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close this bookOvercoming Violence: WCC Statements and Actions 1994-2000 (WCC, 2000, 130 p.)
close this folderDocuments from 1999
View the documentExcerpt from Together on the Way: Official Report of the Eighth Assembly of the World Council of Churches, Harare, Zimbabwe, 3-14 December 1998
View the documentThe Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace* (2001-2010) - Message of the WCC Central Committee, Geneva, Switzerland, 26 August-3 September 1999
View the documentA Basic Framework for the Decade to Overcome Violence - Working Document of the WCC Central Committee, Geneva, Switzerland, 26 August-3 September 1999

Excerpt from Together on the Way: Official Report of the Eighth Assembly of the World Council of Churches, Harare, Zimbabwe, 3-14 December 1998

Non-violence and reconciliation

Truth, justice and peace together represent values basic to granting of human rights, inclusion and reconciliation. When these values are ignored, trust is replaced by fear and human power no longer serves the gift of life and the sanctity and dignity of all creation.

Violence arising from various forms of human-rights violations, discrimination and structural injustice represents a growing concern at all levels of an increasingly plural society. Racism combines with and aggravates other causes of exclusion and marginalization. Conflicts are becoming increasingly complex, located more often within nations than between nations. Woman and children in conflict situations represent a special concern.

There is a need to bring together the work on gender and racism, human rights and transformation of conflict in ways that engage the churches in initiatives for reconciliation that build on repentance, truth, justice, reparation and forgiveness.

The Council should work strategically with the churches on these issues to create a culture of non-violence, linking and interacting with other international partners and organizations, and examining and developing appropriate approaches to conflict transformation and just peacemaking in the new globalized context.

Therefore, the WCC proclaims the period 2000-2010 as an Ecumenical Decade to Overcome Violence.

The Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace* (2001-2010) - Message of the WCC Central Committee, Geneva, Switzerland, 26 August-3 September 1999

* After discussion of the message, the Central Committee adopted this as the official title of the Decade.

Seek peace and pursue it.
(Psalm 34:14)

In response to a call by the Eighth Assembly of the World Council Churches, we embark on a Decade to Overcome Violence in the years 2001-2010 and invite churches, ecumenical groups, individual Christians and people of good will to contribute to it.

We are gathered for the first Central Committee meeting after the Harare Assembly at the end of the most violent century ever in human history and at the beginning of a new millennium. We are convinced: A clear witness to peace and nonviolence grounded in justice is what the world needs today from all churches together.

We remember the saints and martyrs who gave their lives as a witness for God against the powers of violence, destruction and war. We are conscious of the witness of all people who became signs of hope within and beyond their respective communities, opening up alternatives to the deadly cycle of violence. As Christians, we are motivated and encouraged by the Gospel message of the peace of Christ and the rich biblical tradition of peace with justice. Listening to the word of God and celebrating the sacraments, churches live out God’s promise of life and peace for all humankind and creation. The biblical notion of forgiveness and healing, justification and justice, truth and reconciliation requires of us to practice our faith.

But we are also aware that Christians and churches have added, through words and actions, to growing violence and injustice in a world of oppression and graceless competition. We are yearning for a community of humankind, in which nobody is excluded and everybody can live in peace with human dignity. We want to engage in constructive efforts to build a culture of peace. But we know this requires from us a deep process of change, which starts with repentance and a renewed commitment to the very sources of our faith. We must give up being spectators of violence or merely lamenting it and become active in overcoming violence both within and outside the walls of the church. We remind ourselves and the churches of our common responsibility to speak out boldly against any defense of unjust and oppressive structures, the use of violence and gross violations of human rights committed in the name of any nation or ethnic group. If churches do not combine the witness for peace with the search for unity among themselves, they fail to contribute what they have to offer. Leaving behind what separates us, responding ecumenically to the challenge, proving that nonviolence is an active approach to conflict resolution, and offering in all humility what Jesus Christ taught his disciples to do, the churches have a unique message to bring to the violence-ridden world.

There are a number of positive and encouraging examples from congregations and churches all around the world. We recognize the steady witness of monastic traditions and of the “historic peace churches”, and we want to receive anew their contribution through the Decade. There are congregations and churches that have become centers of reflection and training for active nonviolence in their own context. They show the kind of courage, skills and creativity that is necessary for active nonviolence and nonviolent resistance. They are sensitive to the destruction of nature and concentrate on the situation of the most vulnerable groups. Part of the contribution to building a culture of peace and solidarity involves listening to the stories of women, youth and children who often are the primary victims of violence together with minority groups like many of the Indigenous peoples.

There are those who teach us through their example that presence in the situations of violence, on the streets and in the war torn areas, the active involvement with victims and perpetrators of violence is the very key to every process of transformation and change. Prior to the Harare Assembly, the Programme to Overcome Violence and the Peace to the City Campaign have shown: peace is practical, it grows at grassroots level and is nurtured by the creativity of the people. They cooperate locally with civil society and engage in dialogue and common action with people of other faith. The groups from the seven cities participating in the campaign were strengthened and encouraged by each other, sharing their experiences across different contexts and gaining new insight from reflection and exchange at the global level.

