Convocation Final Message Rejects War in Favor of ‘Just Peace’

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
Mennonite ecumenical leader Fernando Enns (center) clasps hands with other worship leaders during the closing service of the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC), in Jamaica on May 24, 2011. Also among those shown above (at left) is Gary Harriott, general secretary of the Jamaica Council of Churches.

The short, three-and-a-half page document was informally adopted by means of applause, during the afternoon plenary session. A first draft presented in the morning plenary was revised by the writing committee over the lunch break, after close to 75 people lined up at the microphones to give feedback and suggestions for changes.

Close to 1,000 people from more than 100 countries have been attending the IEPC, most of them representatives of Christian bodies along with some interreligious partners. The convocation has been sponsored by the WCC and hosted by the Caribbean Conference of Churches and the Jamaican Council of Churches. It is the culminating event of the Decade to Overcome Violence.

The final message from the meeting makes strong statements signaling a shift toward a “just peace” stance in the ecumenical movement. “Member churches of the World Council of Churches and other Christians are united, as never before, in seeking the means to address violence and to reject war in favor of ‘Just Peace,’” the message reads, adding in a later paragraph, “We are moving beyond the doctrine of just war towards a commitment to Just Peace.”

“We are unified in our aspiration that war should become illegal,” the message also asserts.

With regard to nuclear weapons it says, “We advocate total nuclear disarmament and control of the proliferation of small arms.”

The message includes many expressions of concern for situations of violence and those who suffer from it, the underlying causes of conflict, injustices that affect many around the world, the way religion has been misused to justify violence, the sufferings of diverse groups of people, and the effects of climate change and environmental destruction.

The message confesses “that Christians have often been complicit in systems of violence, injustice, militarism, racism, casteism, intolerance, and discrimination” It also confesses that “issues of sexuality divide the churches,” and calls on the WCC “to create safe spaces to address dividing issues of sexuality.”

Churches are called to active peacemaking on a number of fronts, for example moving peace education to the center of school curriculums, naming violence against women and children as sin, supporting conscientious objection, advocating for “economies of life” in contrast to the “unfettered economic growth as envisioned by the neoliberal system,” addressing the concentration of power and wealth, and more.

Many statements in the document are directed to governments, who are urged to, among other things, “take immediate action to redirect their financial resources to programs that foster life rather than death.”

In a nod to the Historic Peace Churches, the message states that their witness “reminds us of the fact that violence is contrary to the will of God and can never resolve conflicts.”

A related document, “An Ecumenical Call to Just Peace,” which includes language condemning the “just war” doctrine as “obsolete” was not acted upon but served as a study document for the convocation. It is expected to come in some form to the next WCC world assembly in 2013 for consideration.

The Church of the Brethren has been represented at the convocation by delegate Ruthann Knechel Johansen, president of Bethany Theological Seminary, who has been accompanied by her husband, Robert C. Johansen.

The other Brethren in attendance were general secretary Stan Noffsinger, peace witness and advocacy staff Jordan Blevins, Scott Holland of the Bethany Seminary faculty, Pamela Brubaker professor emeritus at California Lutheran University, Brad Yoder of the faculty at Manchester College, Zakaria Bulus of Ekklesiyar Yan’uwa a Nigeria (EYN–the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria), and news director Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford.




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