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close this bookOvercoming Violence: WCC Statements and Actions 1994-2000 (WCC, 2000, 130 p.)
close this folderReports of the Programme to Overcome Violence
View the documentReport of the Consultation on the Programme to Overcome Violence, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 13-18 April 1996
Open this folder and view contentsFinal Documents: Programme to Overcome Violence Consultations
View the documentPeace to the City: A Global Initiative of the WCC
View the documentDreaming the Decade to Overcome Violence - Final Report of the Peace to the City Core Group, Stuttgart, Germany, 15-16 June 1999

Report of the Consultation on the Programme to Overcome Violence, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 13-18 April 1996


The Programme to Overcome Violence (POV) created by the Central Committee in Johannesburg, January 1994, has already stimulated movement among the member churches and groups related to the ecumenical movement around the world. Both they and the various programs of the WCC have begun to focus their work against violence and for peace in this broad context. From the outset, it was clear that the rapidly rising tide of violence around the world, its many manifestations and its deep-rooted, complex causes combine to make this one of the most important, but at the same time one of the most ambitious programme initiatives undertaken by the WCC. Expectations of the POV differ widely from region to region, and among the various constituencies of the WCC. Hopes run high for quick results, for the impact of violence in its many forms is deeply felt.

The POV can be regarded as a broad framework within which the efforts of churches and groups can find their own place. There is room for many creative, interrelated initiatives. At the same time, the Council has recognized the need for a clear, focused challenge to what the Programme has described as a global culture of violence. That focus should galvanize the efforts of the churches in a dramatic common witness to the hope that we share that God wills peace and justice for all, and that in Christ this hope can be realized.

The Central Committee asked that a small consultation be convened to help define that focus. To this end, Unit III on Justice, Peace and Creation invited a group of persons engaged in creative, church-related efforts to build a culture of peace to advise the WCC on next steps for the POV.

This meeting was held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 13-18 April 1996, at the headquarters of the Institute of Religious Studies (ISER), hosted by “Viva Rio,” a remarkable broad-based citizens’ initiative to construct a culture of peace in a city whose social fabric has been shredded by both momentary and endemic violence.

This Consultation has elaborated a mid-term focus for the POV from now until the forthcoming Eighth Assembly of the WCC (Harare, 1998), as a means of mobilizing church and ecumenical actions to overcome violence in a way which will equip them to make a forceful common commitment for building a culture of peace as we approach the third millennium.

It proposes to the Central Committee the initiation of a campaign entitled:

Peace to the City
A Global Initiative of the World Council of Churches
Programme to Overcome Violence

This report weaves together and expands upon earlier work on the POV done by the Central Committee, the Unit III Commission and its staff, and the CCIA Board. It is commended by the Consultation to the Central Committee for appropriate action.


Within the last decade, the world experienced vast changes that may mark the end of an epoch, particularly in world affairs and in some regions. Systems of state socialism in Eastern Europe collapsed. The Cold War ended, and its grip on international relations relaxed. The superpowers took significant steps in disarmament. South Africa achieved a remarkable transition to its first democratically elected government. New possibilities for peace arose in Africa, in Central America, in Asia, and in the Middle East.

Yet hopes for peace inspired by these changes collided with the outbreak of new wars across and within national boundaries. Warring parties continue to use weapons of indiscriminate mass destruction, and noncombatants remain the principle victims. A resurgence of conflicts which exploit and manipulate peoples’ histories, identity, ethnicity, race and religion led to practices of genocidal violence, ethnic cleansing and crimes of hate. Rape resurfaced as a systematic practice, an integral component of the arsenal of terror, humiliation and defeat. Millions of people were uprooted by violence and war, and places of refuge became scarce.

Meanwhile, other long-standing practices and structures that promote systems of violence endure. Violence against women increases inside and outside the home. Safe space for children continues to shrink. Trafficking of women and children for sexual slavery remains rampant. Increasing economic exclusion for many suppresses possibilities for genuine social and political participation. Attitudes and systems of racial discrimination persevere. Crime and urban violence makes human habitats increasingly unlivable. Ecological degradation threatens the possibility of health and wholeness for current and future generations as well as all of creation.

Violence permeates our personal lives, our families, our neighbourhoods, our nations and our world. Violence endangers all other possibilities for justice, participation and ecological sustainability.

In the face of these realities, the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches launched, in January 1994, a Programme to Overcome Violence. In initiating such a programme, the WCC hopes to engage with churches, Christian groups and others committed to this work in a journey of transformation toward constructing cultures of peace with justice in homes, churches, communities, nations and the world.

With its origins forged in the midst of war, the World Council of Churches’ engagement on issues of peace and justice does not begin with the Programme to Overcome Violence. Throughout the history of the Council, much of its work relates to these issues, although the nature of the debates within the ecumenical movement about such questions have shifted somewhat across time. After decades of experience in active programmes as well as theological reflection, a renewed emphasis on joining work for peace with engagement for justice more deliberately and explicitly came at a number of points in the 1990 Seoul Convocation on Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation, but particularly in the adoption of Affirmation VI, stating, “We affirm the full meaning of God’s Peace. We are called to seek every possible means of establishing justice, achieving peace and solving conflicts by active non-violence.”

Although no consensus exists among churches about Christian approaches to violence and nonviolence, a deep yearning to build lasting peace, grounded in justice, finds a new, more urgent expression in many churches today. Such urgency arises from concrete experiences where churches face situations and structures of violence in arenas stretching from the local to the global. At stake may be the very survival of life in human community, sustained with the creation.

At this point, the WCC does not seek to resolve the long-standing debate about Christian perspectives on violence and nonviolence. Nor do we seek to specify the relative justice of particular wars or specific uses of violence. Rather, we want to focus on building and rebuilding “jubilee communities” (in the language of the WCC Eighth Assembly) of justice, peace, and ecological sustainability at local, national and international levels. Together with the churches, we want to start afresh with new and renewed vision, more penetrating analysis and more creative methods to obtain a just peace. The following assumptions, principles, and recommendations should guide the WCC’s continuing engagement with churches, Christian organizations within and beyond its own traditional constituency, people of other faiths, and all those who share our hope for overcoming violence, particularly in the period up to the Eighth Assembly in 1998.

Rationale for Peace to the City

Many parts of the Bible make reference to the holy city, the heavenly Jerusalem (e.g. Revelations 21:2). On the one hand, this vision of the holy city draws attention to the eschatological dimension of our faith. God will one day create peace with justice in its full meaning. On the other hand, this vision of the heavenly Jerusalem is a means used, for example, by the prophets repeatedly to challenge unjust structures. Rich images and concepts - an abundant life for all, justice found in right relations among people, with God and creation, and peace in all its fullness - are linked with the vision of the holy city throughout the Bible. An initiative immersed in Biblical imagery and witness will encourage Christians to resist violence in all its forms.

The writers of the epistles began with the greeting, “Grace and peace to you”. “Peace to the City” invokes this greeting to those who, as churches in New Testament times, experience division, tension and who live in the midst of violent societies.

