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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

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)