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Hospitality on a Pilgrim’s Way of Justice and Peace

Message of Dr Agnes Abuom, moderator of the WCC central committee, to the WCC 70th Anniversary Symposium in Amsterdam

23 August 2018

Message of Dr Agnes Abuom, moderator of the WCC central committee, to the WCC 70th Anniversary Symposium in Amsterdam


Greetings! Receive good wishes from the worldwide ecumenical movement and happy 70th anniversary of World Council of Churches.

We congregate here today as a historic time to celebrate WCC’s 70th anniversary. These days in Amsterdam are historic because we are returning back to the place where the World Council of Churches was founded by men and women of vision, dedication and commitment to affirming every person’s dignity and right. I give thanks to God for this important symposium where we can renew the true vocation of the church and the ecumenical movement by engaging each other on vital issues of justice and peace towards a conflict and pain free world.

I find the theme Hospitality on a Pilgrims Way to Justice and Peace to be a very essential and timely aspect of restoring the welcoming culture that has been diminishing in recent years. Hospitality as a whole is not only one of the oldest, but also among the top multibillion dollar industries in the world today. The hospitality we are talking about here is however not the multi-million dollar industry. Rather it is about the expression and living out of our faith in action as illustrated by Jesus Christ and the Holy Scriptures. Simply put, it is being hospitable to the other person irrespective of identity, race, creed and gender.  It is, however, prudent to note that the hospitality that we are discussing here draws its motivation from the second greatest commandment: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). With the current wave of nationalism, hostility against foreigners in many parts of the world, and erection of walls of separation, it is worthwhile of us as Christians on a Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace to engage and succinctly define what the Apostle Paul meant by saying Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality (Rom 12:13); but show hospitality to one another without grumbling (1st Peter 4:9).

Ideally, hospitality deals with offering comfort to guests, outsiders, foreigners and even strangers. It can be as simple as being able to smile and trigger a smile back from someone whenever you’re in the presence of a stranger. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares (Heb. 13:2). God thus reveals to us through his Apostle Paul that there is a way to handle people who are strangers to us, if we mishandle them, and then we have mishandled God. Our world is slowly but surely diminishing the culture of hospitality and at best we extend it reluctantly.

It is God’s command that we be hospitable to strangers, aliens or even foreigners. This command was directed at the leaders, elders or anyone who may be given a chance to offer guidance as Paul writes to Timothy that a pastor and an elder should be, hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined (Titus 1:8). Leviticus 19:33-34 makes the command clearer by saying that, When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.’ For how else would a leader listen to testimonies and cries of others if he/she isn’t hospitable enough? How would one confide in you their troubles and fears if you’re not hospitable enough to even listen? Where people tend to do hospitality well, they tend to do evangelism well too, as the two are correlated.

Hospitality is not just a matter of Christianity, but also a matter of humanity, compassion, and concern about those we don’t know. As Christians, we’re called to reach out to the poor, widowed, lame or even blind. For at various times in our lives, we are the poor, lame, blind or even crippled. You might not be financially poor, but you might be poor at controlling your anger, offering love, listening to others and many more. There are millions of people who are not physically lame or crippled, but have a deformity in how they perceive, treat, and interact with other people. Like in a church where you move to create space for others to sit, or any other place where we seek comfort, it is always good to create a welcoming environment for others to come and enjoy the comfort with us.

Finally, our prayer as we walk for Justice and Peace is that hospitality on the pilgrim’s way of justice and peace is to acknowledge and affirm the dignity of every man, woman, boy and girl as created in the likeness of God the creator.  This is a hospitality whose nature and scope seeks to embrace all people irrespective of the additional adjectives to their names by affirming the justice, rights, humanity and the peace of the other, whether a guest, a native or an immigrant along the way of life. This is the type of hospitality that enables the pilgrim to transform wounded and conflicting communities to heal and reconcile.  It is a hospitality that works at developing a culture of nonviolence, care and compassion as opposed to the violence that befell the stranger in the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-35). Hospitality on a pilgrim’s way is about sharing, encouraging and enhancing narratives of the sacredness of every encounter and the sacredness of the other person. It thus a hospitality marked by humility which is not thinking less of oneself, but thinking of yourself less; thinking of the thousands of orphans perishing in streets and shanties who don’t know their next source of food, the thousands of children dangerously crossing seas and oceans in search of peace and prosperity only to get stranded; the men and women whose dignity is violated as they become commodities and packed as cargo for the next destination.

The pilgrim’s way of justice is inspiring others along the way to stretch hospitality to those in war-torn regions and facilitate bringing to account the perpetrators. As pilgrims, we are challenged to be mindful of what our friends, neighbors or even someone sitting next to you is going through and be able to trigger smiles in the hearts of these people as they see a ray of hope for justice and peace, then only will we have surely fulfilled the desires of our theme ‘‘Hospitality on a Pilgrim’s Way of Justice and Peace.’’ May our pilgrimage of Justice and Peace rekindle on our journey the act of King David: “King David showed hospitality and gave part of the wealth to Mephiboseth, from the house of Saul and who was physically challenged.”


Dr Agnes Abuom
Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK)
Moderator of the WCC central committee