Cities are the main unit of modern, contemporary society. As centres of population, commerce, finance, political power and culture, they form a metaphor for the modern world.

Cities are found all over the globe - North, South, East, West - and contain many common characteristics.

Cities experience most forms of violence. They house the people and institutions that shape systems of globalization and national military rivalries. Cities demonstrate the global homogenization of norms, values and culture represented in these systems. State and police violence are prominent in the city. Civil wars often take place in the midst of cities. Ethnic groups, youth and criminal elements use the city as a battleground. Women dare not venture out at night or during the day in the wrong part of the city for fear of violence and rape, only to return home often to find no safety there either. Children, especially those in poor sections, have little safe room to play outside their homes and, like women, too often face the threat of beating and sexual abuse inside their homes.

Cities contain both the ordinary and the extraordinary. Both rich and poor live in cities, and both are potential victims of many of the forms of violence found there. As the places where the vast majority of the world’s people live, cities often demonstrate that civilians bear the heaviest burdens produced by the death and destruction of war, crime and other forms of violence.

Urbanization of the world takes its toll on creation. People crowded into small spaces often brings severe consequences to the environment as well as to the human spirit. Although in close quarters with one another, people nonetheless often become more isolated and atomized.

Yet cities are also one of the significant places where people organize to reconstruct their communities, form new civic alliances to rebuild the potential for living with greater justice and peace, to reorient their homes and personal lives for health, healing and wholeness, and to reclaim the richness of their cultural diversity. Poor people in cities demonstrate remarkable ingenuity for survival, and poor sections give evidence of determined vitality.

Cities are one of the places where people organize to bring about social change. When people build institutions controlled by and accountable to people in the neighbourhoods where they live, they may then be able to use this experience to transform the state and global arena. When people reclaim their cities, they reclaim their rights to control their lives.

Churches and other Christian and religious groups are in the city. An initiative focused on the city gives new possibilities for partnerships between those already involved in ecumenical networks, many evangelical or pentecostal groups, and other faiths, largely outside these networks. The city is a place where Christians can give dramatic, concrete and effective evidence of their commitment to overcome violence.

Theological Perspectives on Violence and Non-Violence - Boston, USA, 30 March-3 April 1998


The WCC Central Committee (1992) accepted the Unit III Committee’s recommendation “that active nonviolent action be affirmed as a clear emphasis in programmes and projects related to conflict resolution.” At a subsequent meeting in Johannesburg (1994), it further decided that “the WCC establish a Programme to Overcome Violence, with the purpose of challenging and transforming the global culture of violence in the direction of a culture of just peace.” At the same meeting, the Central Committee instructed Units I and III, “in the context of current discussions on Koinonia, (to) engage in a joint study on the ecclesial dimensions of the pursuit of a culture of nonviolence and just peace in order to address the ecclesiological and constitutional issues” posed by its 1992 recommendation.

Conversations were subsequently between the two units on cooperation within the framework of the POV to reflect on Christian perspectives on violence and its consequences for a fellowship of churches. They agreed to convene a small consultation of theologians, ethicists, and social scientists, some of whom would be drawn from partners in the Peace to the City Campaign.

The mandate given to the Consultation was to design a study process to offer reflections on the theological and ecclesiological dimensions of violence as well as the powerful resources offered by the Christian faith in building cultures of peace. The overall purpose was that of the POV: to foster a culture of peace in the church and, through the church, in society.

Three goals were set for the Boston meeting:

- to identify practical means of overcoming violence at different levels of society;

- in collaboration among social scientists, theologians, and practitioners in both fields, to explore the causes of violence through case studies from the Peace to the City Campaign;

- to reflect on the church as both an accomplice in violence and a transformer of violence.

Elements identified for consideration in the study process to be developed included:

- theological reflection on experiences of POV partners in overcoming violence;

- reflection drawn from experiences of a culture of violence and analysis of this culture (cf. Gil Bailie, Violence Unveiled, 1997);

- examination of the use of power by church institutions to see the degree to which they reflect the culture of violence;

- documentation of theological debates on the relationship between violence and redemption (cf. Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers, 1992);

- pursuit of the theme of moral formation in the WCC study on ecclesiology and ethics, Costly Obedience, which raises questions on the role and opportunity of the churches to form communities based on a “socially-engaged Christian ethic.”


The Consultation sought to respond to the following issues which it considered crucial to the process:

- The history of peace initiatives in the ecumenical movement is instructive and challenging. But there is growing new awareness of the need for new paradigms for ecumenical dialogue on the divisive issues of the long-standing pacifist - “just-war” debate and to Christian responsibility to develop active nonviolent alternatives to conflict.

- There is a history of ecumenical ministry in communities impacted by poverty, conflict and violence. But there is a need now to confront the global rise of violence through new approaches to the efforts of the churches to serve as agents of Christ’s peace through building beloved communities capable of resisting the tide of violence and building a culture of peace.

- Christian initiatives to overcome violence around the globe already are linked across borders. But there is a need for churches to affirm para-church and ecumenical groups’ taking initiatives on their behalf, and to forge new alliances between social scientists, theologians and other civil society actors.

The Consultation agreed that the further study process should:

- enhance the churches’ understanding of the nature and role of violence in local communities, societies, international relations, and in their own life;

- analyze critically the role of religious institutions, and more particularly of the churches in providing justifications for, contributing to, and seeking to overcome violence;

- seek creative new ways for people in local situations to question and learn from one another, and to explore new methodologies of cross-cultural contextual theology, including the use of case studies to draw out consequences for theological reflection;

- continue to explore and deepen understandings of the relationship between ecclesiology and ethics through focusing on the issue of violence;

- help the churches transcend and heal their divisions through common witness and action to reduce violence and build peace;

- encourage churches to develop cultures of peace as a prophetic sign of a reconciled human community and of the new creation (Eph. ch 1).

Finally, the Consultation identified the following challenges and learnings:

- Two paths should emerge from this study: one leading to local congregations and action groups, providing them with models and guides for ministry; the other leading back to the WCC, supplying it with case studies of churches working for a culture of peace.

- In this study process, descriptions of violence have been drawn largely from society, but they are also manifested in the actions and ethos of churches.

- The ecumenical study process on ecclesiology and ethics is of direct relevance to the aims of the POV, as are the common themes and hermeneutical aids from this study and the ones being developed on ethnicity, nationalism, and religion.

- Appropriate hermeneutical tools are needed to understand the role, source, and purpose of violence universally and in its particular manifestations in order to develop cultures of peace.

- further guidance is needed on Bible study methods in relationship to reading Scripture in living contexts; examining the place of violence in the Bible; and furthering pedagogues which relates the Bible to real life situations through worship, prayer, drama and music.

- Baptism and the Eucharist bind Christians together, sustain them in the search for unity, and are a primary resource for Christians and churches divided by violence and conflict in society.

- Violence between nations and among ethnic groups within states often has direct implications for the disunity of the body of Christ.

