basic as the struggle against racism."


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