Members of the 2nd Drafting group for the Ecumenical Declaration on Just Peace, Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV), met in Bogotá, Colombia, March 20-26 2010.
Ten people from Switzerland, Australia, India, Uganda, U.S., Norway, Jamaica and Lebanon and two representatives of Colombia met in Bogotá as the 2nd Drafting Group for the Ecumenical Declaration on Just Peace. After overcoming a few difficulties such as obtaining visas, delayed flights and a lost suitcase that never arrived, we met and got to know each other around a task which was well moderated by Dr Konrad Raiser. Renate Sbeghen, of Geneva, facilitated agendas and documents, and the rest of the team contributed hard work, energy, dedication and constant lively enthusiasm.
For the Colombian participants this very special visit was of great satisfaction since foreigners often fear visiting our country. Some international media portray Colombia as a violent country where drug trafficking, illegal armed groups, kidnapping, "false positives" (as extrajudicial killings are euphemistically known) and common crime, are the daily bread. But Colombia is a beautiful country where in the midst of the complex social situation, we can find people working toward its transformation and acting on behalf of changes so that all citizens can enjoy their basic rights. There are also churches and ecumenical organizations whose mission includes a prophetic and active work for peace, reconciliation, forgiveness, conflict transformation, overcoming trauma, justice and reparation, at different levels and with different sectors of the population.
The work and daily reflection of the team were illuminated by visits to various churches and programs for peace, as well as by the participation of different church leaders, men and women who shared significant experiences of their work for peace and nonviolence. These experiences included legal and spiritual support, development programs sponsored by churches for people displaced by the armed conflict; lodging and accompaniment during medical treatment for people with disabilities (adults, young people, boys and girls) caused by landmines in rural areas of Colombia; feeding programs for children at risk; research and reporting on people affected by forced disappearance and assassination; training in nonviolence, health, trauma and reconciliation, as well as assistance to persons whose lives have been threatened and need to leave the country for safety. All these experiences are examples of working for peace by Mennonite, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and Presbyterian churches, and the Quaker program of Alternatives to Violence, in their efforts to be testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. These examples helped our visitors become acquainted first-hand with the sociopolitical complexity of the country. Thanks to our Colombian speakers: Pastor Jairo Suarez (Lutheran), Jenny Neme (JustaPaz Director), Father Leonel Narváez (Roman Catholic), Peter Stucky (Mennonite Church), Lissi Hansen and Alba Arrieta (Presbyterian Home and Alternatives to Violence Program) for sharing significant experiences in peacebuilding during the devotional time and the visits.
In this work of the World Council of Churches (WCC) done through DOV, the reflection from the perspective of the Colombian reality, enriched and reaffirmed the development of the JustPeace document as an urgent task, which needs to take into account the principles of life and human rights. Following the orientations of Dr Raiser, valuable contributions were made to the Declaration which we hope will constitute a major step forward. This document will be submitted to the Central Committee of the WCC and later to the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) to be held in Kingston, Jamaica, in May 2011.
The input from this group to the Ecumenical Declaration on Just Peace (EDJP) identifies a just peace as a long and interesting journey that bears fruit and is built in community. It requires commitment and seeks to strengthen the civilian and political tools to transform conflict at all levels through nonviolent means and promote the conditions for a worldwide just peace. It seeks the cooperation of civil society whose interest is also the defense of human rights. It claims responsibility for natural resources, for human dignity and peace education. In addition, it is a journey where many religious traditions and people of goodwill join each other, convinced of the urgency of promoting a culture of peace.
We hope the Ecumenical Declaration on Just Peace will be approved at the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Jamaica, and will result in a broad consensus of a process where all traditions and people of good will can feel heard and will want to commit themselves.
"How beautiful upon the mountains are feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news…" Isaiah 52:7
Alba Luz Arrieta Cabrales
Consultant for the Ecumenical Declaration on Just Peace
Legal Representative of the Alternative to Violence Programme (AVP)
Since our last issue of Bits and Peaces, the following consultations have contributed towards the process leading to the IEPC:
Since our last issue, the following Living Letters visits have taken place:
For more information about the Living Letters visits that took place so far, please visit our website.
Things have moved apace since the last edition of Bits & Peaces with an intense period of follow-up resulting from the various decisions taken at the WCC Executive Committee meeting that took place earlier this year.
Plans are underway for the World Day for Peace, to be celebrated on 22 May 2011 which occurs during the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation. The day is being organised by our co-hosts the Caribbean Conference of Churches (CCC) and the Jamaica Council of Churches (JCC) under the banner of a “Caribbean Day” when participants will be able to participate in a wide range of locally organised events.
On this special occasion we would like to involve the entire Christian family worldwide to simultaneously celebrate with those that are in Kingston and urge you to put this date on your 2011 church calendars so as to use some or all of the elements proposed to join as a worldwide faith community striving for peace. Proposed materials include songs, prayer, Bible reflection, and intercessions as well as a poster to promote this special day and are available for download from the IEPC website. We sincerely look forward to being united with churches all around the world in heart and spirit this day, joined in our common witness through the IEPC motto Glory to God and Peace on Earth.
Invitations have been extended to WCC member churches to nominate their representatives; other invitations to those that have been involved in the DOV and IEPC preparatory processes as well as to our wider ecumenical constituency are being processed.
There are also places available for individuals and representatives from church-related groups and networks involved in peace work. An application form as well as guidelines for participation can be found here. All nominations, applications and responses are requested for 1 September with confirmations being sent by 1 November after which time registration will begin.
There has been an overwhelming response to the appeal for Reasoning (workshop) proposals and our coordinators are carefully examining each application to ensure a wide, comprehensive – and at the same time balanced - workshop programme in Kingston. We look forward to completing the selection process and sending confirmations by the end of August.
New materials include:
The Study Guide and posters are available in hard copy and all materials can be downloaded at: http://www.overcomingviolence.org/resources.html.
Excerpt from a biblical reflection by Said Ailabouni and taken from the 2009 WCC publication “Imagine Peace”.
THE MEANING OF PEACE
A Reflection from Palestine and Israel SABEEL
[…] In this passage from the gospel of John, Jesus is preparing his disciples for what is about to come: his own death. He is giving them words of assurance, and one of the promises he makes is the promise of peace. What is this peace that Jesus promises?
It is apparent that the peace to which he refers is not something that is present in the world. It certainly wasn’t present in the world of Jesus’ time which lived under the oppression of the power of Rome. And it isn’t present 2000 years later, when this part of the world is under the domination of American/Israeli military power. There must be something more to the promise that Jesus makes.
In this land of Palestine and Israel, we witness a steadfastness (sumoud) that enables people to maintain their faith even as they experience forty-one years of oppression. This steadfastness has the look of peace. We see it in the action of a child who plays in the dirt at the checkpoint and who does not notice the soldier with the gun because of the love in the eyes of her mother. We see it in the families that celebrate weddings with joy even though many of the party have to leave part way through the festivities because their permits have expired, and others are missed who were never granted the permit to come. We see it in our churches that gather to pray even as our numbers dwindle due to Christians emigrating because of the Occupation. Our faith is strengthened by our people’s witness, and we try to imagine this same steadfastness lived in a land that is free from the stranglehold of oppression. Would this be the peace that Jesus speaks of?