- Participants from both sides of the “just-war” - pacifism divide acknowledge inadequacies in their positions and open themselves to new concepts of ethical engagement beyond the old polarities in North Atlantic ethical thought.

- Small Christian minorities in hostile settings face exceptionally difficult and unique questions when it comes to acting to overcome violence in society.

- There is a complex relationship between cultures of violence and the alienation of many victims of violence from the life of the church.

- It is extremely difficult, psychologically as well as theologically, to consider the needs of perpetrators of violence as well as those of the victim, but the tragic truth is that perpetrators of violence were often themselves victims of violence.

- Methodologies of peace building across cultural differences require further work which recognizes that no single case study can be universally relevant.

Boston, USA
April 1998

Small Arms: Big Impact, Consultation on Microdisarmament - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, May 1998

Towards a Culture of Peace

The processes driving the diffusion and use of small arms2 in the world are many and complex. They vary from setting to setting, from region to region. They include such factors as the lack of personal security, economic and social deprivation and lack of opportunity, the failure of governing structures, cultural views on the role of men in society, religious intolerance and many others. To the extent that these elements are successfully addressed, “demand” for small arms will be reduced. Only if they are addressed will the reality of physical violence be lessened.

2 Whilst there are a variety of definitions of the term small arms, for the purposes of this document, they are defined as including all weapons that are person-portable. In addition to guns and rifles of all calibers, this would also include shoulder-fired rocket and missile launchers, and anti-personnel landmines. A recent United Nations report provided the following definitions: small arms includes revolvers and self-loading pistols, rifles and carbines, sub-machine guns, assault rifles and light machine guns; light weapons includes heavy machine guns, hand-held under-barrel and mounted grenade launchers, portable anti-aircraft missile systems (sometimes mounted) and mortars of calibers less than 100 mm; ammunition and explosives includes cartridges (rounds) from small arms, shells and missiles for light weapons, mobile containers with missiles or shells for single-action anti-aircraft and anti-tank systems, anti-personnel and anti-tank hand grenades, landmines and explosives. From “Report of Governmental Experts on Small Arms,” A/52/298, United Nations, 27 August 1997.

But the wide-spread availability of small arms in and of itself fuels and exacerbates the social impact of these factors and worsens their physical, psychological and social consequences. Hence, it is increasingly understood that factors related to the availability of small arms must also be directly and effectively addressed at all levels of society. The analysis and directions suggested by the group, which are briefly summarized here, have been made with this framework of understanding in mind.

The Christian Church in its many manifestations in the world is actively engaged in society in working towards building a culture of peace. Therefore, it already can be seen to be working to reduce the causes driving the widespread diffusion of small arms. However, given the pivotal ways in which the availability of guns impacts on society, effective social witness by the Church towards a culture of peace must also focus on small arms. Many avenues were identified demonstrating how churches can be effectively involved in the control and reduction of small arms.

Existing Initiatives that Address the Proliferation and Trafficking of Small Arms

In recent years awareness has greatly increased of the specific challenges posed by the proliferation of guns and other light weapons, and by illicit arms trafficking. A wide range of initiatives have been taken to try to address these problems, operating at all levels - local, national, regional and global. The group reviewed and discussed these existing initiatives, and the opportunities for further development and action.

At the local level, there are many examples of initiatives to control and reduce the availability and use of guns, involving community groups, local authorities, churches, NGOs, aid agencies, institutes, police and other locally-based bodies. Indeed, they typically form a key part of projects to prevent crime and violence and build peace and development. There are, for example, many projects throughout the world aimed at: collecting or destroying guns; reducing or preventing youth involvement in crime and gun violence; persuading armed groups to stop the killing; reversing cultures of violence; re-integrating ex-combatants after conflicts; and developing cooperation between police and the community. The WCC and its member churches are very often centrally involved in such efforts, for example through its “Peace to the City” campaign.

At the national level, the wide availability and use of (legally- and illegally-held) small arms presents a potent challenge to many states’ capacity to ensure the security of citizens, promote economic and social development, or even govern parts of their territory. There have been, for example, noteworthy programmes recently to strengthen national gun controls in the UK, Australia, Mali, South Africa, Brazil, and several other countries, often stimulated by horrific massacres or high murder levels. Some countries (such as the USA, Belgium, Czech Republic, Namibia) are also taking more action to prevent their territories from being used as a source or transit route for illicit or destabilizing arms shipments. An increasing number of governments (including several EU member states, Canada, USA and Norway) have developed programmes to strengthen the capacity of countries in regions of conflict to prevent or control light arms and illicit trafficking, or to assist with the collection and destruction of ‘surplus’ arms.

At the international level, it is useful to distinguish between several different levels of action. There are global and regional programmes, and also initiatives to develop international support for regional actions. Finally, many bilateral or trilateral cooperative arrangements have developed between two or three neighbouring countries.

Since the end of the Cold War, and particularly over the last two years, there has been significant progress towards the development of a global framework for action against small arms proliferation. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, UN General Assembly Resolutions developed a policy agenda focusing on potentially destabilizing effects of arms accumulations and transfers, their possible impact on economic and social development, and concerns about illicit or covert arms trafficking. The UN agenda emphasized strengthening national controls, promoting restraint, and enhancing openness and transparency in arms transfers (including the establishment in 1992 of the UN Register of Conventional Arms).

In 1995, concerns about small arms came explicitly to the fore, with the publication of the UN Secretary-General’s report ‘Supplement to An Agenda for Peace’ - an addendum to his 1992 Agenda for Peace - which highlighted the need for ‘microdisarmament’. The following year, a UN Panel of Governmental Experts on Small Arms was established to report on: the types of small arms and light weapons being used in conflicts; the nature and causes of flows and accumulations of such weapons and their impacts; and some possible ways and means of tackling the problem. The UN Panel produced an important report, published in summer 1997 and endorsed by the General Assembly. A new follow-on UN Group of Experts begins to meet in May 1998, to examine international efforts to address the problem of light arms proliferation and illicit trafficking and to prepare a framework for possible coordinated global action. It is due to report in summer 1999. In 1998 several efforts have emerged to establish a coalition of ‘like-minded’ states, to accelerate the development of such a global action programme.

At the same time, a range of UN and other global bodies have also been developing programmes to address these issues. Building on a series of UN General Assembly Resolutions on illicit arms trafficking, the UN Economic and Social Council’s (ECOSOC) Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice has surveyed firearms regulations and adopted a resolution to strengthen such regulations for the purposes of crime prevention and public safety. Together with Interpol, it is examining ways of strengthening efforts to combat illicit possession, trafficking and use of firearms. The G-8 has endorsed a programme to establish an international convention to address this problem.

In parallel with this, the UN Development Programme and the World Bank have been developing programmes to support security sector reform, gun-collection, border controls, demobilization and re-integration of ex-combatants, and the capacity of police and other institutions to maintain citizen and community security. The UNDP in particular has become closely involved in supporting the ‘security first’ approach to development assistance and peacebuilding, in which balanced and integrated programmes to address both security and development concerns are developed in conflict-prone areas.

