News and Views
- Focus: Israel-Palestine
- Trip to Serbia, Kosovo/a and Macedonia
- Inter-religious prayer for peace
- Bokor peace march
- News from Arche, Grandchamp, MIR romand
And more ...
As this newsletter goes to press, the siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem has just come to an end and those trapped inside are finally able to leave - some of them in freedom, others facing prison or exile. For months now different churches have attempted to play a mediating role between the Israeli government and the Palestinians; for weeks church leaders have striven to obtain an outcome acceptable to all parties involved.
At a time when the light at the end of the tunnel is unfortunately not yet visible, we still can find cause for rejoicing in the role local church leaders have adopted, particularly as the way they have chosen is unequivocally and resolutely one of nonviolence. Up until recently all of the churches’ endeavors had been seemingly in vain. The successful resolution of the siege situation without violence is the first fruit of the churches’ efforts and therefore a particular reason to give thanks.
This issue of News and Views features Christian responses to the crisis in the Middle East. It presents different actions and appeals to action - a sampling of what is being done and an encouragement to become more involved. We are not guaranteed success, but the plea from those in the region is so urgent that we should not ignore it.
This issue also contains news from the Church and Peace network, with an emphasis on our contacts in the Balkans region. We do not want to fall into the trap of only paying attention to headline news concerns. Rather we wish to continue to focus our attention as well on issues less prominent in the media but very crucial for building peace - inter-confessional dialogue (p. 7 & 8), long-term efforts to obtain fair alternative service procedures (p. 8) and life in community (p. 13 & 14), to give a few examples...
Finally, please take note of the calendar of events on the last page of the newsletter. This contains important information concerning the upcoming Church and Peace regional conferences and various seminars and meetings organized by members and friends in the network. Due to German postal regulations, content of all the newsletter language editions (French, German and English) must be parallel, therefore from now on the calendar of events will not be restricted to English-language meetings but will include items from all of the regions. We hope that this will serve to reinforce links between the different lin-guistic regions in the international Church and Peace network.
Marie-Noëlle von der Recke
Giving a Sign of Solidarity, Encouragement and Hope
Church and Peace takes part in ecumenical peace pilgrimage in Israel-Palestine
An ecumenical peace pilgrimage took place in Israel-Palestine from 8 to 15 April 2002 at the invitation of Jerusalem Christian churches and Israeli and Palestinian peace and human rights groups. The main organizers of the pilgrimage were Pax Christi International, the International Fellowship of Reconciliation and Church and Peace. The pilgrimage was intended as a sign of solidarity, encouragement and hope in the tragic situation marked by violence and suffering of the Palestinian and Israeli people.
The delegation included Fr. Paul Lansu (Pax Christi International), Hildegard Goss-Mayr (International Fellowship of Reconciliation - IFOR), Sr. Minke (Communauté de Grandchamp), Clemens Ronnefeldt (FOR/Germany) and Christian Renoux (FOR/France).
Escalation of the conflict forced organizers to limit the number of participants to five. Originally approximately thirty delegates were scheduled to take part including representatives from Church and Peace members Communität Christusbruderschaft, Communauté de l’Arche, German Quakers, Laurentiuskonvent and FOR/Italy. Some members of the original delegation met on April 8-10 at the Kommunität Imshausen to support the pilgrimage through prayer and fasting (see below).
At its annual general meeting on April 26-28 at the Centre Alain de Boismenu, Church and Peace members had the opportunity to hear reports from the pilgrimage and explore options for continuing this peace witness in the future.
• Prayer and Fasting in Support of Israel/Palestine Peace Pilgrimage
Parallel to the peace pilgrimage in which five delegates of the original thirty took part despite escalating violence, a group of seven persons met at the Imshausen community in Germany to support the peacemakers through prayer and fasting. The group’s intention was to make a spiritual contribution to overcoming the fixation with the power of evil, changing people’s hearts and creating the conditions needed for justice.
Those present at Imshausen decided to meet on Thursday evenings to link themselves through prayer with people suffering due to the conflict in the Middle East. The group invites others, in particular Church and Peace members and friends, to join them and network by sending specific prayer requests via email to the Church and Peace International Office. (Ernst von der Recke)
“Please come! We can’t wait anymore!”
Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel
As the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the Middle East continues to deteriorate, representatives of over 40 church and church-related organizations gathered at the World Council of Churches in Geneva 1-2 February have agreed on the scope and framework of an Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme (EAPPI) in Palestine and Israel.
A call for ecumenical action
Representatives of churches and peace networks in Jerusalem and the Occupied Palestinian Territories have called repeatedly for churches around the world to move from making statements to taking action in solidarity with churches in the region, and for local and international efforts towards a lasting peace with justice.
Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina, representative of H.B. Irineos I, the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, emphasized that Christians must have a peacemaking role: “We as Christians are peacemakers according to the sayings of Christ, and we try to create bridges between Israel and Palestine so that the two sides, through negotiations, can come to a resolution which will guarantee their peaceful coexistence and the rights of Christian minorities in it.”
