Friday, July 09, 2004

Why the World Council of Churches continues to be so relevant 

Australia gets savaged by the World Council of Churches:

"Australia had racist tendencies and should abandon its mandatory detention of asylum seekers, the general secretary of the World Council of Churches said today.

"General secretary the Reverend Sam Kobia called for the closure of the Baxter detention centre in South Australia, likening the facility to the US base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."
The report notes helpfully that the World Council of Churches is "described as the church equivalent of the United Nations." Which should destroy the organisation's credibility then and there.

Those like me, who have long memories, will also recall with some nostalgia the WCC's uncanny ability to put itself on the wrong side of just about every Cold War issue; naivete at best, infiltration by communist secret services for the less charitable. If the choice between communism and the Free World appears like a trick question for you, the chances are that your moral compass is too out of whack to allow you to make any decent contribution to any debate.

Either way, WCC + politics = major credibility gap, an equation that the shocked Rev Kobia is keen to perpetuate: "[Baxter detention centre] reminded me of the pictures I have seen of Guantanamo Bay ... but of course without the chains and the uniforms." So not like Guantanamo Bay.

As for Australia overall, "[w]hen I can see the way that the Aboriginal people are treated here, and listening to them, I would say that one cannot avoid to detect some racist tendencies here. I wouldn't, however, call the Australian people or country as racist in the same way I would have talked of South Africa in the apartheid period." I think I speak for all of us when I say this comes as a relief to everyone.

As John Newbury, a Methodist minister and a former WCC press officer, wrote in the "Guardian" (of all places):

"(WCC) has something to say on many things, including Iraq, the European Union, Liberia, Zimbabwe, the Congo - and disabled people. The trouble is that most of it is predictable... Too often, the organisation has appeared like many non-religious justice and peace pressure groups. If the WCC can connect with people's search for a meaningful spirituality, and offer something that speaks to their desires and needs, well, it might have a future."
But that might be too much hard work, and politics is so much more exciting. And unlike spirituality, it also gets you publicity.

Update: Gnu Hunter has more thoughts about the good Reverend throwing stones in glasshouses.


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