Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Peace message closes convocation, but work has only begun

World Council of Churches - News


For immediate release: 25 May 2011

Participants at the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC)
released a message on Tuesday expressing their unified experience of a
week-long exploration of a just peace and to navigate a path forward as they
return to their homes and churches across the world.

Attempting to take into account each other's contexts and histories, IEPC
participants were unified in their aspiration that war should become illegal
and that peace is central in all religious traditions.

The message states: "With partners of other faiths, we have recognized that
peace is a core value in all religions, and the promise of peace extends to
all people regardless of their traditions and commitments.
Through intensified inter-religious dialogue we seek common ground with all
world religions."

The participants acknowledged that each church and each religion brings with
it a different standpoint from which to begin walking toward a just peace.
Some begin from a standpoint of personal conversion and morality.
Others stress the need to focus on mutual support and correction within the
body of Christ, while still others encourage churches' commitment to broad
social movements and the public witness of the church.

"Each approach has merit," the message, which was crafted by a seven-member
message committee chaired by Bishop Ivan Abrahams of the Methodist Church of
Southern Africa, states, "they are not mutually exclusive. In fact they
belong inseparably together. Even in our diversity we can speak with one

Abrahams said he trusts that IEPC participants will find their voices in the
message. "In many ways, this convocation is a milestone in the march toward
just peace," he said. "The words 'reaping' and 'harvesting'
have been intrinsic to the life of this convocation. This message is to
ourselves, to our churches and related organizations, and to the world that
is bruised and broken and that God so loves."

The message also acknowledged that the church has often obstructed the path
toward just peace. "We realize that Christians have often been complicit in
systems of violence, injustice, militarism, racism, casteism, intolerance
and discrimination. We ask God to forgive our sins, and to transform us as
agents of righteousness and advocates of Just Peace."

The message continued to address the four themes of the convocation: peace
in the community, peace with the earth, peace in the marketplace, and peace
among the peoples, allowing for specific emphasis on each theme and how they
complement to the ethical and theological approach to the pursuit of Just

"Much more than a text"

The IEPC message captures only part of a truly historic event, said the Rev.
Dr Walter Altmann, moderator of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central
Committee, as he received the IEPC message on behalf of the WCC.

"You take with you much more than a text; you take with you a profound
ecumenical experience," he said. "The complexity of the issues we have
addressed will certainly require further work, reflection and action."

The ending of WCC's Decade to Overcome Violence is also a new beginning, he
added. "As we return, each of us becomes a living message for the IECP," he

More than 60 of some 1,000 IEPC participants commented on a draft message,
and their input was taken into account as the final message was crafted.

Moderating the comments was Metropolitan Prof. Dr Gennadios of Sassima of
the Ecumenical Patriarchate, vice-moderator of the WCC Central Committee.
"This final text belongs to you, and to us, and to all of us," he said, "and
this will be spread out around the world by the closing of this

The IEPC participants responded to a reading of their final message with a
standing ovation. The general secretary of the WCC, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse
Tveit, expressed his pride to the IEPC participants who challenged
themselves and each other to reach new levels of understanding and

"We are called to be one in our witness," he said. "We also see that the way
to just peace has united us. This is a gift for all of us and we shall use
it well. This week has brought many signs of your commitment.
Sometimes we need to struggle. Sometimes we need to feel it isn't that

The participation of some 95 youth in the IEPC was also acknowledged during
the closing of the event. Sanna Eriksson, representing the Church of Sweden,
spoke on behalf of the young IEPC participants who planned activities and
had highly visible participation throughout the convocation.

"We rejoice that young people participated in this meeting in a wide variety
of roles," she said. "We thank those churches and organizations who sent
young people as their representatives."

The IEPC message also expressed profound gratefulness to its hosts in
Jamaica and the entire Caribbean region.

The Rev. Gary Harriott, general secretary of the Jamaica Council of
Churches, said that the entire Caribbean region was both proud and excited
to host the IEPC in Jamaica. "It was far more than planning an event, as
some very important relationships were established, which we hope will
remain intact even after IEPC," he said.

The final message may be complete but the work of the IEPC is only
beginning, said Prof. Dr Fernando Enns, who was moderator of the preparatory
committee for the IEPC. "We are only beginning to grasp the possibilities we
have when we really respect one another. The church shall not speak to the
marginalized; the church is where the marginalized are."

IEPC participants should celebrate their experience, he said, but should not
rest satisfied. "Our journey must continue," he said. "You and I, we shall
hold each other accountable. The church is either accepting the call to just
peace or it is not the church at all."

IEPC website (Link:
http://www.oikoumene.org/index.php?RDCT=7366083924d120269d03 )

IEPC photo galleries (Link:
http://www.oikoumene.org/index.php?RDCT=ca5f88266e611258b0e8 )

IEPC videos (Link:

High resolution photos of the event may be requested free of charge via
photos.oikoumene.org (Link:
http://www.oikoumene.org/index.php?RDCT=e39dd07ae65e676ac304 )

The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity in faith, witness and
service for a just and peaceful world. An ecumenical fellowship of churches
founded in 1948, today the WCC brings together 349 Protestant, Orthodox,
Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in
over 110 countries, and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.
The WCC general secretary is Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, from the [Lutheran]
Church of Norway. Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland.


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