Salpy Eskidjian, programme executive in the WCC International Relations team, explains that participants in the EAPPI may engage in a number of tasks, including human rights monitoring, advocacy, and supporting nonviolent resistance by local Palestinian and Israeli peace groups. The programme is to involve not only international ecumenical presence in communities facing violence, but awareness-raising and advocacy in the participants' home countries. The Rev. Gustaf Odquist, representative of H.G. Bishop Munib Yunan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Jordan and Palestine saw the strong connection between presence and advocacy, inviting people to “Come and see what is happening, then share it back home.”
South African pastor Daniel Ngubane, speaking from his experience in the KwaZulu Natal Peace Committee during his country's anti-apartheid struggle, felt that “We have reached a kairos moment with Israelis and Palestinians. It is either now or no more.”
A growing nonviolent movement
The February meeting participants noted that the small but growing nonviolent movement in the conflict area needs to be supported. One of the founders of the International Solidarity Movement, Ghassan Andoni of the Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement and member of the WCC Peace to the City network, recalled that on 25 December 2000 a demonstration attempted to cross to Jerusalem through the main checkpoint at Bethlehem. In addition to international supporters, 30 Palestinians participated. At a second demonstration a year later, 700 Palestinians participated. A few days later, on 31 December 2001, there were 3,000.
“The difference,” Andoni observed, “was that at the last demonstration, the church leaders were there. People are very scared to meet Israeli soldiers face to face. We need to give them a sense of security and safety. Church leaders give them that sense of safety.”
Churches and peace organizations from abroad have engaged in different forms of monitoring and accompaniment. Christian Peacemaker Teams, one model being built upon by the EAPPI, has had a team based in Hebron since 1995. The CPT is a project of the Mennonite Churches, Church of the Brethren and Friends United Meeting and other Christians, and has wide global ex- perience in providing a nonviolent witness for peace with justice.
In developing the programme framework, participants also looked at other models, including Peace Brigades International, the international solidarity movement and ecumenical monitoring programme in South Africa, and current efforts by the YMCA and YWCA, and Danish, Swedish, and US churches and organizations.
World Council of Churches Media Relations Office, excerpts from releases PR-02-06 and Up-02-02, 11 February 2002
The Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme's mission is the “accompaniment of Palestinians and Israelis in nonviolent actions and concerted advocacy efforts to end the occupation”. Accompaniers will:
• monitor and report on violations of human rights and international humanitarian law
• offer protection through nonviolent presence
• support acts of nonviolent resistance alongside local Christian and Muslim Palestinians and Israeli peace activists
• engage in public policy advocacy
Programme objectives include:
• exposing the violence of the occupation
• ending the brutality, humiliation and violence against civilians
• constructing a stronger global advocacy network
• ensuring the respect of human rights and international humanitarian law
• influencing public opinion in home countries and affecting foreign policy on the Middle East in order to end occupation and create a viable Palestinian state
• expressing solidarity with Palestinian and Israeli peace activists and empowering local Palestinian communities/churches
• being an active witness that an alternative, nonviolent struggle for justice and peace is possible to end the illegal occupation of Palestine
The EAPPI is open to churches and ecumenical organizations in the broad ecumenical movement.
World Council of Churches Media Relations Office, PR-02-06, 11 February 2002
Ecumenical Peace Service in Palestine and Israel
Five church organizations in Germany have launched an ecumenical peace service venture in Israel and Palestine. Participating in the program “Ökumenische Friedensdienst in Palästina und Israel” (ÖFPI) are the Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst (EED), Brot für die Welt, Pax Christi Germany, the Evangelisches Missionswerk in Südwestdeutschland (EMS) and the Evangelisches Missionswerk in Deutschland (EMW).
At a meeting in Bonn, Germany, on March 12, the five associations voted to send a group of ecumenical “accompaniers” to the conflict region. The accompaniers, together with others from different countries, are to give support to nonviolent peace initiatives and actions with the goal of ending the occupation of Palestinian areas. A further task of the group will be to monitor and report on human rights offenses and violations of international law.
With the ÖFPI the five Protestant and Catholic organizations intend to take part in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) of the World Council of Churches. Within the framework of its Decade to Overcome Violence, the World Council of Churches has chosen to focus its work in 2002 on addressing the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
Each ÖFPI worker will work on-location with churches and human rights groups for a period of three to twelve months. The first group of accompaniers is scheduled to travel to the region in June. With the ÖFPI initiative, the five German organizations wish to answer the call of the Palestinian churches to move from issuing declarations to undertaking concrete steps of solidarity.
Evangelischer Entwicklungsdienst e.V. - Church Development Service, 17 March 2002
Middle Eastern Peacemakers Reunite in Jordan
AMMAN, Jordan -- When I watch the news here in the Middle East, it is easy for me to believe that there is no hope left. People are bombed daily and millions live in fear of attacks.
Yet at a recent meeting here in Amman I was surrounded by people determined to work toward peace. The meeting brought together Middle Eastern alumni of the Eastern Mennonite University’s Summer Peacebuilding Institute (SPI) in Harrisonburg, Virginia, USA. Although financial and travel constraints make gathering as a regional group difficult, 20 people met in Amman in early January to share experiences and plan for future cooperation.
I was struck by the ability of these Middle Eastern peacemakers to continue working and maintain a sense of hope in the midst of extreme violence and economic collapse. The group described the situation in Bethlehem, where people had difficulty celebrating Christ’s birth in his birth-place. Hotels built last year to house the expected rush of tourists for the millennium celebration sit empty, damaged by shells and bullets.