The Decade to Overcome Violence will provide a platform to share experiences, develop linkages and learn from each other. The Decade will build upon the initiatives that are already there. It will connect and help them to motivate and strengthen each other. It will facilitate the churches to assist and support each other in their ministry. We offer with the Decade to Overcome Violence a truly ecumenical space, a safe space for encounter, mutual recognition, and common action. We will strive together to overcome the spirit, logic and practice of violence. We will work together to be agents of reconciliation and peace with justice in homes, churches and societies as well as in the political, social and economic structures at global level. We will co-operate to build a culture of peace that is based on just and sustainable communities.

The Gospel vision of peace is a source of hope for change and a new beginning. Let us not betray what is promised to us. People all around the world wait with eager longing that Christians become who they are: children of God embodying the message of justice and peace.

Faith can make a difference.

A worldwide, ecumenical community of people of faith will make a difference.

Peace is possible. Peace is practical. Make Peace.

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.
(Matthew 5:9)

A Basic Framework for the Decade to Overcome Violence - Working Document of the WCC Central Committee, Geneva, Switzerland, 26 August-3 September 1999

Introduction

The Eighth Assembly of the World Council of Churches gathered together under an African cross, in Harare, Zimbabwe, to discern priorities and programmes for the next seven years. Around the Assembly theme, “Turn to God - Rejoice in Hope,” delegates established the Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV). The Assembly stated that the WCC must “work strategically with the churches on these issues of nonviolence and reconciliation to create a culture of nonviolence, linking and interacting with other international partners and organizations, and examining and developing appropriate approaches to conflict transformation and just peace-making in the new globalized context.” The WCC intends, therefore, to further its solidarity with Africa and grow together with the world communion of people who are building cultures of nonviolence and peace.

Faithful to the Assembly’s mandate, the focus of the WCC’s work during the Decade to Overcome Violence will be on the concept “overcome”, rather than “violence”. Therefore, the methodology will bring out the positive experiences of churches and groups working towards overcoming violence. The Decade to Overcome Violence must grow out of the experiences and work of local churches and community contexts. The WCC can facilitate the exchange, act as a switchboard, and highlight experiences of local peace-building, peace-keeping, and prevention of violence. The Decade to Overcome Violence, however, should move beyond WCC structures in Geneva to include all member churches, non member churches, NGOs, and other organizations that are committed to peace.

The Decade to Overcome Violence, therefore, will highlight and network efforts by churches, ecumenical organizations, and civil society movements to overcome different types of violence. The WCC should seek to establish points of contact with the relevant aims, programmes, and architecture of the United Nations Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World (2001-2010). It is important for the Decade to Overcome Violence to focus on the specific and unique contributions of both the individual member churches and the WCC as a whole.

Calling on the WCC’s rich heritage of programmes for peace and justice, the organizers for the WCC’s work on the Decade to Overcome Violence can build on, and create continuity with, models of coordinating a decade, campaigns, and programmes. Organizers will particularly consider the following methodologies: team visits and Living Letters (such as those of the Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women (EDCSW)) to address concerns and perspectives from all over the world; World Wide Web, video, and print materials (Peace to the City campaign); exchanges and visits. The Decade to Overcome Violence should further these methodologies. The Decade to Overcome Violence should continue the work already done through the Programme to Overcome Violence and the Peace to the City campaign.

I. GOALS

In order to move peace-building from the periphery to the centre of the life and witness of the church and to build stronger alliances and understanding among churches, networks, and movements which are working toward a culture of peace, the goals of the Decade to Overcome Violence are:

- Addressing holistically the wide varieties of violence, both direct and structural, in homes, communities, and in international arenas and learning from the local and regional analyses of violence and ways to overcome violence.

- Challenging the churches to overcome the spirit, logic, and practice of violence; to relinquish any theological justification of violence; and to affirm anew the spirituality of reconciliation and active nonviolence.

- Creating a new understanding of security in terms of cooperation and community, instead of in terms of domination and competition.

- Learning from the spirituality and resources for peace-building of other faiths to work with communities of other faiths in the pursuit of peace and to challenge the churches to reflect on the misuse of religious and ethnic identities in pluralistic societies.

- Challenging the growing militarization of our world, especially the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.

II. A BASIC FRAMEWORK FOR THE DECADE TO OVERCOME VIOLENCE

1. Keys to designing and implementing the Decade to Overcome Violence

- Allowing multiple entry points through which churches, groups, and issues may join and find their voice

- Ensuring and supporting creative, effective, professional communication as central to the process and success of the Decade to Overcome Violence

- Sustaining momentum over the ten years

- Using different methodologies appropriate to specific goals

- Developing clearly defined goals for the mid-point of the Decade to Overcome Violence (2005 Assembly), as well as for the end of the Decade in 2010

- Involving all WCC clusters and teams in the Decade to Overcome Violence

2. Two stages of the Decade to Overcome Violence

2001-2005, culminating in the WCC’s Ninth Assembly (2005)
2006-2010, culminating in an end of the Decade celebration

3. Phases of the Decade to Overcome Violence

Phase I: 1999-2000: Preparation for the Decade and Launch

The WCC Central Committee will invite member churches and ecumenical partners to join the Decade to Overcome Violence. The WCC Central Committee will ask regional, ecumenical gatherings to outline their specific priorities and projects and thus to contribute to the development of the architecture; formulation of the main message; creation of an appropriate organizational framework and budget for coordination and planning; development and implementation of communication strategies; preparation for the launch.

