“The Lord is risen, the Lord is risen indeed!” This call will go around the whole world on Easter Sunday, because the eastern and western churches will celebrate Easter together once again this year. It will announce the victory of hope over disappointment, of peace over violence and of life over death.
In February this year 90 people working for peace met at a seminar near Munich. Together they took a look back at the past ten years, which were characterized by the commitment to the decade to overcome violence, and reflected on what the German contribution to the Peace Convocation 2011 and beyond could be. In some areas progress has been made in bringing about less violence and more peace. Research shows that youths tend to resort less to violence to settle their differences compared with ten years ago. But in many other areas the news is disappointing: One example is the fact that in 2009 Germany exported 70% more weapons and armaments that it had five years earlier. We are now the third biggest merchants of death, excelled only by the USA and Russia.
And just 20 years ago we had hoped so much that there might be a world with fewer weapons. In 1989 the border between West and East Germany came down. It had symbolized the nuclear threat to life through NATO and the Warsaw Pact. The “peaceful revolution” reached its goal after many long years: In 1982 a group had started with prayers for peace at the Nikolaikirche (church of St. Nicolas) in Leipzig. After just one year the pastor Christian Führer was ready to give up. Only a handful of people still came to the prayers following the collapse in 1983 of the demonstrations and protests in West Germany against the stationing of medium-range missiles with nuclear warheads. Disappointment was widespread. But a woman said to him: “If we give up here then there is no longer any hope at all.” And so they continued, with just a few who were still praying. Six years later, on 9 October 1989, the time came. No fewer than 70,000 citizens of the GDR assembled there after the prayers for peace to demonstrate for democracy and freedom. That evening they were faced by 8,000 policemen and soldiers. The hospitals stocked up with blood for transfusions. In the newspaper the authorities had given notice that they would put an end to the “counter-revolution” by using all available means. However, as if through a miracle the march through the streets of Leipzig went of peacefully: The police had reckoned that they would have to deal with all possible forms of violence, but they had not considered candles and prayers. The borders were opened a few weeks later – the peaceful revolution had triumphed over the forces of violence.
Unfortunately this wonderful experience made far too brief an impression on us here in Germany – political and economic challenges soon pushed aside the joy at the event. The celebration of Easter is a good occasion to remember how small and insignificant events can contribute to events that change the course of history of the world if God wills it. Out of that we can draw the strength to defy the setbacks when we commit ourselves to hope, to life and to peace.
In Germany a great many grass-roots groups and churches have been working actively for a long time now to attach more importance to peace and justice. They all want to have a share in the convocation. In order to consider what we can do in this direction here in Germany, the Open forum on the decade for the overcoming of violence met just a few days ago. The main and voluntary workers for peace have been meeting twice a year since 2001 to exchange plans and to agree on joint actions. One of the next steps on the way to Kingston will now be in May at the Second Ecumenical Church Day in Munich, where 150,000 people are expected. Together with international guests, there we will tackle the topics of the Peace Convocation for a whole day long under the rubric of “granting peace”. In June the consultation “The Church and the question of (dis)armament” will then take a critical look at the worldwide sale of arms that was referred to above. And since the Peace Convocation has the aim of setting up a worldwide network of workers for peace, the journal “Plea for a ecumenical future”, the recent ecumenical Initiative MEET and the Protestant Church in Germany will invite German participants to get to know one another at a seminar in 2010, to exchange experiences and set up the initial structures of such a network.
The Peace Convocation will fulfil its meaning when grass-roots groups and church congregations can take part in the issues it is raising. A flyer will appear later this year to give information on materials that will be available beforehand. Towards the end of this year a collection of ideas will be published to encourage grass-roots groups and congregations to go ahead with large and small projects to bring peace to their communities, to the world, in the economy and between the peoples of the whole world . Finally, on Sunday 22nd May 2011 we want to invite church congregations to hold services together with other churches worldwide on the basis of the same liturgy being used at the Peace Convocation in Kingston. Finally, at peace festivals the projects that the groups have carried out and the experiences of the communities in doing so will be presented. Perhaps then justice and peace will be the main topics of the parish work.
If the Peace Convocation is also able to say something about “just peace” that the world will not ignore and which people and the church congregations could take up in visible ways, then this would be a clear sign to all who are committed to bringing about peace and justice. And it would be a sign that the Easter call “The Lord is risen, the Lord is risen indeed” can still have the same impact today, reminding us that death and violence can be overcome by life and peace.
