14. Sep 08 - 18. Sep 08

Peace on Earth is Peace with the Earth. Peace of Creation

Geneva, Switzerland


Christians and Christian peoples have been among the first to degrade and destroy the balance in God's creation. Today's ecological crisis is the catastrophic consequence of  a willful and manipulative abuse of God's earth for the benefit of some of the world's peoples. Human "progress" is accompanied by destruction and death. Creation suffers in silence.

It is obvious that humanity has reached a critical point. The fellowship of Christian communities around the globe are faced with the urgent question: What does it mean to live  in peace with creation? How and to what extent can human relations with creation be governed by respect for all living things?


Issues to be Addressed

1. Roots of violence against creation

a)     The impact of science and technology.  Human domination of nature has immensely increased in the course of human history, in particular in recent centuries and decades.  Advances have been achieved in almost all realms, and the process is likely to continue in the future.  For better or worse humanity seems irreversibly engaged in a movement of constant conquest. How do we evaluate this process?  Are there possibilities of mastering or at least re-directing it?

b)     The driving force of  the movement of conquest is energy.  Human beings have acquired immense power by ‘domesticating' sources of energy.  How much deployment of human energy can the planet take?


2. A theological understanding of violence 

a)     Violence is omnipresent in creation.  There is practically no life which does not live at the expense of other life. How do we distinguish between violence which seems to be inherent in nature and violence which disturbs God's order of creation - between ‘natural violence' and aggression against life?  Can criteria be established to distinguish between legitimate human needs and illegitimate interference with the environment?  What role does the ‘lust' of violence play in today's ecological crisis?  Domination provides pleasure. ‘Moving mountains' and ‘redirecting rivers' are a source of satisfaction.

b)     Hope for God's kingdom - new creation.  How do we today express the Christian hope for a new creation?  In what way is the whole of creation included in the fulfillment of all things?  What does it means that the whole of creation is groaning?

c)     Different  religions have different approaches to the ‘integrity' of nature. What can we learn in inter-religious dialogue about the respect of creation?  In particular, what has Buddhism to teach Christians in this respect? 


3.  Specific aspects

Some aspects may deserve special attention, e.g.  a) Violence against animals - modern meat ‘production';  b) Violence against forests - deforestation;  c) Violence through urbanization - modern building favoring human violence, the greening of cities; d) Motorized mobility.  How can violence in these areas be reduced? What can we learn from resistance movements for the witness of the churches?


4. The way forward

How and to what extent can we achieve restraint?  What is the message of the Church in this respect?  Perhaps a reflection on the Sabbath could provide some answer. What has our perception of time to do with the aggression against nature?  Re-discovering the Sabbath tradition.  The Sabbath introduces a regular break into human activities. It suggests a rhythm in harmony with the rhythm of nature.  Can a mode of life be developed which minimizes the aggression? Images of domination and inhabitation and their significance for human self-understanding.


Expected results

The consultation writes a memorandum that summarizes the main points of the exchange. It identifies key issues that need to find their way into an ecumenical declaration on peace. It suggests ways in which the "peace with the earth" agenda should be addressed at the convocation in 2011 and which initiatives should be started and/or encouraged for the coming years.



John Knox International Reformed Centre, Grand Saconnex, Geneva, Switzerland



Sunday, September 14, 16.00 to Thursday, September 18 (day of departure)