"What gives me hope as a peacemaker is when I look to my friends who participated in the SPI program and see that they are really committed to peace," said Lourdes Habash, a Palestinian participant. Lourdes said she wants the next Palestinian generation to live in a different, more peaceful atmosphere but that it won't happen without people working at peace.
For the Palestinian participants, travel to Amman was filled with uncertainty. There was no way to know beforehand if the Israelis would allow them to cross the bridge from the West Bank into Jordan. This uncertainty reflects the difficulty most Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza face when they attempt to travel. Some of the participants have lost jobs because they cannot travel to their workplaces.
Living in a post-war society like Lebanon also provides challenges and opportunities. For many years, and even today, people working for peace have been viewed with suspicion. Armen Balian of the Lebanon Conflict Resolution Network said his hope comes from his observation that "people are fed up with violence and are ready to try alternatives to violence."
Many participants said it is their faith that allows them to continue. Saliba Taweel and Zoughbi Zoughbi explained that "faith gives us hope and encourages us to work in this field." They also talked about the presence of "prophetic voices" like MCC and others who have helped them renew a commitment to peacemaking.
The feeling among the group was summed up by Fadi Abi Allam. "My belief in God leads me to work for the mission of peace," he said. "If we believe in God nothing is impossible."
Randal Nickel is country co-representative for MCC Lebanon.
MCC News Service, 25 January 2002
Blood, Sweat and Tears
Dianne Roe, Christian Peacemaker Teams
"Damm, damm, damm!"
These are the words I heard from the podium. The speaker was not giving a curse in English. She was speaking Hebrew at a Peace Now demonstration in Jerusalem.
"Blood, blood, and more blood!" Harriet, an Israeli friend, translated as she stood with me among the thousand plus Israelis and internationals gathered in West Jerusalem.
I already knew the word. "Damm" (pronounced with a broad 'a') is also the Arabic word for blood. Whether in Arabic or Hebrew I have heard that word far too many times here. "What did Sharon expect when he attacked a refuge camp?" Harriet continued to translate.
"Blood, blood, and more blood." Damm, damm, damm.
In the moments of silence that preceded the speeches, a woman near me was weeping softly. Heads were bowed. News of the most recent West Jerusalem suicide attack a half-hour earlier joined in the collective consciousness with the news of the Israeli attack on the 20,000 residents of Balata refugee camp. Other Christian Peacemaker Team members present joined in these moments of silence. I was standing near Harriet, our Israeli friend who had been with us for Lent five years ago.
Aya, another Israeli friend, joined Harriet and me at the end of the demon-stration as we headed toward buses that were going to Makassed Hospital on the Mount of Olives. There, over a hundred Israelis would line up to give blood for the hundreds of casualties at Balata and Jenin refugee camps in the north.
I had met Aya earlier in the day when we worked together clearing the rubble from the site of a home that the Israelis demolished last September. I called her the next day to find out her feelings after an intense day of volunteering in the south, marching with Peace Now in Jerusalem, hearing about the suicide attack, and then going to give blood for Palestinians in the north.
She was overcome with emotion. She said that even the translator had to pause to hold back the tears when he communicated the messages of gratitude from the Palestinians at the hospital to the Israeli blood donors who had come.
A lot of blood was shed last week. But Saturday evening, the blood was given freely - some by former soldiers who have refused to serve in the military. That blood will restore life, not take it away. Let us say prayers of thanksgiving for those Israelis and Palestinians who share their blood freely. Let us work together to repair the damage of war, sharing blood, sweat, and tears. May these acts of love continue and multiply.
AROUND THE GLOBE
• Reflections on the Pacifist Response to Terrorist Action
Thoughts and activities since early autumn 2001 have been dominated by the tragic events of 11th September and their aftermath. The Anglican Pacifist Fellowship (APF) has been actively involved in campaigning against the US bombing and joined the Network for Peace Crisis Response Group (comprising the main peace organisations) at its inception. Through this the APF was able to take part in the planning of campaign events against the bombing of Afghanistan and also keep abreast of events organised by the wider Coalition Against the War. APF members have taken part in demonstrations and vigils in London and other parts of the country.
Since September, APF Secretary Tony Kempster has spoken at several meetings on the pacifist response to terrorist action. Kempster remarks that “clearly new inter-national diplomatic, cultural and economic strategies that will eliminate the breeding grounds for such terrorism are needed, but though the Fellowship’s position is clear in denouncing modern war, it must be confessed, it has sometimes been difficult to find an appropriate position when considering the immediate government action needed to provide security. There is a grey area here between police action and the use of military force in response to the immediate threat of large-scale terrorist attack.”
Ultimately it is necessary to take a broad view of the world situation and speak against the violence real and structural that has led to the growth of such terrorism. Force at best provides only a breathing space until a more just and moral order can be established.
In addition Kempster believes that the struggle against apocalyptic terrorism should also involve a determination to strip it of any shred of religious legitimacy. This is best attempted on the basis of faith and thus through the auspices of the faith communities. Faith communities must play their part in commending the spiritual strategies which have been developed by all the major faiths for establishing peace. Herein lies a key role for Christian pacifists working within their own Churches.
