01.06.11 09:54 Age: 278 days

Kirchentag points to gospel values of "just peace"


The experience of the German city of Dresden demonstrates how churches can be witnesses to peace and reconciliation based on justice, the general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit,  said in advance of the 33rd German Protestant Kirchentag 1- 5 June.


Tveit noted how churches there promoted reconciliation between former enemies after the Second World War. They also supported peace and justice groups during the time of communist rule and in doing so had helped advance the peaceful revolution of 1989 which brought down the Berlin Wall and eventually united East and West Germany.


"Christians and churches in Dresden have shown in their lives how they responded to God's calling for the establishment of peace with justice," he said.


Tveit will be taking part in a liturgy on the evening of Friday 3 June and lead a Bible study on Saturday, 4 June. He arrives at the Kirchentag after attending the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC), which was held in Kingston, Jamaica, 17-25 May and making a visit to Cuba earlier this week to participate in the 70th anniversary celebrations of the Cuba Council of Churches.


The IEPC brought together some 1000 church leaders and peace activists.  It was co-sponsored by the WCC, the Caribbean Conference of Churches and the Jamaica Council of Churches.   


At the Dresden Kirchentag, Tveit will report on the "Vision of Just Peace" that emerged from the IEPC.


"It is highly appropriate that we bring to Dresden the message from Jamaica to join in a common journey and to commit ourselves to building a culture of peace," he said. "The people of Dresden put their hearts into the gospel values of peace-making and reconciliation with tenacity and creativity."


Much of Dresden was destroyed and tens of thousands of people lost their lives in the closing months of the Second World War when the city was fire bombed by allied forces. In the years that followed, Christians and churches sought to reach out to their counterparts in former enemy nations. In particular they forged a link with Coventry, an English city that had been heavily bombed by German forces. Young volunteers from Coventry helped in the rebuilding of Dresden.


In the 1980s, under communist rule in East Germany, the commemoration of the bombing of Dresden became a focal point for independent peace activists. In 1988 and 1989 the city hosted the Ecumenical Assembly of Christians and Churches for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation, inspired by a WCC programme of the same name.


This was the first large-scale meeting of East Germany's Protestant, Roman Catholic and Free churches, and the assembly's demands for changes in East Germany influenced the peaceful revolution there in late 1989.


For decades, the ruins of the Church of our Lady, one of the city's main places of worship, stood as a memorial to the destruction of war and violence. When it was rebuilt after 1989, the new cross that is perched on its dome was a gift from Britain, made by a silversmith who is the son of a British pilot who took part in the bombing of Dresden.


"The experience of Dresden shows that it is possible to find alternatives to war and violence, and to seek peace based on justice," said Tveit.



Kirchentag English press release


Kirchentag German press release


IEPC message