The World Evangelical Alliance has this week endorsed a global campaign to mark 2020 as the Year of the Bible.

The initiative, which was launched by Bishop Efraim Tendero, secretary-general of the WEA, is also supported by Pope Francis, the global Lausanne network, Youth With A Mission, the United Bible Societies, Biblica and a range of other groups.

The initiative is aimed at spurring on the "greatest global Bible engagement in history" and is expected to see billions follow a call to read the Bible and engage in what organisers say will be a "global conversation" about its message.

"The Bible is the cornerstone of the Christian faith, and the foundation that undergirds every noble effort to address suffering in the world and steward creation," Bishop Tendero told a gathering of faith leaders in Washington, DC, on Monday. "We are calling all citizens of the globe, regardless of religious affiliation, to discover the precious and enduring message of the Holy Bible which has profoundly influenced and strengthened communities and nations for many centuries."

He said the Year of the Bible would "highlight the importance of living our lives as a narrative shaped by the unchanging Word of God".

"We will demonstrate that the Bible’s story - infused with the power of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit - is the foundation for the recognition of the dignity of every individual. It inspires hope, purpose and a right relationship with God.”

The WEA, which represents some 600 million Christians worldwide, also announced the development of Bible-based courses to address issues of mental health and resilience in collaboration with the US Government. The courses aim to educate, equip and resource participants with Bible teaching and a "community of support".

Josh Mathew, the WEA's US Bible engagement advocate, said he was excited to "empower churches and organisations to address the sharp rise in mental health issues among young people, equipping them to bring preventative measures and support networks to their communities".

Mathew is working with Dr Lloyd Estrada, head of the WEA's Bible engagement advocacy team internationally, to implement pilot programs in churches.

Correction: The headline and text were changed to reflect that the WEA is endorsing this broad-based Christian movement.