From The Anglican Peacemaker, February 2002
• World Religious Leaders Gather to Pray for Peace
Religion should never be used to justify violence, war or terrorism by any government or group in the current hostile world environment. Rather, all religions should together commit themselves to justice and peace. These strong beliefs led Pope John Paul II to invite leaders of world religions to gather in Assisi, Italy, on January 24, 2002, to pray for global peace.
The papal invitation to the Day of Prayer for Peace in the World was issued to heads of numerous Christian denominations from Orthodox to Evangelical to Quaker, to leaders of the Jewish and Muslim faiths and of several Eastern religions.
At the final service Pope John Paul II, head of the global Catholic church, pronounced: "Violence never again! War never again! Terrorism never again! In God's name, may all religions bring upon earth justice, peace, forgiveness, life and love."
The Day of Prayer began with a two-hour train trip from Rome to Assisi. Its first session was focused on "testimonies for peace" spoken by Christian participants as well as those of other religions. The second session was devoted to prayer, with various Christian groups and followers of other religions praying in separate places in the city.
Mennonite World Conference News Release, February 4, 2002
Delegates at the inter-religious prayer meeting, representing 12 world religions and 31 Christian churches and communities, issued the Assisi Decalogue listing 10 commitments to working for peace and dialogue.
Church and Peace signed an appeal prepared by its member Movimento italiano della Riconciliazione (Fellowship of Reconciliation/Italy) and the Movimento Italiano dell'Arca calling for an international assembly on peace and nonviolence. (For a copy of the appeal, contact Maria Antonietta Malleo Tel/Fax: +39 91 302484, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
• International Mennonite-Catholic Dialogue Continues
Assisi, Italy. The fourth meeting of the Mennonite- Catholic international dialogue took place in Assisi, Italy, November 27th-December 3rd, 2001. Co-sponsored by the Mennonite World Conference (Strasbourg) and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity (Vatican City), the dialogue began in 1998 and is anticipated to run for at least five annual sessions after which it will issue a report.
The general purpose of the dialogue is to promote better understanding of the positions about Christian faith held on each side, to contribute to overcoming prejudices that have existed since the sixteenth century between Mennonites and Catholics, and to foster a healing of memories.
Among the themes to be addressed in the final report are the nature of the Church, mutual commitment to peace, and issues related to the healing of memories. The fifth annual session of the dialogue is scheduled for October 2002.
From a joint news release from the Mennonite World Conference and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, January 28, 2002
• Following One’s Conscience
The Struggle for a Fair Alternative Service Selection Procedure in Switzerland
Alternative service is indeed an option now in Switzerland but following one’s conscience is not as straightforward as it would appear at first glance. Since 1996 any Swiss man wishing to perform alternative service rather than serve in the military has been required to submit his curriculum vitae and an explanation at least three pages in length of why serving in the military goes against his conscience. Several months later a hearing is held with three officials to determine whether the applicant has given sufficient evidence proving his conflict of conscience, in which case he will be approved for alternative service. Approximately 80% of alternative service applications are approved; the term of alternative service is 1.5 times as long as the required military service.
In December 2001 the review board rejected the alternative service application of a young man and sentenced him to 5 months in prison. During his jail term he began a hunger strike which he maintained for 40 days until Easter of this year. The Swiss Alternative Service Committee guided him in his protest and enlisted the support of people within and outside of Switzerland including several Church and Peace members via press conferences, information stands, petitions and newsletters. More than 15,000 signatures were gathered for a petition calling for the abolition of the test of conscience hearing.
In mid-March the Swiss National Council voted against a change in the alternative service law, stating that a commission would first need to work on proposals for a new approval procedure, “if possible without a test of conscience hearing”. At first glance this would appear to be a victory for alternative service campaigners. However, the positive votes included a number of conservative politicians who do not wish to see any change or improvement made in the law, thus the danger is that nothing further will happen!
The Swiss Alternative Service Committee has its work cut out for it, particularly in informing the general popu-lation about the particularities of the situation. It became obvious through the petition campaign that general opinion is that the law passed in 1996 resolved the alternative service dilemma. Further lobby work in parliament is needed as well. The goal is of course to abolish the test of conscience hearing and to make it easier for men who are willing to perform alternative service - despite the longer term required - to do so.
Bruno is a conscientious objector, C&P individual member and member of the C&P Administrative Committee. As a member of the Swiss Mennonite Peace Committee, he was active in the campaign for an alternative service law in Switzerland. Currently he advises young men preparing for their test of conscience hearings.
In 20 years people will ask “Where was the Church?”
Balkans trip report, part II
Marie-Noëlle von der Recke
The last issue of News and Views contained impressions of visits to Voivodina and Croatia. A second trip in March of this year gave us the opportunity to meet with people in Serbia, Macedonia and Kosovo/a. Two people took part in this second trip: Margrit Kruber-Arnold, Church and Peace (C&P) member elect and participant at the last two C&P international conferences, and myself. The trip itinerary was Belgrade, Kumanovo, Skopje, Pecs/Peja, Decani, Pristina, Mitrovica and once again Belgrade. A full circle of sorts which gave us the opportunity to observe various aspects of peace work in each of the regions we visited and to listen to different reflections on topics important to the churches in each context.