At the regional level, several important initiatives have developed recently. Following a national initiative by Mali for UN assistance to tackle small arms proliferation, a group of countries in the Sahara-Sahel, West Africa, have developed a regional action programme to control arms flows and develop harmonized national gun controls, and soon hopefully to launch a regional moratorium on light and small arms transfers. In Southern Africa, initial steps have been taken to develop regional cooperation on border controls, policing, tackling arms trafficking, and gun collection and disposal.

In Europe, on the initiative of the Netherlands, EU states adopted in June 1997 a framework ‘Programme for Preventing and Combatting Illicit Trafficking in Conventional Arms’. This has subsequently been developed during the UK’s presidency of the EU in 1998. At the same time the UK has pushed forward with negotiations to establish an EU Code of Conduct on Arms Transfers which elaborates the criteria for limiting arms transfers and establishes information exchange and consultation mechanisms on implementation. The new Code of Conduct should be agreed in June 1998.

In the Americas, the Organization of American States agreed in November 1997 on a far-reaching ‘Inter-American Convention Against the Illicit Trafficking in Firearms, Ammunition, Explosives and Other Related Materials’. This establishes substantial commitments to strengthen collective controls on arms transfers and efforts to combat arms trafficking, and is probably now the most highly developed regional agreement of its kind. Closely associated with it is an effort, coordinated by the Inter-American Drug Abuse Control Commission, to establish a harmonized systems of import and export controls on arms and ammunition based on agreed best practice. The Mercosur group of South American states are reportedly developing sub-regional cooperation to further strengthen efforts in this area.

The problem of small arms proliferation is global. Regional action plans and agreements are very important, but they can greatly benefit from outside cooperation and assistance. Initiatives to provide such outside support, and to link global and regional programmes are therefore particularly significant. Perhaps the first contemporary example is the cooperation between Mali and its neighbouring West African states and the international community. Since 1995, the UN (and especially the UNDP) has established precedent-setting programmes to shape and support efforts by Sahara-Sahel countries to promote ‘microdisarmament’ and control arms flows. Individual donor countries, such as the Netherlands, the USA and Japan, have also been actively involved, and most recently Norway launched its Norwegian Initiative on Small Arms Transfers (NISAT) to support the possible establishment of a West African moratorium on light arms transfers.

Similarly, it is a key part of the EU Programme to Combat and Prevent Illicit Arms Trafficking to develop EU programmes to support efforts by countries in regions in conflict. In line with this, during its EU presidency in the first half of 1998, the UK sponsored a conference for officials from Southern Africa and EU countries to develop a draft action plan for tackling light arms proliferation and illicit trafficking in Southern Africa and to identify ways in which the EU could help. An action plan was agreed, and it is hoped that the next SADC/EU ministerial meeting will use it to establish a cooperative programme.

Finally, it is important to note the significance of bilateral and trilateral initiatives at the international level. There are many examples, such as agreements to combat illicit trafficking between: Mozambique, South Africa, and Swaziland; Mali and Niger; Mexico and the USA; India and Sri Lanka; and Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay.

In a sense, such arrangements between two or three countries form the bedrock on which wider regional and international cooperation can be built. In practice, however, international initiatives in this area have developed simultaneously at all levels - global, regional, international/regional, and bi/trilateral - and can be mutually re-enforcing. For example, bilateral cooperation can be facilitated and made more effective if it takes place within the framework of regional or global agreements, and with practical support from outside.

The group emphatically agreed that local, national, regional and international initiatives should be seen as mutually reinforcing. Work at all levels should, in principle, be supported; this is true for the churches as for all other concerned groups. Churches play a key role in many local projects to prevent or tackle the impact of small arms proliferation, and these projects should be developed and encouraged. The WCC and its member churches should play an important role in promoting useful national and international actions. Although the existing initiatives, as outlined above, are promising, it is important not only to work to ensure effective implementation but also to generate new initiatives.

Developing Policy Responses to the Problems of Small Arms

The group noted the devastating consequences associated with the unregulated and unrestrained proliferation of small arms and, building on previous statements by the WCC relating to restraint in the international transfer, sale, and acquisition of arms, emphasized the need for enhanced controls and improved regulation over the transfer and ownership of small arms. Accordingly, the group called for the development of policy responses with a view to controlling and reducing the availability, circulation and use of small arms. These measures to control small arms are proposed in the context of a basic recognition that fundamental to the control of small arms are measures to promote social, economic and political conditions that provide for the safety of individuals and societies and thus reduce the demand for weapons. Churches have a special role in supporting the development of positive social climates that address the individual and collective needs of societies threatened by conflict.

In examining these existing initiatives, the group identified a number of ways in which churches should contribute to ongoing processes whose purpose is to control and reduce the availability, circulation and use of small arms. Accordingly, the group identified four broad areas where policy and action should be developed:

i) Improved domestic regulation of firearms;

ii) Improved controls governing the production and transfer of small arms;

iii) Measures to address the illicit transfer of weapons;

iv) Measures to remove weapons from post-conflict situations, and to ensure their destruction as part of a broad framework peacebuilding.

i) Domestic Regulation and Control of Small Arms

The group recognized that the widespread and unregulated availability of small arms within civil society is a major contributing factor to insecurity and can contribute to a culture of violence. Possible measures identified included:

· A review of existing state controls over the civilian ownership of small arms, and an examination of ways in which such controls can be strengthened;

· Improved co-ordination and co-operation between states to ensure that laws are applied uniformly across regions;

· The promotion of compliance with such laws;

· Strengthened regulations governing the use of small arms by state officials to ensure that official security and law enforcement practice, including the use of small arms for security purposes, is consistent with international human rights standards and good governance;

· The need to ensure transparency and accountability among security forces, in order to promote and respect principles and practices of good governance.

ii) Export Controls

The WCC has already called for restraint in the production, sale, and transfer of arms; in view of the particularly destructive impact that small arms are having on societies around the world, there is a need for particular restraint in the manufacturing and transfer of small arms.

· Ways and means should be found of promoting the international adoption and adherence to strict codes of conduct on arms transfers, which take into account and enhance such principles as the protection of human rights, the promotion of international peace and stability, the promotion of transparency, accountability and good governance.

iii) Combatting Illicit Trafficking

The group also acknowledged that in all regions of the world, a sizeable proportion of small arms transfers are conducted illicitly, and are therefore not subject to formal established processes of control. This is a particular problem in regions of conflict. It was also acknowledged that, to date, a number of initiatives have focused primarily on the illicit transfer of arms. While this is a welcome development, it is also important to note the linkages between the illicit and the licit trade in arms, and to begin to tackle the licit trade in its own right, as noted in ii) above.

