On Ash Wednesday, the National Council of Christian Churches (Conselho Nacional de Igrejas Cristãs: CONIC) and the National Conference of Bishops of Brazil (Conferência Nacional dos Bispos do Brasil: CNBB) opened the 2021 Campaign for Ecumenical Fraternity (Campanha da Fraternidade Ecumênica: CFE). The opening, which took place at 10 am, was virtual and included the exhibition of a video with pronouncements from representatives of the churches that constitute CONIC. The Thematic Interreligious Roundtable – “Dialogue, the commitment of love” was broadcast at 6pm, while the Campaign’s Opening Celebration went live at 9pm.
With the theme “Christ is our Peace: from what was divided he made unity – Fraternity and Dialogue, Commitment of Love”, the Campaign for Ecumenical Fraternity, which is in its 5th edition, brings together different Christian denominations through an ecumenical approach, signalling that dialogue is the best testimony of faith lived in diversity.
In Salvador, the launch took place in the Archiepiscopal Palace with a Press Conference given by Cardinal Sérgio da Rocha, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of São Salvador of Bahia and Primate of Brazil; Pastor Sônia Mota, from the United Presbyterian Church and CESE’s Executive Director; the Reverend Bianca Daébs from the Anglican Episcopal Church of Brazil, member of the Bahia Ecumenical Council of Christian Churches (Conselho Ecumênico Baiano de Igrejas Cristãs: CEBIC), which is linked to CONIC, and CESE’s Advisor for Ecumenism and Interreligious Dialogue; Pastor Joel Zeferino from the Nazareth Baptist Church, member of the Alliance of Baptists of Brazil and the CFE’s National Commission of Preparation; and Deacon Itamar Mendes, President of the Archdiocesan Social Action’s (Ação Social Arquidiocesana: ASA) Executive Board and responsible for running CFE activities within the Archdiocese of Salvador.
After reading a message from Pope Francis saluting CFE-2021, Cardinal Sérgio da Rocha stressed that the campaign is an invitation for dialogue and communion, to walk together in faith in the same Christ. “The field of fraternity, of charity, is without doubt a privileged field for ecumenism. Holding a campaign in partnership at such a time give us even more strength”, he confirmed.
Pastor Sônia Mota emphasized that the dream of the ecumenical pathway, whose landmark is the foundation of the World Council of Churches, is the dream of Jesus, present in sacerdotal prayer, asking us for a testimony of love, through dialogue and respect between Christian people: “The Campaign for Fraternity is an example of how it is possible for Christian people from different churches, with their rites, theologies and traditions, to sit at a common table and dialogue, celebrate and build bridges. In a society in which polarizations are a given, with so many walls that need to be knocked down, we face the challenge of building fraternal dialogue, respect for differences and the commitment of love for people who suffer from public neglect, when discourses of hate and prejudice are so widespread in our society,” she declared.
Pastor Joel Zeferino noted that “at a time of intolerance the campaign provides society with a positive example, since it emphasizes the importance of reaching out, without discrimination, so that together we can create pathways in which hatred is defeated.”
Reverend Bianca Daébs stressed that the church needs to be active in combatting violence and discrimination. “In the world we’re living in, with such terrible pain, where nature is trembling, we cannot overlook, in a country with a growing number of deaths, the victims of the pandemic, principally the impoverished, remembering the women who are far from their support networks, confined in their homes and victimized by violence, the indigenous and quilombola populations decimated and persecuted on a daily basis, people who live on the streets, to combat the discourse of hate and religious racism, and the LGBTQI+ population. Brazil is the country with the highest number of murdered trans people in the world. It is through fraternity, life and hope that the campaign invites us to hard, but necessary, reflection,” she noted.
The Cardinal remembered Pope Francis’ words about CFE 2021: “The faithful are invited to ‘sit down and listen to others’ and thus overcome the obstacles of a world that is often ‘a deaf world’”.
At the end of the conference, the Prayer for the Campaign for Ecumenical Fraternity – 2021 was read.
God of life, justice and love,
We thank you for the gift of fraternity
and for granting the grace to live our communion in diversity.
Through this Campaign for Ecumenical Fraternity,
helps us to witness the beauty of dialogue
as a commitment of love, creating bridges that unite,
instead of walls that separate and generate indifference and hatred.
Make us sensitive and available to serve all humanity,
particularly the poorest and most vulnerable,
so that we can witness your redeeming love
and share your pains and anxieties, your joys and hopes,
on the pathway to love.
Through Jesus Christ, our peace,
in the Holy Spirit, the breath of life.
Click here to download the Base Text of the Campaign for Ecumenical Fraternity 2021 (in Portuguese).
About the Campaign for Ecumenical Fraternity
The CFE 2021 Commission is made up of representatives from CONIC member churches, as well as the Bethesda church of São Paulo (Igreja Betesda de São Paulo) as an observer church, and the Ecumenical Centre for Services to Evangelization and Popular Education (Centro Ecumênico de Serviços à Evangelização e à Educação Popular: CESEEP) as a fraternal member.
CFE 2021 general objective
- Through loving dialogue and the testimony of unity in diversity, inspired in the love of Christ, to invite faith communities and people of good will to think, evaluate and identify pathways to overcome the polarizations and violence that mark the current world.
- To denounce violence against individuals, peoples and the Creation, in particular those that use the name of Jesus;
- To encourage justice for the restoration of people’s dignity, to overcome conflicts and achieve social reconciliation;
- To enliven engagement in concrete actions of love for the other;
- To promote conversion to a culture of love instead of a culture of hatred;
- To strengthen and celebrate ecumenical and interreligious coexistence.