During our trip we met with representatives from:
• Bread of Life, a humanitarian agency in Belgrade (see article by Hans Jakob and Renate Galle)
• Interreligious Center, Belgrade
• “Trust”, a social development organization committed to nonviolence working with refugees and the poor in the Kumanovo region
• a humanitarian agency for single mothers, also in Kumanovo
• Agape, the humanitarian agency of the Macedonia Evangelical churches
• Caritas Macedonia and Ceres, an American Catholic humanitarian organization working in Macedonia
• Nehemiah, a humanitarian and evangelization organization.
In addition we met with church leaders and representatives from different confessions: the mufti and rabbi of Belgrade, several Orthodox priests (unfortunately we were not able to meet with Bishop Lavrentije or Father Sava from the Decani monastery as we had hoped) and several Evangelical, Pentecostal and Methodist preachers.
Many of my impressions from the trip to Voivodina and Croatia were confirmed during this second trip.
Most of the people and projects we visited are living proof that the media most often reflect only one aspect of a situation and relish focusing on the drabness and depression reigning in Belgrade or the tense atmosphere along the Macedonian border.
We were struck by the joyful and dynamic ambiance in Bread of Life’s office, a true beehive of activity where each morning employees and volunteers head off to address various tasks following a time of worship together. We were deeply impressed by the directors’ commitment to a discernment process concerning Bread of Life’s future at a time when the organization’s purely “humanitarian” work is coming to an end, and by their deep desire to offer their skills and talents to the construction of a new foundation for the rebuilding of society.
We discovered a similar level of energy and dedication at the project “Trust” in Kumanovo: a team of female doctors, therapists and sociologists work at healing rents in the fabric of Macedonian society. The women organize all kinds of activities - seminars, retreats, language courses etc - with the aim of facilitating communication, building relationships and trust with minority groups (Albanians, Roma) and enabling displaced and traumatized persons to rebuild normal lives.
Upon our arrival in Kosovo/a we were shocked by the extent of the damage from the war in 1999, but quickly noticed that our Albanian host, leader of a small evangelical church, had a completely different outlook than we and continually expressed gratitude for the progress made in reconstructing her country.
Through meetings with Marijana Ajzenkol of the Interreligious Center in Belgrade at the beginning and end of our trip, we became aware of how it is possible even with modest means to bring people together in order to foster better understanding and relationships.
As was the case with our trip to Voivodina and Croatia we observed the central role of women in the projects we visited. In the middle of catastrophe members of the so-called “weaker sex” have discovered in themselves previously untapped resources of creativity and faith.
We were happy to see that nonviolent conflict resolution methods (Marshall Rosenberg’s nonviolent communication teachings, to mention just one example) have made their way to the Balkans and that following the C&P meetings in Elspeet in April 2001, Joe Campbell and the Mediation Network (Northern Ireland) are offering a series of seminars in Macedonia.
However the problems and areas of concern we observed during our trip should also been mentioned:
• Physical damage caused by the war, economic problems, pollution
Even though NGOs active in the region have already worked miracles (Bread of Life is working at job creation and is involved, as is Agape, in noteworthy house reconstruction projects), they can scarcely do more than scratch the surface in dealing with the problems of this nature. With regards to pollution in particular one could ask who will deal with problems of such massive scope. We left the region with the impression that Europe will never truly become Europe until it deals with questions of this nature.
• Inter-ethnic and inter-religious tensions
Here, too, much remains to be accomplished and the workers are few...
The mufti of Belgrade showed us that statements issued by religious leaders can have a certain influence; he referred in particular to the joint declaration he and Patriarch Pavle issued in the early 1990s and remarked that at least in Belgrade the appeal was heard, though unfortunately there was no response outside Serbia.
In July of last year Mirco Andreev, pastor of the Skopje Evangelical Church and participant at the seminar in Elspeet, wrote an open letter to members of the Holy Synod of the Macedonian Orthodox Church to encourage them to reflect God’s voice rather than that of politicians’ (see News and Views, Summer/Autumn 2001). His declaration earned him the disapproval of the secular press and silence from the Church.
It saddened us to learn that the Orthodox monastery at Decani in Kosovo/a, which responded in an exemplary peacemaking manner during the 1999 war by welcoming refugees of all backgrounds, including Albanians, now requires the protection of KFOR troops after having suffered several attacks. Malicious rumors circulate about the monastery and its actions during the war. We were only able to visit it under Italian army escort.
• Mistrust between State and non-State churches
We also became aware of the depth of the gulf separating the official churches and the “small” or non-State churches, and the persistent nature of prejudice on both sides.
It seems very difficult for the Orthodox Church to recognize and accept the emergence of free churches as a normal phenomenon in a secularized society. Due to their contacts with Christians throughout the world, the evangelical churches have a totally different outlook which does not lend itself at all to closer contact with the official church. The free churches suffer from being labeled as sects but, due to their dynamic nature and their involvements, are an undeniable factor of renewal within society.
• Gender gap
As we observed the wholehearted involvement of numerous women, we became even more aware of a profound uneasiness, of anger, humiliation and bitterness which certain of the men we talked to feel, particularly in Serbia. The question of who is going to address this problem ought to be asked.