· Existing policy initiatives addressing the illicit transfer of arms should be supported and developed;

· Co-operation should be fostered between states so that such initiatives can be extended to the broadest possible level.

iv) Reduction of Small Arms

While controlling the supply of small arms is an important priority, excessive existing accumulations of weapons are, in many societies, actively contributing to violence, conflict, and insecurity. The group therefore examined a number of existing programmes to remove arms from societies, and discussed means by which these and other programmes should be developed. It is important that such processes be located within a comprehensive, multi-faceted approach to raise awareness, developing norms of non-ownership of small arms, and building a culture of peace. Specifically, there is a need for:

· Support for existing programmes aimed at removing weapons from society, at all levels. In particular, demobilization programmes should ensure that former combatants are adequately reintegrated into civil society;

· The removal and destruction of surplus weapons, particularly in post-conflict societies.

The Witness of the Church: Ways and Means

The WCC can seek to be involved in a number of ways - by identifying key regulatory changes that need to be supported; by building alliances with other agencies (other faiths, elements of civil society, national and international agencies, etc.); by using existing programmes (such as justice, peace and economic and social development programmes); by developing and supporting non-violent alternatives in the management of conflict. In addition, the consultation recommended that small arms issues should become a core focal point of the WCC Programme to Overcome Violence and its work on disarmament.

The WCC should undertake a thorough exploration, analysis, and explication of the theological and ethical foundations for its work on the problem of small arms and illicit arms trafficking.

i) Raising awareness

A requirement for addressing the problems of the availability and use of small arms is a basic understanding of the nature and scope of the issue. This is important both within Church constituencies, amongst other faiths and civil society as a whole. In this respect, churches have a role to play in critically addressing the role of small arms, and in making known the role these weapons play in fuelling conflict and insecurity at all levels of society. In this way, churches can help establish the widespread proliferation and use of small arms as a public health issue that requires urgent attention.

At a fundamental level, churches should reaffirm their commitment to the Biblical values that undergird the pursuit of justice and the development of social and political institutions that provide the physical and spiritual well-being of all people, without resort to the use of weapons for security. The WCC should urge member and associated churches to address small arms issues through pastoral work, and through educational and teaching programmes (from seminaries to institutes of higher education). The WCC should accept a particular role of publicizing and bringing to prominent attention the work of churches in support of gun recovery and microdisarmament efforts, e.g. by organising monitoring missions, reporting related events and programs, finding supportive funding, and so on.

The WCC should examine and raise awareness of the linkages between small arms and other issues, such as economic and social development, crime and insecurity, justice, impunity, post-conflict reconstruction, etc.

The WCC should also examine issues of concern in different regions associated with the widespread availability and use of small arms. These would include drought, crime, poverty, and drugs. The WCC should examine ways in which these linkages can be addressed.

ii) Improved Domestic Regulation Of Small Arms

· Churches should support initiatives set out in the Existing Initiatives section of this document, and should promote and support policy initiatives set out in the Developing Policy Responses to the Problem of Small Arms section;

· Churches should promote non-violence training, and lobby for codes of conduct among police;

· Churches should promote links between state security institutions and civil society to improve confidence and transparency.

iii) Improved Controls Governing The Production And Transfer Of Small Arms

The WCC should seek to engage concerned parties - (both national and international) to participate in the existing policy initiatives set out in the Existing Initiatives section of this document, to ensure their implementation, and to engage in a process of information exchange in order that best practices might be identified to form the basis of broader, more inclusive international initiatives.

iv) Measures to Remove Weapons from Post-conflict Situations, and to Ensure Their Destruction as Part of a Broad Framework of Peacebuilding

The WCC should broaden its current involvement in post-conflict situations to promoting disarmament and demobilization initiatives. Ideally, this will involve co-ordination with other national and international organizations, as well as elements of civil society as part of planned and co-ordinated local, national, or regional initiatives:

· Churches have a critical role to play in reintegrating ex-combatants into civil society, where ties and norms will often have been disrupted. They should ensure that support for such programmes is comprehensive, structured, coordinated and sustained;

· Churches must also work towards the provision of just economic and social structures to promote viable alternatives to the use of small arms, and prevent the re-emergence of conflict;

· Churches also have a role to play in promoting the public destruction of small arms as part of comprehensive peace-building programmes. To this end, the churches should become involved in public outreach and media campaigns to ensure awareness of the programmes, and should work at the ‘grassroots’ level to ensure support for the initiatives.

v) Gun Recovery

The group felt that the churches should become involved in promoting non-possession of guns. There are a number of ways in which non-possession of guns could be promoted and pursued:

· At a basic level, churches should be promoted as ‘gun-free zones’ - both as buildings and, more generally the ideal of gun-free Christian homes should be promoted among members of the congregation;

· Women should be mobilized to take up this issue;

· Alternatives to gun ownership should be promoted as part of a sustained move towards a culture of peace;

· Mechanisms should be used to promote arms reduction and to enable ordinary citizens to become involved in campaigning for this;

· Public campaigns should be used to remove weapons from parishes, involving education, outreach campaigns linked into the Church calendar and appropriate events, and the media;

· WCC and its member churches should offer support to gun recovery programmes - for example buy-back, turn-in, and exchange programmes. This support should take the form of funding, awareness raising and other support, such as the use of churches as collection points.

vi) Youth

Gun violence affects youth disproportionately and youth are substantially involved in the perpetration of gun violence: this goes all the way from youth gangs in Rio or Los Angeles to child soldiers in Liberia. There is a need to recognize this not only as a local phenomenon, but as one having regional and international dimensions. Particular efforts suggested include:

· The WCC and its member churches should also seek to engage youth groups, and should support international and national campaigns related to the child soldiers issue;

· The serious threat to children should be used as a campaigning issue around which to promote disarmament.

vii) Partnerships/Linkages Between Different Groups

· The WCC and its member churches should identify and engage relevant groups concerned with and affected by small arms proliferation;

· The WCC and its member churches should develop alliances and networks with other faith communities and elements of civil and state society (including the health community, police, women’s groups);

· The WCC and its member churches should engage other involved parties, including producers and trades unions.

viii) Victim Support

Churches are theologically committed to engaging clearly in support of the victims. This means to be in solidarity with the survivors/victims and serve them by:

· Helping to establish victim support agencies;
· Addressing the issue critically from their perspective.


The points of possible action by the WCC and its member churches cited here are only illustrative of a rich discussion. Further detail can be found in the full records of the consultation. The essential point is that the members of the consultation were clear that there is indeed a major role for the churches to play in small arms awareness and in small arms control and reduction at all levels of society, from the local to the international. A major commitment by the WCC to this work should play a very important part in the global struggle to lessen the violence, lower the number of victims, and build a more peaceful world community.

Members of the consultation wish to take special note of the importance this encounter in Rio has had in their own thinking and understanding in the area of the control and reduction of small arms. In calling this meeting, the World Council of Churches has therefore already made an important contribution to the emergence of concerted global action in this area. The group is certain that the new learning which has taken place and the new partnerships which have emerged will grow and deepen because of the opportunity which this meeting has provided. For this, the participants express profound gratitude to the WCC’s Programme to Overcome Violence, as well as Saferworld and Viva Rio, for what these organizations have enabled them to do here.

