Home Christian News Incoming WCC Head Jerry Pillay: ‘Our Task Is To Proclaim God’s Name’

Incoming WCC Head Jerry Pillay: ‘Our Task Is To Proclaim God’s Name’

Do you stand by your comparison of the Israeli government’s treatment of the Palestinians to apartheid?

Apartheid in South Africa was mainly an issue of separate development — people promoted it as separate development. I do not have a problem with separate development. I don’t have a problem with people identifying themselves in a group or trying to preserve a particular culture, norms, values and even race for that matter. What I do have a problem with is when one culture or people prioritize their particular view, culture and identity at the expense of others — where oppression is involved. Where systemic oppression and policy formation victimizes and dehumanizes people, so that other cultures and other people are not given equal status. That’s precisely what we had in South Africa.

RELATED: World Council of Churches faces calls to expel Russian Orthodox Church

In the context of Israel-Palestine, obviously Jewish people make claims in terms of Zionism, and the right to retain their culture, identity and religion — I have no objections to that whatsoever. But when we’re using that to oppress other people, at the expense of other people’s justice, then the world needs to shout. Churches need to rise up, say quite strongly in the name of God, that such things are not actually acceptable.

Remember, going back to the apartheid context, we had a so-called Christian government, and we had churches that were justifying apartheid. Churches stood up and said, ‘No, that’s not the same God we talk about.’

Whether it is in the Torah, the Quran or the Bible, we need to think about a God of justice and love.

Have you reached out to your critics? Are you concerned about how it will impact your tenure as WCC president?

I would be very willing to reach out to any groups to discuss this. But to be honest with you, most of these newspapers are really aiming to to smear me. I do give credit to the Jewish paper in South Africa — they actually took the time to ask me for a comment. Unfortunately, they ended the article quoting from a Zionist Christian, a conservative Christian, who basically was crushing me again. But I expected this, because this is a big issue in terms of Israel-Palestine.

The WCC has made some very strong statements with regards to Israel and Palestine. My position does not necessarily conflict in any way with what WCC has been saying over the years.

There has been debate whether the WCC should expel or suspend the Russian Orthodox Church. The current general secretary has indicated he would not support such a move. Would you?

The war in Ukraine and Russia is obviously sad and unnecessary. Nobody can actually condone any war, whatever kind, for whatever reasons. The WCC has been quite vocal about that. Personally, that will be my view.

But in terms of suspending the Russian Orthodox Church: Suspension of a church, any church, must be one of the last resorts.