What did we bring back from this trip and what does it signify for the work of Church and Peace?
First of all we bring back with us a true treasure chest of meetings with remarkable people and wonderful anecdotes; at first I was considering entitling this article “I was cold and the mufti of Belgrade lent me his cloak, we were hungry and the KFOR officer invited us to lunch at the cafeteria in the base at Decani.”
I would like to be able to repeat the incredible stories told to us by Beba Varga from her work during ten years of war and humanitarian assistance. I would like to tell about a walk along the Danube in the sweetness of a spring evening made even sweeter by Marijana Ajzenkol’s infallible humor. I could also talk about interminable bus rides and the kindness of our fellow passengers. I would like to once again thank everyone who gave us hospitality along the way: Jasmina, Ellie, Ed, Radko, Father Stojadin, Marijana and Hanna in Belgrade; Stojan in Kumanovo; Merita, Monsignor Cirimotic and Ingrid in Skopje; and Bukurije in Peja...
All of these meetings are an invitation to pray more specifically and to participate more fully in the weaving of a network between people and organizations naturally linked by similar involvements. As was the case in Europe after World War II, the Balkan wars have redefined relationships between belligerent countries. We have arrived at a political situation which must be recognized and accepted.
Beyond the task of physical reconstruction in the region and that which is taking place within new boundaries redefined by war, we and our friends in the Balkans are faced with a new challenge, a task of a much more long-term nature: to participate in the rebuilding of trust and relationships, to make a contribution to spiritual reconstruction. And this task will only be accomplished by transcending boundaries.
This challenge is addressed to the churches in particular. As our friend Mirco Andreev in Skopje said very aptly: “In ten years people will ask the question ‘Where was the Church??’”.
NEWS FROM THE NETWORK
• Bokor members march for peace
On October 21, 2001 approximately 250 people mobilized for peace in Taszar, site of the main NATO military base in Hungary. The group took part in a peace march from Kaposvar to Taszar organized by the Bokor Movement as a nonviolent protest against violence - whether a terrorist attack or “justified” retaliation - and as a sign of solidarity for all the victims of violence, regardless of their nation-ality.
Though motivated by somber circumstances, the gathering was a joyful event. In Taszar the group presented petitions to the mayor, planted bushes in the village park and shared a meal together. Participants traveled to Kaposvar from various cities in Hungary for the 15 kilometer march; for those coming from Budapest the gathering began with a mass celebrated in the train by Father Gyorgy Bulanyi.
• Impressions of Belgrade
Hans Jakob and Renate Galle
At the beginning of October 2001 we visited the evan-gelical humanitarian organization “Bread of Life” in Belgrade. The humanitarian agency of the German Mennonite Church has given regular support to Bread of Life for several years now. Through these contacts as well as via Church and Peace we have over the years gotten to know Jasmina Tosic, one of Bread of Life’s directors. We were in Belgrade at her invitation to get to know and better understand Bread of Life’s work and the general situation in Serbia.
First, a brief word about what we learned about the situation in the country. Approximately 10% of the 8 million inhabitants are refugees and displaced persons from other regions of the former Yugoslavia who now are forced to live in pitiful circumstances. Because factories destroyed during the Kosovo war are still not in production and prices have risen at the same rate as salaries, the economic situation has not improved since Milosevic was thrown out of office a year ago. The official unemployment rate is 27%, and unemployed persons do not receive any form of support from the State. The average monthly salary is 90¤/56£ in a region where approximately 125¤/78£ is needed monthly to provide basic necessities for a family of four. The elderly and families with many children, particularly those who are refugees, are the most needy.
Now, some im-pressions of Bread of Life’s diverse work. Approximately 80 staff mem-bers, who receive a modest income for their involvement, strive to give the very poor the help they need to survive. Bread of Life workers primarily assist refugees living in private homes. Food packets are distributed monthly in ten city districts and over fifty villages; people receive hygienic articles and used clothing as well. Bread of Life also supports hospitals and orphanages. Last summer, with the help of a British organization, basic houses were constructed for about 150 families. So far approximately 40,000 persons, mostly in Belgrade and the surrounding area, have received assistance.
Currently Bread of Life is working at self-reliance projects in which needy persons are given resources or materials such as greenhouses, sewing machines, tools, cows or chickens that can be used to generate income; recipients are expected to give a fraction of this income to other needy persons. A sewing workshop provides employment for a number of women. Over the past few months these women have taken over the work of a former co-worker who is ill with cancer and have given the proceeds to her and her family who would have no financial resources without this money. We were very moved by this act of solidarity!
We were also very impressed by the spiritual basis of Bread of Life’s work and the way in which staff views their work as a form of “worship” or an expression of Christian faith. It also became very clear to us that Bread of Life relies on strong support from outside the region!
• Putting the Hand to the Plow
In 2001 MIR Romand (Fellowship of Reconciliation/Francophone Switzer-land) continued its daily labor: offering its plow to Christians of all confessions to dig the furrow of discovery of the nonviolent Christ. Thus we spoke at several churches in our region. We met Christians who are asking many questions regarding conflict and violence. Many are in agreement with the idea of a nonviolent Jesus but many find themselves faced with large rocks of discouragement. What is one to do when most areas of life are overrun with violence of kinds? The question is simple, but the answers are not so easy. In reality, the furrow of Christ and his disciples was plowed with the sweat, suffering and even blood of innocent people.