Phase II: 2001-2004: Launch and Decade to Overcome Violence Actions

In January 2001, simultaneous launches would be organized around the world, involving local congregations and groups as well as highly visible, international events. Different issues and appropriate methodologies will be used in the Decade to Overcome Violence process which are coordinated with regard to planning, communication, joint events, and common goals.

Phase III: 2004: Synthesis through Cross-Contextual Analysis and Experience

As some issues and actions continue, the WCC will facilitate exchanges between creative models of peacemaking addressed in the first three years with the aim of strengthening networks and building new alliances.

Phase IV: 2005: Analysis/Evaluation/Preparation for the Assembly and the Next Five Years

Analysis and evaluation of the first stage of the Decade to Overcome Violence will reflect on the process and assess the following questions: What are the lessons learned this far? What are the challenges to the churches? What are the churches doing? What still needs to be done? Strategic exchanges and visits will help Decade to Overcome Violence participants to listen and learn from one another. These evaluations and exchanges will contribute to the Assembly preparation and build new impetus for the Decade’s second stage.

Phase V: 2005-2010: WCC Ninth Assembly

Lessons and challenges from the first part of the Decade will be shared. The focus and plan of action for 2006-2010 are finalized and adopted.

4. Possible Approaches and Methodologies

a. Study processes

Continuing and expanding the theological reflections on violence and nonviolence, from the perspectives of the dignity and human rights of human beings and of the community; an ongoing and accessible Biblical study process (contextual, cross-contextual, cross-cultural); study and analysis of the work of truth and reconciliation commissions.

Engaging the churches and regional networks in reflection on violence and peace-building in the midst of structural challenges such as racism, globalization, violence against women, violence among youth, violence against children, etc.

b. Campaigns

Providing practical support and solidarity to churches and groups in their efforts to mobilize campaigns on specific issues with defined goals to prevent, transform and overcome violence in their own contexts. Encouraging churches and organizations to network for specific international campaigns.

c. Education

Collecting, compiling, and sharing peace education curriculum for children, youth, and adults, by building on existing models, particularly from the Christian perspective, networking educators and resource people, as well as theological institutions, who are engaged in conflict resolution, transformation, and mediation. Challenging present educational systems and media which perpetuate competition, aggressive individualism and violence, especially among children.

d. Worship and Spirituality

Sharing resources and practices for worship and prayer across traditions and cultures in order to focus on our common efforts of peace-making and reconciliation. The concept of metanoia is particularly important as the churches take responsibility for their part in violent actions from the past and in the present. Metanoia encompasses confession, repentance, renewal, and celebration of faith and is therefore a foundation of a culture of peace.

e. Telling the Story - Decade “Open Space”

Sharing stories of violence, initiatives to overcome violence, and sustaining cultures of peace, churches, communities, groups, and individuals will create ‘open space’ through the World Wide Web, print, video, events and personal exchanges. These stories will connect people and efforts, provide support and solidarity, share resources and ideas, and provide constant input into the process and focus of the Decade, particularly for the second stage, 2006-2010.

5. Issues

“Violence” is not only physical. “Violence” is also emotional, intellectual, structural. Throughout the Decade to Overcome Violence, the focus will be on the response and prevention to forms of violence, such as:

Overcoming violence between nations

Overcoming violence within nations

Overcoming violence in local communities

Overcoming violence within the home and the family

Overcoming violence within the church

Overcoming sexual violence

Overcoming socio-economic violence

Overcoming violence as a result of economic and political blockades

Overcoming violence among youth

Overcoming violence associated with religious and cultural practices

Overcoming violence within legal systems

Overcoming violence against creation

Overcoming violence as a result of racism and ethnic hatred

III. CONCLUDING REMARKS

The Ecumenical Decade to Overcome Violence is meant to capture the excitement and expectations of churches, ecumenical organizations, groups and movements around the world for the positive, practical, and unique contribution of the churches to building a culture of peace. The design and methodology of the Decade to Overcome Violence should be focused and yet open to allow creativity and to utilize the dynamic energy of the churches and different groups in society. The architecture for the Decade to Overcome Violence will depend on the suggestions, plans, and leadership of the WCC’s member churches and ecumenical partners who will define the issues and the processes that will lead the Decade to Overcome Violence forward.

This document will serve as a framework for preparatory steps in the Decade to Overcome Violence. Throughout the Decade, the Executive and Programme Committees will monitor the process and will sharpen the goals and methodologies.