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WCC, WEA, Vatican reach accord on proselytizing

WASHINGTON (RNS) Christian missionaries should renounce all “deception and coercive means” of winning converts, according to an agreement released June 28 by a World Evangelical Alliance, the World Council of Churches and the Vatican, which together represent 90 percent of the world’s Christian population.

The document, “Christian Witness in a Multi-Religious World: Recommendations for Conduct” represents the latest attempt to assuage sometimes violent tensions over proselytizing in non-Christian societies.

Christian missionaries are to “reject all forms of violence … including the violation or destruction of places of worship, sacred symbols or texts,” the document says.

Instead, they should “acknowledge and appreciate what is true and good” in other religions, and make any criticisms “in a spirit of mutual respect.”

The document also calls on missionaries to respect the “full personal freedom” of their converts by allowing them “sufficient time for adequate reflection and preparation” before they adopt a new faith.

While the document recommends sensitivity in missionary work, it also affirms religious freedom as a fundamental human right, “including the right to publicly profess, practice, propagate and change one’s religion.”
— Francis X. Rocca

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