Rio de Janeiro
May 1998

Peace to the City: A Global Initiative of the WCC

The “Peace to the City” Campaign was adopted by the WCC Central Committee in September 1996 as a global initiative within the Programme to Overcome Violence (POV). This new WCC campaign was launched on the 31st August 1997 in Johannesburg, South Africa, birthplace of the Programme to Overcome Violence. It culminated in December 1998 at the WCC’s Eighth Assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe, where the enthusiasm generated by the POV inspired the call for the Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace (2001-2010).

The peacebuilding campaign concentrated on seven cities around the world where both destructive and constructive forces were at play. Its focus was not on the violence in the cities, whose widespread incidence and complexities were widely known, but on imaginative efforts to overcome violence through cross-community work to build bridges between and to reconcile communities drawn into violent conflict.

“Peace to the City” highlighted existing, creative models of community rebuilding with the goals of making them visible, recognizing the value of their approaches and methodologies, stimulating sharing and networking and, above all, giving others a reason to hope and attempt something similar in their own contexts. The support and solidarity of such a campaign also intended to strengthen existing non-violent community building efforts in the seven cities and to sustain work beyond the specific campaign events. In addition, the campaign aimed to help shape a broad and bold ecumenical commitment to overcome violence and make the challenges and thrust of the WCC’s Programme to Overcome Violence visible to the wider ecumenical movement.

Seven cities around the world participated in the campaign, based on the criteria developed by the WCC Board on International Affairs (CCIA): Belfast, Northern Ireland; Boston, USA; Colombo, Sri Lanka; Durban, South Africa; Kingston, Jamaica, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Suva, Fiji. The peacebuilding partners in these cities each provided a powerful example of creative initiatives to overcome violence. The WCC facilitated the participation of campaign partners at different conferences around the world where they could tell their stories, in particular the Second European Ecumenical Assembly in Graz, Austria, and the Hague Appeal for Peace, Hague, the Netherlands.

During the two years, the POV utilized a range of communication technology, including an interactive home page on the World Wide Web, an Internet list server for news on the Campaign and the POV in general, promotional materials (banners, stickers, posters, t-shirts, a logo and song) as well as traditional printed updates to reach churches and other faith groups, peace organizations, individuals, and the press.

Beyond the seven cities, churches and groups everywhere were invited to participate in the peacebuilding campaign with the hope that the seven-city network would grow into a global peace network for exploring ideas and sharing resources. By accessing the Peace to the City website, people were able to share their own stories of overcoming violence, exchange ideas and strategies with the Peace to the City partners, and promote their peacebuilding activities; the Programme to Overcome Violence list server offered a forum for sharing across cultural boundaries; a quarterly newsletter was posted on the website and also available by mail; and partners were also encouraged to link with one of the seven cities as a ‘Sister City’ to support the city’s efforts and learn more about their work.

In addition to these active methods to encourage dialogue, networking and support, the Campaign also produced a number of resources for the WCC’s Eighth Assembly in 1998, including a series of videos which tell the story of each city. A popular-style book outlining each project and including an analysis of the issues and methodologies raised through the campaign was published and made available to the Council’s constituency. Other related publications include a book on Overcoming Violence by Bishop Margot Kman, and another reflecting on the theological and practical aspects for peacemaking for the new century, prepared as a contribution to the POV by the Historic Peace Churches/Fellowship of Reconciliation Consultative Committee in North America.

The Peace to the City campaign also offered important insights for theological reflection. The WCC Central Committee called on the Programme to Overcome Violence to examine the theological and ecclesiological dimensions of violence as well as the powerful resources offered by the Christian faith in building cultures of peace. In the spring of 1998, a theological consultation, Theological Perspectives on Violence and Nonviolence, was held in Boston, Massachusetts, USA in the spring of 1998 in co-operation with the Faith and Order team, and resulted in a study process for the Council.

After the Eighth WCC Assembly called for a Decade to Overcome Violence, the decision was made to continue and build on the work begun by the Peace to the City campaign by establishing a Peace to the City Network. This global initiative focuses on building a culture of peace through practical means at the local level. It links grassroots peacebuilding initiatives, highlighting these projects internationally, and offering the partners resources, training, and support, making special use of the internet. The original seven partners of the Peace to the City campaign have already been joined by peacebuilding initiatives in Colombia, Sierra Leone, Palestine, and Germany.

The Peace to the City Network has adopted a Seven Point Peace Plan, seven areas upon which the members focus their peacebuilding efforts:

1. Overcoming religious, civil, ethnic or political divisions and building practices that develop an individual and collective sense of security.

2. Promoting dialogue, tolerance and developing non-violent alternatives to prevent conflict.

3. Initiating peace education and conflict resolution programmes in your schools, seminaries or community, including mediation and negotiation techniques.

4. Advocating for strict controls on the production, sale, transfer and use of small arms.

5. Campaigning for the abolition of nuclear weapons.

6. Stopping the use of child soldiers.

7. Supporting the International Campaign to Ban Landmines.

The Peace to the City partners are committed to transforming their violent cultures, adhering to this Seven-Point Peace Plan as it responds to the violence they face in their communities.

Dreaming the Decade to Overcome Violence - Final Report of the Peace to the City Core Group, Stuttgart, Germany, 15-16 June 1999

I. Introduction

Local coordinators and representatives from the Peace to the City campaign and participants from the Programme to Overcome Violence network gathered in Stuttgart to initiate a process of ‘forward looking evaluation’. Our purpose was to reflect on the achievements and lessons learned so far from our experience in the campaign, and discern how those might be applied in the context of the Ecumenical Decade to Overcome Violence. The meeting was co-hosted by the Human Rights desk of the Diakonisches Werk of the EKD, and the General Secretary of the German Kirchentag3, where overcoming violence and the Peace to the City campaign were highlighted as key themes. We are grateful to the WCC for bringing us together, and in so doing affirming our commitment and work in peacebuilding.

3 The Kirchentag is one of the main dates in the calendar of the Protestant churches in Germany, gathering together tens of thousands of participants every two years.

The Peace to the City network warmly welcomes the recommendation of the World Council of Churches 8th General Assembly calling the Council to “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 World Council of Churches proclaims the period 2001-2010 the Ecumenical Decade to Overcome Violence.”4

4 World Council of Churches 8th General Assembly.

This mandate builds on the rich heritage of peace and justice work of the World Council of Churches, most recently embodied by the Programme to Overcome Violence, and also including the overall work of International Relations (CCIA), the Programme to Combat Racism (PCR), the Concilliar process of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC), and the Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women (EDCSW). It is to our mutual advantage that the timing of the DOV coincides with the UN Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World (2001-2010). It is our hope that the simultaneous Decades will provide a platform for building stronger alliances with partners outside the Ecumenical movement.

With this great opportunity before the churches, we offer the World Council of Churches these recommendations, reflections, hopes and visions as one contribution to the planning and implementation of the DOV.