Coordinator of the Protestant Church in Germany for the International Peace Convocation 2011 in Kingston, Jamaica
As mentioned in the previous Bits & Peaces, the number of expert consultations will be slowly decreasing as we get closer in time to the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC). For the time being, preparations for the following consultations are underway:
The Hwacheon Call – outcome document of the December 2009 consultation on “Nuclear Weapons, North East Asia and Beyond: Re-vitalizing the Ecumenical Movement” – is now available. This conference was comprised of a group of persons committed to building a peaceful world free of nuclear weapons and who seek ways to strengthen the ecumenical movement for urgent action on nuclear disarmament.
To get the full text of the Hwacheon Call, click here.
For the time being, the following Living Letters visit is scheduled to take place:
Some other visits will certainly take place during the course of the year. Decisions will be based on need, consultations with churches, capacity for follow-up, and experiences gained in past visits.
For more information about the Living Letters visits that took place so far, please visit the DOV website
The DOV Reference Group and the IEPC Planning Committee met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia during the last week of January 2010 to review the progress of IEPC plans and impart their experience and expertise for the coming phase, giving guidance to staff working on the event on a daily basis. The groups met in parallel with ECHOS, the WCC Youth Commission, and had several common sessions to share concerns and hopes about working together for the promotion of a just and peaceful world as well as to ensure youth involvement at all levels of the planning and implementation phases of the IEPC. The decision was taken to precede the IEPC with a 2-day Youth event under the heading of “Peace After Crisis” as well as a Stewards Programme.
Following the Addis Ababa meetings, an update on planning progress was presented to the WCC Executive Committee which met in Geneva at the end of February 2010. The plans included developed objectives along with a detailed methodology on the various components of the event and were received favourably. A major decision was to designate the 22nd of May 2011 as an opportunity for all churches around the world to celebrate a day of peace with the IEPC. Liturgical materials are being prepared for this and will be made available in due course; in the meantime churches are asked to reserve the date and make space in their church calendars for this important celebration.
The Drafting Group, who is in charge of preparing the Declaration on Just Peace, has met in Bogota, Colombia, from 20-26 March 2010. More information about the outcome of this meeting will be available on our website soon.
“Work and Pray in Hope for Peace” is the theme for the DOV Africa Focus. The final year of the DOV will highlight churches and related groups and ministries working for peace in the continent, raise ecumenical awareness and understanding about Africa’s work, further engage African churches in the development of the Ecumenical Declaration on Just Peace, and enhance Africa’s participation in the IEPC. The All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) is a focal point in this endeavour.
Click here to download a PowerPoint presentation on AACC’s activities in relation to peace.
Click here for more information on the DOV Annual Focus Africa.
The IEPC agenda is conceived to celebrate the culmination of the Decade to Overcome Violence and to inspire the churches future witness for peace. It will highlight achievements, build on good examples and offer opportunities to learn from each other.
A detailed version of the draft agenda can be downloaded here. Please note that the current version of the agenda shows the status of reflection and planning to date, and will be subject to changes.
Nota Bene: The deadline for Reasoning (workshop) application has been extended to 31 May 2010. For further background information and workshop proposal forms, click here.
Excerpt from a morning worship presented by Rev. Dr. Bridget Ben-Naimah during the AACC 9th General Assembly in Maputo (Mozambique).
There are many reasons for which the life of the African woman calls for celebration. In fact, in many African contexts, a home without a woman is considered to be a misfortune. With the woman in the African home, the family never goes hungry. With the woman in the home, decency is assured. With the mother in the home, a listening ear in times of trouble and confusion is assured. With the mother in the home, orderliness is expected; and with the mother in the home, children are assured of a future because their mother would seek for the best for her children.
The African woman can be celebrated for being industrious, for holding the family together in times of war and conflict, for caring for the sick, for seeking for peace in the midst of turmoil, and for keeping the Church alive despite the many challenges that the Church faces today. (…)
Yet, it is unfortunate to note that this same African woman whose life calls for so much celebration can be identified in the passage read to us from the 2 book of judges as being the main victim of sexual selfishness and sexual violence by virtue of her being a woman. Indeed, Judges 19 portrays an incidence of gender based violence in which the fundamental rights of two women are violated because they are women. [Read more...]
Additional Bible studies on violence against women can be found at http://women.overcomingviolence.org