A message from the third international historic peace churches consultation.
Surakarta (Solo City), Java, Indonesia; Dec. 1-8, 2007
To all our sisters and brothers in the Historic Peace Churches and in the wider ecumenical fellowship of Christians, we send you loving greetings and the peace of the living Christ Spirit.
We, members of the Church of the Brethren, Mennonites/Brethren in Christ, and the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), have come together in central Java to continue the process of consultations initiated at Bienenberg, Switzerland, in 2001; and then in Limuru/Nairobi, Kenya, in 2004. We were assisted in our deliberations by two representatives from the Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand.
The above consultations were in response to the World Council of Churches’ Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV) program which was inaugurated in 2001. This, the third in the series, brought together men and women from Aotearoa (New Zealand), Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America, to share our current theologies of peace and justice and their practical outcomes. Participants brought with them a variety of expertise–pedagogy; dispute resolution, management, and transformation; development aid; and peace and social justice activism.
We are grateful for the insights from our first two consultations which may be accessed from the publications that resulted from them–“Seeking Cultures of Peace” and “Seeking Peace in Africa.”
We are grateful to our caring Indonesian hosts and to their local churches. Their organization and hospitality were exemplary and deeply appreciated.
Our theme, “Peace in our Land,” sought to explore issues of injustice, religious pluralism, and poverty in the most highly diverse and dispersed region on our dangerously threatened planet. Formal presentations included theological papers, stories from individuals and/or from churches, groups, and Meetings, as well as formal worship. Our time together in worship was rich and uplifting. We discovered just how the Historic Peace Churches in this region are a melting pot for Asian and Western thought and its ensuing orthopraxis.
The Asian Historic Peace Churches have long committed themselves to the cause of justice, peace, and mercy, to the building of the Kingdom of God on earth as this reflects the glory of God’s loving intention for us.
It is clear to us that the Rule of Love or “Kingdom” that Jesus set up is antithetical to war and to the manner in which nations and groups prepare for it. We understand war as the greatest of human scandals, the greatest of human sins, a deliberate blasphemy on the precious gift of life.
As we listened to the stories we shared from our experiences in working towards reconciliation and healing, we came to know other forms of warfare. There is the inner war which we recognized through our common worship, the necessity of looking closely at ourselves, the need for metanoia. In the words of St. Francis of Assisi: “If you desire peace with your lips, make sure it is written first on your heart.” Do we hear this? Do we truly love our enemies? Do we pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-44)? How well do we live the Sermon on the Mount? Indeed, how well do we enact the fifth chapter of Matthew? Have we forgotten that Jesus meant it to be taken seriously? Each one of us must ask ourselves these questions, continually guarding against defiling the Kingdom that is within and among us (Luke 17:21). There is the war within our homes and neighbourhoods. There is the war that separates us from those who are members of different denominations or religious traditions; the Peaceable Kingdom is inclusive of all who come to God for the Christ cannot be divided (1 Corinthians 1:13).
The outer wars that traumatize our region include a regional conventional arms race, nuclear proliferation, and terrorism. But they also include the ravages of globalization that result in deepening poverty, the degradation of women, and the exploitation of children on a massive scale. HIV/AIDS, dictatorship, religious conflicts and religious oppression, civil wars, destruction of our environment, and bloody warfare continue to mock our simple desire for human flourishing.
These are not mere words to us; we in Asia live through these realities each and every day. In our listening and sharing, our tears unveiled our unity and compassion; our joy affirmed the fruits of the Kingdom, the omnipresence and omnipotence of Love, its Life and Power (Galatians 5:22).
And hovering above us and more fundamental than all the ills that beset our region is climate change. It is not a theory but a specter that promises ecological and social collapse on a scale unimagined in human history. Our anxiety and sense of urgency determined a plea to world leaders whose meeting on the Indonesia island of Bali coincided with ours. Recognizing that the consequences of climate change and the expected struggle for land, water, and resources could well lead to wars and many deaths, we implored:
“At the UN IPCC meeting in Bali, you have been entrusted by the people of the world with a great responsibility and a great opportunity. Your decisions now could cause future generations to look back to this time with blessings or with curses. We appeal to you to act with vision, boldness, and courage to give people new hope. The need for action is urgent. The action taken must make a significant difference. We pray that God will help you to work together to find ways forward which are wise, just, and peaceful.”
Our devotion to the peace that Jesus taught and practiced leads us to urge nations to organize for peace as enthusiastically as they currently prepare for war, and to further work to remove the causes of war.
We speak our truth with love when we say to those in authority that the amount of money spent on armaments and arms transfers, which reaches record levels as each year passes, is nothing short of disgusting. Better indeed to divert the expenditure for the wellbeing of humanity–to reducing the cruel effects of climate change, to ridding our planet of the nuclear industry and the weapons that inevitably are linked to it, to developing peacekeeping capacities, to building genuine restorative justice systems away from existing punitive institutions, improving the health of all the children of God, to reducing and eventually eradicating illiteracy–in short, food for the hungry, clothes for the naked, and drink for the thirsty.
Our principle is, and our practices have always been, to seek peace and to ensure it, and to follow after the love of God. Wars and other injustices arise out of our turning from this Love (James 4:1-3). Sin is separation from God. The greater this separation, the harder our hearts become and the less our compassion will be. Thus diminished we will never fully enjoy what the Scottish poet Edwin Muir described as the “green springing corner of young Eden.”
We know in our hearts that this Eden is our goal not only in our hearts but outwardly among the peoples of the world. We will never surrender this vision and be “a yoke to slavery” (Galatians 5:1).
We are considering another consultation in the Americas in 2010, after which we hope that a 2011 convocation in a place yet to be chosen will present insights from the peace churches from all over the world to the World Council of Churches. The great work of peace, justice and mercy–the work of the Kingdom of God–will continue.
Lor In Hotel
Dec. 7, 2007
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