A NEWS RELEASE
From National Office of the ELCIC
Winnipeg, May 27, 2003 (ELCIC) --The Lutheran World Federation is satisfied that the recent SARS outbreak in Canada has been curbed and will have no effect on the LWF's 10th Assembly here in July, Secretary General Rev. Dr. Ishmael Noko said at a press conference in Winnipeg May 22nd.
The assembly will proceed as scheduled at the Winnipeg Convention Centre July 21-31 with over 1,000 participants expected, including more than 430 delegates from the 136 LWF member churches in 76 countries worldwide.
The World Health Organization last month warned people not to travel to Toronto, Canada's largest city, because of a SARS outbreak. The international advisory was lifted soon afterwards but not before casting a chill on travel to Toronto.
Dr. Noko said the LWF made some "very strong inquiries" about the situation in Canada. But there was never any thought given to delaying or relocating the LWF assembly because of SARS.
"It never came to a question of postponing the event. I never had to call the executive committee to come and discuss that," Dr. Noko told reporters.
"We are satisfied with the health arrangements on this matter."
Even so, the LWF will take precautions at the Assembly against people possibly contracting SARS during the distribution of the Eucharist in worship services, Dr. Noko said. Up to now, it has been the practice to use a common cup during Holy Communion. However, individual cups will be available to people who want them. Medical staff will also be on hand at the Assembly.
"Whatever we do with the choices and options we are giving, the integrity of the Communion is not undermined," Dr. Noko emphasized.
Dr. Noko was in Winnipeg to promote the LWF Assembly, which is being held for only the second time in North America and the first time in Canada.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada, with 188,000 baptized members in 627 congregations throughout the nation, is hosting the Assembly. An ELCIC pep rally for the event was held in Winnipeg May 23 with Dr. Noko attending.
Dr. Noko's visit coincided with the announcement of Canada's first case of BSE or "mad cow disease" in the province of Alberta. The United States has closed its border to live cattle from Canada and other countries have banned Canadian beef as a result.
Diseases such as SARS and BSE tend, ironically, to highlight the theme of the LWF's Tenth assembly "For the Healing of the World" because they are disruptive and damaging to people and nations, Dr. Noko said.
"SARS is a concern to all of us because it is not just a disease that threatens human life but also stigmatizes," he said.
Dr. Noko said preparations for the Assembly in Winnipeg are going well, despite some hitches outside Canada. In one case, the Canadian Embassy in Bogota, Colombia, has denied visas to two of three Colombian delegates applying to attend the Assembly. Dr. Noko said the LWF believes it to be a "technical error" and is negotiating with Canadian officials to have the decision reversed.
Dr. Noko promised the Assembly will be "a rainbow of nations, cultures and churches." Besides Lutheran delegates and visitors, ecumenical visitors will include Cardinal Kasper, the Pope's representative from the Vatican, as well as representatives from Anglican, Methodist and other churches.