It is with a sense of excitement and deep anticipation that the Caribbean Conference of Churches (CCC) and the Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC), along with the wider Caribbean and Jamaican community, begin the process of preparation for the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) to be held in Kingston, Jamaica. We recognize the awesome responsibility, even as we commit to making it a memorable and life changing experience for all those who will attend and those who will benefit subsequently from the various reports and sharing. We welcome warmly Nan Braunschweiger, the newly appointed IEPC Coordinator, and look forward to a wonderful and enriching working relationship.
2009 is quite a significant year for us within the Caribbean Region. The DOV focus for this year in on the Caribbean, and as such, we will later share with you some liturgical resources to aid in the observance of the International Day of Prayer for Peace. The 2009 Caribbean focus, coupled with the planning for the IEPC, have influenced the decision for the IEPC Planning Committee and the DOV Reference group to meet in Kingston, Jamaica, from the 16 - 25 April, 2009. This will provide a firsthand experience of the context as we prepare for the momentous occasion of 2011. We ask for your prayer support as we further advance the planning process.
The Caribbean is not without its fair share of crime and violence. The region has had a history of violence dating from the period of institutional slavery, into the colonial and post-colonial periods. Today, many of our Caribbean territories are significantly challenged by the increase in crime and violence, most of which is as a result of the illicit drug trade, gang related activities or persons who have not developed the skills of amicably settling their disagreements.
In Jamaica, our government and security forces, in spite of experiencing some measure of success, continue to be challenged by this reality, particularly the inflow and availability of illegal firearms in our beloved island. We are deeply concerned about the number of young males who have become involved in such anti-social behaviour, as well as, the number of families, schools and communities that have been affected by the crime monster. We have recognized that it will take a multi-sectoral approach to deal with this phenomenal challenge and that the Church is a key player in such an initiative.
Despite the challenges, there is a paradox which sees many of our friends who visit our region leaving inspired by the warm and caring spirit of our people and the dynamism of our culture. Notwithstanding the challenges, we continue to make significant contributions to the global community. You can therefore understand the Jamaican slogan, "Jamaica No Problem." We know what it means to not allow our problems to keep us back. In the midst of difficulties we know what it means to be bearers of the hope that is embedded in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That faith has kept our parents and fore-parents, and it continues to sustain us today as we work for peace. We look forward to sharing that hope with you in 2011.
Rev. Gary Harriott
Jamaica Council of Churches
The Violence Prevention Alliance - Jamaica Chapter (VPA) (hyperlink) is a network of government, non-governmental and community-based organizations, working together to prevent violence.
The Jamaica Council of Churches is a full member of the VPA and the General Secretary, Rev. Gary Harriott along with the IEPC Coordinator Nan Braunschweiger had the privilege to participate recently in the inauguration of a Learning For Life Centre in Hannah Town, one of Kingston's most violence-ridden and deprived inner-city communities.
The centre consists of a laboratory of four PCs with online literacy and numeracy skills programmes targeted mainly at the young male population of the area. Such schemes already function successfully at several other venues across the island. It is strategically situated within the Hannah Town Police Station to enable the youngsters build a positive relationship with the police force. A sports programme also helps to increase participation and engender community partnerships.
Assistance is available for Life Learning Skills, such as job applications, form-filling, CV writing, etc. The skills imparted are generally tailored to the needs of the individuals. The goal is to build sustainable peace in violence-torn communities by providing the training that will enable employment to at-risk youths who would otherwise engage in violent activities.
Read more... (pdf)
The following expert consultations have been scheduled so far for 2009:
Consultation on Security, Peace and Development in South Asia (30 March - 4 April 2009), in Bangalore, India. South Asia, as one of the unique regions on the planet, continues to be volatile and in the grips of an ongoing crisis. Today, a deep sense of anxiety and uneasiness looms over South Asia, stemming from a variety of reasons - poverty, civil war, ethnic conflicts, terrorism, communal and political violence, religious extremism, power asymmetry within the region, the arms race, militarisation, gross and systematic violation of human rights and geo-political and strategic changes. Even though South Asian countries have a common cultural background and shared political experience, these countries are characterised by multi-ethnic societies with striking internal divisions along linguistic, regional, communal and sectarian lines. [Read more...]
Ethics of Peace. An Orthodox Christian Consultation (29 June - 3 July 2009), in Bucharest, Romania. The purpose of this pan-Orthodox consultation is to explore the ethics for peace as they emerged in the history of the Orthodox Church. Recognizing the great historic, cultural and anthropologic variety of experiences undergone by each local Eastern Church - ranging from Arabic, Armenian, Coptic, Greek, Latin, Slavic and contemporary Orthodox Diaspora, Jesus' teachings on non-retaliation have occasionally been deformed and interpreted in line with the needs of the time. As no pan-Orthodox synod endorsed a Just War theory, the agony of war often created sentiments of self-righteousness, while inflicting pain and suffering unto the enemies. [Read more...]