This past year we also surveyed furrows plowed by other Christian nonviolence movements. The idea is to not work separately in respective corners of the field but rather to have a common goal, though not necessarily to plow the same furrow. Thus we put together a joint press release with the Village de la Paix (Peace Village) and Pax Christi Switzerland to inform as many Christians as possible about the complexities of the referendum on civilian peace service.
Now we are planning on returning to our “Service” furrows: closer contacts with the Evangelical Reformed Church in the canton of Vaud; training sessions for priests, pastors, pastoral assistants and deacons. We hope that the seeds sown these past few years will bear much fruit and that the harvest will attract new workers...
From MIR romand’s Rapport d’activité 2001
• News from Grandchamp
St. Elisabeth, Jerusalem
Sr. Claire-Irène reflects on the St. Elisabeth community’s life and calling (summer 2001):
“It is a great challenge to remain a sign of hope and life… . All we can do is simply keep standing in the presence of God, hanging onto God’s mercy. What we have to share is that which we try to live out among ourselves, day after day, in our great poverty and vulnerability: acts of reconciliation, forgiveness, trust, continually making new beginnings, in love for one another and the small joys of life, with our empty hands. If we are to be a place through which God can speak to the world, we must make room for Christ to give us the eyes of faith, the eyes of silent compassion. We must let Love grow in us, so that we may be a word of truth and may let light come through to pierce the darkness around us. We are beggars between heaven and earth, between that which already is and that which is not yet. We are there to receive the cry that rises up from the distress and confusion of so many people, for instance our neighbour, a Jew who seldom practices her faith – but the same could come from a Palestinian friend – who, on seeing me, gives vent to her anguish: “Where is God, anyway? If he existed, he wouldn’t let all these evil things happen…”. I try fumblingly to put to-gether an answer, but nothing comes. So I keep quiet, feeling helpless. I keep silent more and more often, realising that what is required of me is not an answer, but simply to be present as a friend, in solidarity with those who are suffering, as a presence who listens with compassion. And when calm is restored, I have the overwhelming experience that we are joined together at another level, in the deep communion of the essential, where words are no longer necessary…” .
In the midst of so much violence and discouragement, Sr. Renée and Sr. Anne-Geneviève share the often difficult daily life of the people around them. The departure of the brothers who were hoping to return to Tibhirine leaves an enormous empty space. “How shall we live in communion, in the acceptance of true pluralism which respects and accepts everyone, on the way to a common goal, as well in politics, as in the Church, and within families, – in the dialogue with Islam – ? This is the essential question being asked in this country and by this country,” Sr. Renée writes.
At Grandchamp, as in the other locations, the call to reconciliation and unity keeps us all on our toes, and often catches up with us where we are most vulnerable. The situation today sometimes finds us lacking in the means to respond to the internal needs of the community, not to mention requests from outside! This stretches us to increase our attention to other persons at many levels, and to increase our solidarity and our “circulation” among our different locations.
Grandchamps News 2001
• Continuity and Renewal - Arche General Meeting
From a report by Liliane Bach Bairam
The Community de l’Arche (Community of the Ark) of Lanzo del Vasto held its general meeting from 2-6 January 2002 at the St. Antoine Arche community near Saint-Marcellin, France. Church and Peace general secretary Mare-Noëlle von der Recke and German Arche Association representative Liliane Bach Bairam were asked to take part as an observers.
I felt like I was helping a child come into the world during this three-day general assembly. I still have ringing in my ears words of founder Lanzo del Vasto as quoted by one of the general assembly participants, “the Arche is in a perpetual process of coming into being”, as well as a remark by one of the Arche compagnons, “the foundational idea of the Arche is to follow one’s conscience, not regulations”. With such comments as guidelines, general assembly participants strove to create as little constriction and as much space and openness as possible for the Arche of the future.
The main focus of the general assembly was revision of the community’s Rule which includes emphases deriven from vows of the campagnons as well as communal life. Nonviolence, sharing, manual labor and obedience to the rule all play a central role. Since the last general assembly the campagnons had tried to respond in writing to the questions: “What part of the rule do I live out and what part don’t I? What parts of the rule are no longer necessary today?” The results of this survey were discussed in the plenary.
Jean-Baptiste Libouban, one of two “pilgrims” appointed by the community, commented on the importance of manual labor and craftswork as a central aspect of the rule. He stated that, while the Arche need not be designated as a “working order” in the future, the experience of manual labor is still very important. A further central element which absolutely must remain as part of the rule is the idea of sharing and serving one another. Libouban remarked that the expression “order” is no longer appropriate for the community and hoped that a different, more accurate description could be found. He encouraged the campagnons, who complained about the gap between the teachings of the Arche’s founder and their current life contexts, to not take such teachings literally but rather to look to the spirit behind the words. Younger compagnons and novices reported that they are happy to live in an Arche community; they do not experience the vows and the rule as hindrances.
