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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

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.