Peaceful living for children and young people (17 - 20 August 2009), in Geneva, Switzerland. This is a training workshop that is co-organised by the Global Network of Religions for Children (GNRC) and the World Council of Churches (WCC), in collaboration with the Interreligious Council on Ethics Education for Children. [Read more...]
Living Letters are small ecumenical teams visiting a country to listen, learn, share approaches and challenges in overcoming violence and in peace making, and to pray together for peace in the community and in the world. A team consists of 4 - 6 women and men from around the world who have witnessed violence in its various forms and are engaged in working for just peace. A Living Letters team will be successful when those visited can affirm "we are not alone!" - and when team members feel they have received much from those who they visited to encourage.
The Living Letters demonstrate solidarity among churches and people who live in the context of and respond to particularly painful experiences of violence, and share insights and helpful approaches in overcoming violence. They deepen ecumenical contacts among the churches, national councils of churches and related organisations and networks, and connect congregations, student and youth groups, theological and other church-related institutions in the search for an Ecumenical Declaration of Just Peace.
Since our last issue of Bits and Pieces, the following Living Letters visits have taken place:
Israel and Palestine - 7 to 14 March 2009
Colombia - 6 to 12 December 2008
Pakistan - 24 November - 1 December 2008
Haiti - 24 - 28 November 2008
South Africa - 5 to 12 November 2008
For more information about the Living Letters visits, please visit the DOV website.
The mandate of the first Drafting Group came to an end when the "Initial Statement towards an Ecumenical Declaration on Just Peace" was completed last autumn. In December 2008 this document was shared with WCC member churches, national councils of churches, theological institutions and other organisations, requesting them to give their feedback by the end of 2009. A special effort was made to also draw in many individuals from the DOV network.
In spring a second Drafting Group will be constituted; it will have the task to revise the present document or write a new declaration on the basis of what has been submitted by member churches, national councils, theological faculties, ecumenical groups or individuals. It is planned that this group will meet two or three times. The second draft of the Ecumenical Declaration on Just Peace will be ready towards the end of 2010 in order to be received by the IEPC at Jamaica in May 2011.
For the full text of the Initial Statement, click here.
Young People and Loneliness
Excerpt from a paper presented by Fr. Stavros Kofina during the 2ndInternational Youth Conference in Istanbul (Turkey)
Hanging from a building on one of the main streets of Athens for the past several months has been a large billboard advertisement with big red letters that reads: YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Undoubtedly the advertisement expresses one of today's greatest concerns. Loneliness is one of the most common human experiences throughout all time. It appears, though, that our modern society, and particularly Western civilization, has brought it to the forefront as a major issue. It is considered to be the root of many of the maladies of our society, such as suicide attempts, alcoholism, drug addictions, psychosomatic illnesses and even automobile accidents. The truth is that today's society forces us to feel our loneliness in a way that we cannot deny. Our lifestyle not only creates, but also expresses and feeds into loneliness; it leaves us bewildered and full of painful sorrow. It is a precious bane, something we try to avoid yet try to preserve.
There is a significant level of loneliness in common human experience which is not universal. On this first level, those blessed with a happy family life, professional success, with colleagues who are friends, may not feel as lonely as those who are estranged from their families and loved ones, those who are homeless, or suffer poverty, and who are socially outcast or war-stricken.
There is another level of loneliness which is common to us all. It is loneliness as a "universal" human experience. Of course, there are variations in regards to this experience. Some of the things that make people lonely in the West do not make others lonely in the East. There is a loneliness that many women experience (which many men have difficulty understanding) just as a loneliness which men experience (which some women fail to comprehend). We, as older adults, experience loneliness in a different way from those of you who are young, and the fact that we cannot fully sense this difference is one of the major causes for the generation gap. In order to try to bridge this gap, we must all understand that, throughout all the stages of our lives, each one of us attempts to probe the same mystery of human consciousness: "Who am I? Where do I fit in? Whom can I trust?" In answering these questions, we all try to confirm our personal beings in relation to the world around us. We strive to balance the uniqueness of our self (our "I") to the world of interpersonal relations (the "we"), and to realize the boundaries and limits of our human condition. What is common to us all is that, in this search for personal identity, we encounter separation and death, longing and loneliness. The worst of these is loneliness.