Academic journal article The Ecumenical Review

A Tribute to Konrad Raiser

Academic journal article The Ecumenical Review

A Tribute to Konrad Raiser

Article excerpt

How shall I pay tribute to a remarkable man and a friend who has played key roles in the ecumenical movement for so many years? How do I comprehend and convey my appreciation for the numerous gifts he has brought, many of which I have witnessed first hand? How can I envision the future that he has worked hard to mould?

I first met Konrad Raiser in 1974 in a gathering to prepare United States delegates for the 1975 fifth assembly of the World Council of Churches in Nairobi. Since that time we worked together at various other meetings, both while he was on the WCC staff the first time and after he returned to Germany. I chaired the search committee in 1991-92 that, for the first time in the history of the WCC, brought two nominees for the position of general secretary to the central committee, one of whom was Konrad, and the central committee elected him. Having served on the central committee since 1975 and having believed for many years that the time had come to leave, I retired from the governing body in 1998. I continued, however, to serve in two specialized tasks, the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC and the reference group for the Decade to Overcome Violence.

In the work that we each tackled across the years, Konrad and I frequently joined efforts to promote common causes or elaborate each other's perspectives. We have benefited from and given thanks to God for each other's talents, skills and experience, his being much more numerous than mine. We have shared hopes, dreams and love for the WCC as an institution as well as the ecumenical movement to which each of us has devoted the majority of our lives. Inspired moments of common quiet reflection, meditation and worship have nourished our faith. We have told each other many stories of the joys and struggles of our personal journeys, our families and our professional lives. We have had fun and laughed heartily over jokes and funny events, often over a glass of wine. We have also wept together, sometimes sobbing with tears that seemed unstoppable. We have given each other advice, welcome or not, and we have challenged each other's strongly held convictions. Alongside our common pursuits, we have also had fairly significant disagreements on important matters of process and substance. In other words, we are the kind of friends who treat each other with care and respect strong and deep enough to allow us to grow into a relationship that has touched us both profoundly. We share an intense appreciation for the enormity of each other's love for, commitment to, and investment in the quest for Christian unity.

Therefore, almost thirty years after our initial meeting, I face a dilemma of having too much to say on too many topics in relationship to and in gratitude for Konrad. I hope to cover some of these more thoroughly at another time in another place. Here I will confine myself briefly to two themes, both of which are long-standing personal interests of mine and both related to the Decade to Overcome Violence.

In the 1990s, a number of wars across several continents erupted. Some involved ethnic cleansing, and rape provided one of' the many horrific weapons in the arsenal of ethnic warfare. Research conducted by women on these and other armed conflicts throughout history uncovered how commonly rape and other forms of violence against women have been used in war and other struggles for power. Rape represents a potent tool for subordinating and shaming one's adversary. The women and children who experience the violence directly obviously know firsthand its pain and degradation. Their husbands, fathers and brothers also feel rage and humiliation, however, over their inability to protect their families and communities. By the end of the century, international institutions and legal norms began to formulate methods by which to punish some of the perpetrators, a reflection of the widespread global outrage over such practices. …

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