The question of whether the consensus method can continue to be used in the future was also a topic for discussion. General opinion was that the Arche needs more nuanced decision-making structures. The old principle of consensus, which often led to stagnation and frustration, ought to be replaced with a system which strives for, but does not rely on, unanimous decisions.
A final important matter of discussion was the question of a successor/ successors for the pilgrim couple Jean-Baptiste and Jeannine Libouban.
During the coming year an elected commission, in consultation with the pilgrim couple and Arche members, is to address the questions raised during the general assembly, in particular the selection of new Arche pilgrims.
Interwoven throughout the entire “birthing” process were song, dance and the wonderful hospitality of the St. Antoine Arche community. The spirit of the Arche was alive and well!
• “Getting Involved for Peace”
This was the motto for the second foundational course “Introduction to Nonviolent Action” held in November 2001 in Foinica, Bosnia-Hercegovina. The course was organized by ABRAHAM, association for interreligious peace work in Sarajewo, with fundraising and team coaching assistance from Ecumenical Service (Oekumenischer Dienst). The specificity of this course is the linking of the topic “violence/nonviolence” with one’s own faith in a multi-religious group. According to course leaders Ana and Otto Raffai this approach is new and unique in the region. Schalom Brief 27, February 2002
• Workshop “Just Peace”
Shalom minister Stefanie Bruckmeir reported recently about an all-too-rare collaboration with a German Catholic institution: “In cooperation with Oekumenischer Dienst/Ecumenical Service chair (and Church and Peace member) Herbert Froehlich, the Academy for Church Worker Education in Freiburg, Germany, devoted two days to an analysis of the German Catholic bishops’ paper “Just Peace”. After an introduction to the vision of a just peace, students explored the topics of nonviolence, shalom services and nonviolent communication. Participants were positive in their evaluation of the choice of topics and workshop methods.” Schalom-Brief 27, February 2002
• US religious leaders call for peaceful response to terrorism
Under the sponsorship of the Interfaith Coalition for a Peaceful End to Terrorism, four US religious leaders called in a 23 January 2002 telephone press conference for a change in the way that the war on terrorism is being prosecuted. Specifically they called for a criminal justice rather than military approach to terrorism, using mechanisms within an international criminal court context. They also called upon the US and its allies to work towards long-term political and economic devel-opment in Central Asia and the Middle East and for a reassessment of the use of the “just war” theory in judging the use of military force. Taking part in the conference were The Right Reverend Richard Shimpfky (Episcopal Church), Bishop C. Joseph Sprague (Methodist Church), Sister Kathleen Pruit, CSJP (Leadership Conference for Women Religious), and Rabbi Arthur Waskow (Director, Shalom Center). Behind the News, 14 February 2002
• FOR USA launches peace presence in Northern Colombia
In early February, the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) USA launched the Colombia Peace Presence in the remote settlement La Union of the Peace Community San Jose de Apartado in northern Colombia. Two US volunteers physically accompany the community, which is one of 50 Peace Communities that have formed in the country’s conflict regions. Because of their commitment to not support any armed party in the conflict, the community has been subject to ongoing killings, attacks and threats, especially by military-backed paramilitary forces. The presence of the FOR observers in Colombia seeks to support the Peace Community’s right to life and contribute to the improvement of the situation of human rights and international hu-manitarian law. Fellowship Magazine, February 21, 2002
‘Peacemaking - armed only with God's love’
Joint Conference - Anglican Pacifist Fellowship and Church & Peace Britain and Ireland
14-16 June 2002, Shallowford House, Shallowford, Stone, Staffs
• Peacemaking - God's Way. Theological reflection
• Peacemaking - Standing in God's Love. Christian Peacemaker Teams
• Peacemaking - Nonviolent intervention can work. Oxford Research Group
• Peacemaking - Civilian intervention. Peaceworkers UK
For booking forms contact: Jenny Nicholson, Flat 1, 43 Benslow Lane, Hitchin SG4 9RE, UK, email@example.com. For more information contact: Gerald Drewett, 20 The Drive, Hertford SG14 3DF, Tel & Fax: 01992 416 442, firstname.lastname@example.org
Together with the German Mennonite Peace Committee (DMFK), Church and Peace will hold its next Germanic regional conference from 18-20 October 2002 at Thomashof near Karlsruhe, Germany. Title of the conference is “Overcoming Evil with Good - Methods and Models of Conflict Transformation”. Keynote speaker will be Arnold Fast, lecturer at the Mennonite Theological Seminary Bienenberg (Switzerland). All German speakers are welcome to attend! For more information contact the Church and Peace International Office or DMFK, Hauptstr. 86 D-69245 Bammental, Tel +49 (0)6223 -5140, Fax: - 47791, Email: email@example.com
The Church and Peace Francophone regional conference on 25-27 October 2002 at the Abbaye des Dombes, Communauté du Chemin Neuf near Lyons will focus on the topic “Globalized Violence and Globalization of Peace”. Participants will discuss the mechanisms and effects of neo-liberal globalization; links between terrorism, the war against terrorism and globalization; Jesus’ attitude in the globalization context of his era; and the churches’ contribution to a globalization of peace. For more information contact Bruno Bauchet, 16, Av. Martelange, F-84000 Avignon, Tél: +33 490866799, Fax: +33 490822422, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org