II. Recommendations

1. Build on the methodologies established by the Peace to the City campaign (PCC) of the POV, and the EDCSW. Both models were designed to highlight and network between imaginative initiatives to overcome violence that exist within churches, ecumenical organizations and civil society movements. For example, the Peace to the City Campaign sought out and then connected creative local models of building peace with justice. The team visits of the EDCSW demonstrated the significance and vitality of women’s gifts, concerns and perspectives all over the world. These methodological styles offer opportunities for building on existing foundations, creating continuity with prior work.

2. Use the Programme to Overcome Violence Assumptions and Principles and other POV publications (e.g. Overcoming Violence: The Challenge to the Churches in all Places) as well as the Peace to the City videos and publications as essential elements in providing a foundation for the DOV.

3. Address holistically the wide varieties of violence, both direct and structural, in homes, communities, nations, and international arenas. (See Summary of Reflections and Visions below, as well as POV materials mentioned above.)

4. Continue to challenge the churches to overcome the spirit, logic and practice of violence and to relinquish any theological justification for violence. Affirm the need to continue the study process ‘Theological Perspectives on Violence and Nonviolence’ that began in Boston.

5. Ensure that a focus on the spirituality of overcoming violence and Bible study play a significant role in forming and sustaining the DOV.

6. Affirm and encourage the continuation of work and methodology specifically related to the Peace to the City initiatives and networks as one of the building blocks of the DOV.

7. Provide a framework building a pool of resource people who can work on mediation, and organize strategic mediation visits of ecumenical teams to conflict situations.

8. Provide strong coordination through a council-wide team or working group to ensure a holistic agenda and approach.

9. Affirm the centrality of a comprehensive Communications strategy as a mechanism and resource for working with the churches and networks.

10. Ensure that the DOV is rooted in the local churches and community contexts.

11. Challenge and call all member churches to actively participate in the DOV, using the International Year for a Culture of Peace (2000) as the preparatory year.

12. Move beyond the WCC structures to include all churches, non-member churches, NGOs, and all religions of the world who are committed to work together with non-violent means for peace, justice and reconciliation.

13. Mobilize related ecumenical partners and networks, as well as regional and national councils of churches, in shaping and sustaining the DOV, including networks on women, the uprooted, indigenous people, youth etc.

14. Launch the DOV at an important, symbolic time in the Christian calendar, e.g. the first Sunday in Advent 2000. (For example, the EDCSW was launched at Easter with the theme, ‘Who will roll the Stone Away.’) A major international event and/or regional events could be staged for the launch.

15. Maintain the ‘Overcoming Violence’ logo for the DOV with slight adaptation in the wording, where ‘A Programme of the World Council of Churches’ becomes ‘An Ecumenical Decade (2001-2010)’. It is important to maintain this recognized and accepted image already associated with the WCC call to overcome violence.

16. Build a strategic plan toward the year 2005, using the 9th WCC General Assembly as a mid-term focus of the DOV. (E.g. consider one major focus, with one network highlighted and developed each year, whose work will continue through the DOV)

III. Summary of Reflections and Visions

A. Theology

Peace is both a gift and mission placed upon us by God. Peace, reconciliation, justice, and unity are all at the center of the gospel, and therefore of Christian ethics. In a biblical understanding, peace is not just the absence of violence but SHALOM: the presence of positive elements such as right relationships, well-being, security, and wholeness. In Jesus Christ, peacemaking is affirmed as both God’s way and God’s will; committed involvement in peacemaking comes hand in hand with discipleship in Jesus Christ.

This biblical foundation is essential, and a constant resource for encouragement. It is not the current state of our world or the vision of particular interest groups who place peacemaking on the church’s agenda, it is our God.

Theological understanding has to be incorporated into the specific context if the church and the Christian message are to be relevant in the world today. At the same time, experience helps us to revisit theological insights and sometimes leads us to reshape theological conceptions. We have found that ecumenical fellowship and interfaith dialogue enrich the contribution of churches to the development of a culture of peace.

An ongoing and accessible Biblical study process (contextual, cross-contextual, cross-cultural) is essential for the Decade to Overcome Violence. Further understanding the link between theology and ethics is necessary for moral formation. A ‘theology of presence’ should also be developed as one means of incorporating theology into the specific context.

B. Spirituality

The processes of peace building carried out by the PCC network in our local communities are distinct in our specific activities, as well as the deep spirituality that guides and motivates our work. The DOV will need to be sustained by the corporate strength as it is shared between each context. ‘Shalom’ must become part of our daily actions and prayers, being affirmed by the very rituals and expression of our faith. It is important that the DOV provide space for intentional sharing of our spiritual food. The importance of spirituality is to ground us in the faith and to help us maintain the vision as peacemakers. The DOV can inspire a new spiritual awakening, which is an essential facet of a culture of peace.

C. Forms of Violence and Challenges to the Churches

One of the primary purposes of the Peace to the City campaign was to draw out specific issues of violence and then to highlight creative responses to it. Throughout the campaign we saw a clear need to focus on specific issues under an overall goal of overcoming violence in order to be effective. The DOV now provides us with a new opportunity to take a holistic approach to overcoming violence.

The following list describes some of the main forms of violence we experience locally. We feel that it could be a useful tool to provide foci for the Decade and the work of the churches:

VIOLENCE BETWEEN NATIONS, including wars, military spending, the arms trade, and the use of sanctions and embargoes

Challenges the churches to:

re-examine the just war theory,

delegitimise violence as a means of resolving international conflict,
actively support and cultivate alternatives,

both cooperate with and urge governments to act early in addressing international disputes

support efforts at international reconciliation and rebuilding following wars,

address unhealthy concepts of nationalism by affirming an identity and loyalty larger than that of belonging to any nation state,

work for further disarmament agreements and the implementation of those which already exist,

expose the immorality of the arms trade and scrutinize investment practices,

take seriously the responsibility to members serving in the military and support alternative service options for those with conscientious objections,

make use of ecumenical contacts to foster better understanding between those from different nations and regions of the world,

encourage the development of peace studies,

VIOLENCE WITHIN NATIONS, including civil wars, conflicts between tribal groups or along ethnic, racial, caste or religious divisions, sectarian conflict, conflict between regions, communal violence, political violence, and other human rights abuses

Challenges the churches to:

develop ministries of reconciliation,

engage in supporting victims and work with perpetrators of violence,

encourage approaches to the issue of impunity utilizing healing tools as appropriate, i.e. truth commissions,

support the development of various models of civil conflict resolution and the widespread training in skills for handling intergroup conflict, including mediation,

deligitimise all forms of ethnic, religious and sectarian violence,

engage in positive teaching for tolerance and respect for diversity,

promote inter-church and inter-faith dialogue,

Focus on a healthy understanding of one’s identity and that of others within a multi-cultural context,

support education for democracy based on consent and the sharing of power and responsibility,

VIOLENCE IN LOCAL COMMUNITIES, including that related to crime, gangs, drugs, vandalism, hooliganism, and issues of corruption of or lack of confidence by the community in police and other law enforcement agencies

Challenges the churches to:

understand and address root causes,

raise and address issues of public security,

develop active models for working with security structures, including being able to offer constructive criticism when needed,

establish safe places in the midst of violent settings, (becoming a nuclei of a culture of peace in the midst of a culture of violence)

continue to network on issues of microdisarmament.

