WCC mourns lost staff member in Ethiopian Airlines crash

11 March 2019

After 157 people perished when an Ethiopian Airlines plane crashed on 10 March soon after taking off near Addis Ababa, the World Council of Churches (WCC) expressed deep sympathy and extended prayers for those who lost loved ones.

The plane was on its way to Nairobi, Kenya, where the UN Environment Assembly began Monday. Environmental advocates and UN staff members were among those who died, including Rev. Norman Tendis, WCC consultant for Economy of Life. Tendis was instrumental in helping local churches invest their resources to make a better planet.

WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit expressed great sadness on behalf of himself and the WCC fellowship. “We express our deepest condolences on the passing of the all the people on board the aircraft, and we have particular anguish upon the loss of our own Rev. Norman Tendis, who was passionately carving out a path for economic and environmental justice.”

Memorial service at the chapel of the Ecumenical Center, in Geneva, 11 March

Moment of prayer held at the chapel of the Ecumenical Center, 11 March. Photo: Ivars Kupcis/WCC

Tveit said Tendis, who was on his way to the UN Environment Assembly, had worked very hard together with colleagues to develop a “Roadmap for Congregations, Communities and Churches for an Economy of Life and Ecological Justice,” which he was to present Monday morning.

“This had been his compassion and vision for years. He was particularly inspired to do this as a local Lutheran pastor in Austria,” said Tveit.

Tveit said that Tendis was a light for those supporting and practicing small-scale, life-giving agriculture. “Norman promoted climate-friendly mobility, ethical investments and other practices which led to sustainable living for all.”


Photo: Ivars Kupcis/WCC

The WCC joined grieving people around in praying for the families of the victims, said Tveit. “May God strengthen you and your people in this time of sorrow,” he said. “We hope that the ministry of the churches across the world can also be instrumental in comforting the families and all those who mourn the sudden death of this group of people.”

Prof. Isabel Apawo Phiri, WCC deputy general secretary, reflected: “Norman walked his talk. He was deeply rooted and committed to his congregation, and was committed to share his experiences and vision with the wider ecumenical family. His focus and enthusiasm was how each local church can contribute to the economic and ecological justice, in the marketplaces, in the communities, among the nations, and with the earth.”


Prof. Isabel Apawo Phiri at the moment of prayer in Geneva, 11 March. Photo: Ivars Kupcis/WCC

Tveit added: “We learn that there were many on board from other organizations, the UN and non-government organizations, headed for the same Environment Assembly. The loss of Norman is a great loss for his family, his church, for the WCC colleagues and fellowship, and for the urgent work to protect and care for God’s creation. This tragic accident is also a great shock for many colleagues in organizations we work closely with. We have lost many experts committed to work for the sustainability of the whole world.”

Tveit offered prayers for today as well as for the sad days to come: “We will pray for the healing of this deep loss, felt across the entire world,” he said


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