VIOLENCE WITHIN THE HOME AND THE FAMILY, including the various forms of spouse abuse, child abuse and child neglect

Challenges the churches to:

ensure that theology and doctrine regarding marriage and the family does not contribute to or condone such violence,

provide effective preventative education,

provide support for victims,

provide rehabilitative programming to perpetrators

work with others on the adoption and enforcement of protective legislation,

cooperate with justice systems and advocacy groups in serving the interests of those most likely to be affected by such violence,

utilize the results and lessons from the ‘Decade for the Churches in Solidarity with Women’.

SEXUAL VIOLENCE, including rape, assault, harassment, discrimination, homophobia, and all forms of sexual exploitation through pornography, sex tourism, advertising, and the media

Challenges the churches to:

ensure that theology and doctrine regarding gender does not contribute to or condone such violence,

provide tools for awareness raising and preventative education,

provide support for victims,

provide rehabilitative programming for offenders,

work with others on the adoption and enforcement of protective legislation,

use ecumenical networks to challenge sex tourism and other forms of international sexual exploitation,

cooperate with justice systems and advocacy groups in serving the interests of those more likely to be affected by such violence.

SOCIO-ECONOMIC VIOLENCE, including structural violence, poverty, the enforcement of unreasonable debt repayment, bonded servitude, slavery, unfair trade arrangements, exploitation of child laborers, exploitation of migrant and other workers, exclusion from employment, and other factors which lead to marginalisation and hopelessness, as well as violence against nature

Challenges the churches to:

work for the cancellation of international debt of the poorest nations,

work for fair trade arrangements and support fairly traded products,

work for a fairer distribution of the world’s wealth,

face the reality and impacts of globalization,

engage in social solidarity through awareness raising and advocacy,

challenge the idolatry of materialism,

provide training, and support other initiatives which empower people to break out of cycles of poverty and exclusion,

affirm the integrity of creation,

work for sustainable development,

adopt and advocate ethical investment policies.

VIOLENCE AMONG YOUTH both as victims and perpetrators, including gang warfare, violence in schools, the use of child soldiers, and violence associated with sport

Challenges the churches to:

move outside the church walls and engage youth where they are,

engage in preventative education,

provide constructive alternatives and positive role models,

encourage education and training in non-violent conflict resolution in schools,

the development of peer mediation and other skills for handling conflicts successfully,

challenge the glorification of violence in sports coverage, and misconduct by those set up as heroes and heroines in youth culture by the media,

use sport as an alternative for positive engagement,

present positive values, vision and realistic hope to youth,

VIOLENCE ASSOCIATED WITH RELIGIOUS AND CULTURAL PRACTICES, including religious intolerance, and ensuring religious liberty and cultural expression as human rights

Challenges churches to:

delegitimise holy wars,

encourage inter-faith dialogue,

foster understanding of the richness of ethics between different religious groups,

develop principles for religious tolerance and pluralism in society,

education and awareness-building programmes,

enactment of appropriate legislation.

VIOLENCE WITHIN LEGAL SYSTEMS, including abuse of law-enforcement, the role of police, discriminatory practices in the legal system itself, and challenging the assumption that adversarial approaches are necessary in achieving ‘just’ resolution to conflicts

Challenges to churches to:

encourage cooperative approaches to public safety and personal security, including alternative policing methods,

develop and practice holistic healing processes in response to violent acts that involve the perpetrator, the victim, and the community itself,

support greater use and understanding of Restorative Justice models

work to expose the structural injustices that lead to over-representation of certain segments of the population

D. Methodology and Desired Outcome

During the Peace to the City campaign, a wide variety of communication methods were tested and used as a way to reach more people at different levels. Through this experience, we discovered that communication is not only about tools and methods of sharing information, it is in itself an issue of content: the role of the media in selecting and targeting messages, the accessibility of information technology as it relates to economic and/or political power, the power of communication in shaping and changing social attitudes. The Peace to the City campaign was strong because of its partnerships and methodology. It was placed in the center of civil society where churches could build alliances outside their usual structures. Partnerships and networking became essential elements in sustaining the momentum and the vision.

At a time when mass media is increasingly shaping values and public behavior, the churches are called to challenge the prevailing media messages, provide an alternative voice, and use the appropriate communication tools in ways that build a culture of peace in the local and the global context.

Training, workshops, education, and awareness building are key means for building a culture of peace. Art, music, poetry and dance are resources that could be explored in addition to face-to-face story telling. An overall creative marketing and media strategy including the use of the WWW is essential. Campaigning can be a powerful methodology to highlight different issues at different times throughout the DOV, making it responsive to the reality on the ground. Linking the local and the global is essential, as well as forging new links to existing initiatives and partners.

It is necessary for the WCC and the churches to have a clear vision for the DOV. It should be designed as an ongoing and changing process with certain measurable results for every period.

For the DOV to succeed, it will be essential that even from these initial stages it becomes an initiative undertaken by the churches. It should not be a decade of the peace groups within the churches and NGO’s alone. The goal of the DOV should be to encourage the churches to move peacemaking from the periphery to the center of its vocation. It is important that the churches recognize diverse approaches to peacebuilding and affirm the importance of small steps and actions. Building a culture of peace means that the focus should clearly move beyond an anti-violence stance toward one of active non-violence.

IV. Conclusion

As a network, we all experience the growing culture of violence firsthand. Recognizing this, we are calling for a holistic approach to overcome it. We encourage the WCC governing bodies to also take up the challenge of peace building, and channel it directly back to the churches. As a group, we believe that the decade needs strong coordination. The WCC must provide this coordination to facilitate the exchange of information and methodologies that will help the churches respond proactively.

We welcome the fact that in addition to the International Relations Team’s portfolio on Peace, Conflict Resolution and Disarmament, the WCC has opened an additional staff position on ‘Peace Concerns’ in the Justice, Peace and Creation Team. However, with the decision to have an ecumenical decade, we recommend that the WCC also consider hiring a staff member/consultant or seek a secondment in the Communication cluster whose primary responsibility would be the DOV. Their role would be to liaise within WCC, the member churches, ecumenical partners, the media, and with outside networks, new and old.

Networking and advocacy has been valuable for the Peace to the City campaign, and should take place in the specific areas we have identified. The WCC is well placed to provide the platform for churches and movements to share their stories, presenting positive examples which help to affirm that PEACE IS POSSIBLE; PEACE IS PRACTICAL. We have learned that the complexity of the problem of violence encountered in each context will falls into categories outside the framework of our current network, so it is the concept of building interactive and responsive networks that we want to highlight, rather than our specific campaign. We need to continue the bottom-up approach that speaks directly to specific contexts.