News and Views - Church and Peace newsletter
In this issue
- New Church and Peace members
- Service for peace in the Caucasus
- Nonviolent witness in Israel and Palestine
- CEC Assembly
- Church and Peace presence at German
ecumenical church assembly
And more ...
“Let us pursue the things that make for peace”
Marie-Noëlle von der Recke
This call of the apostle Paul was the motto for the recent international Church and Peace conference held in Osijek, Croatia, in May.
This conference continued efforts to create a dialogue forum for Christians working for peace in all areas of the Balkans and enable them to get acquainted with the Church and Peace network. Theological reflection on the Church’s calling to be a builder of peace formed the conference’s second thematic focus.
Diversity was never so striking at a Church and Peace conference as at this one. But a common denominator was just as clear: those who came are on a journey and are pursuing the things that make for peace. Those who came identified with the imagine that accompanied the participants throughout their time in Osijek - a cross-shaped labyrinth illustrating the long, winding path to peace and drawing attention to the One who, through his sacrifice, gives true peace.
These days in Osijek provided an opportunity to walk together along this path:
• Visits to peace and reconciliation projects in the Osijek area gave the participants a picture of the situation in Vukovar and Berak and the efforts of locals NGOs to heal the wounds of war and overcome the divisions.
• Staff from the Centre for Peace, Nonviolence and Human Rights and the Evangelical Theological Faculty, both located in Osijek, presented their work.
• A marketplace allowed participants to become acquainted with other projects and communities within the Church and Peace network.
• Peace workers in Western Europe, the Balkans and the Caucasus shared about their peacemaking journeys, giving an idea of the wide variety of individual involvement for nonviolence within the peace church network and in wider circles.
• Working groups explored current issues such as inter-religious dialogue and the role of the media in times of war.
• Keynote speakers addressed the question of a peace ecclesiology from a Catholic, Orthodox and Mennonite standpoint.
• Sharing in small groups at the beginning of the con-ference as well as informal discussion over meals and between sessions provided the opportunity for meaningful interaction between participants.
But perhaps the most important of all steps along this path were the times of singing and prayer as well as the ecumenical worship service and the creative programme aspects which formed the spiritual framework for the conference. The words of a Taizé song emphasised again and again the destination of our journey: “the kingdom of God is justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, come, Lord, and open in us the gates of your kingdom”.
The resonance of this conference in Osijek could perhaps best be described by the word “encouragement”. Encouragement, strength for the journey. The participants from the Balkans were particularly thankful for the emphasis on the connection between faith and work for peace, a connection that apparently is not often made in the region. Participants made plans for joint work in the Balkans and other areas; an invitation was even issued to hold a conference in Kosovo/a.
This newsletter is the first “after” Osijek. Many of the articles address directly or indirectly the topic of “pursuing the things that make for peace”. We hope that readers will be encouraged through the articles on these pages for their journey in the pursuit of the things that make for peace.
Church and Peace Conference in the Balkans
Approximately 130 people gathered at the Evangelical Theological Faculty in Osijek, Croatia, on May 1-4, 2003.
The countries represented? Bosnia, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Serbia, Croatia, Switzerland, Hungary, Rumania, Canada, Scotland, England, Latvia, Kosovo/a, Belgium, Italy
The churches represented? Baptist, Pentecostal, Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical, Quaker, Mennonite, Methodist, Lutheran, Reformed, United, Brethren
Their motivation? “Let us pursue the things that make for peace” (Romans 14:19)
The Church and Peace network has been growing steadily over the past few years, particularly in Eastern Europe as well as within the community movement. Its aim remains the same: “Church and Peace brings together communities, parish congregations, Christian peace and peace service organisations and Christians in Europe who share the con-viction that the peace witness and nonviolence of the Gospel are essential characteristics of the Church.” At the same time, with the recent expansion of the network, the need has arisen to re-examine and redefine the network’s common vision. The recent conference in Osijek was devoted to these aims.
In our opinion the conference was a great success, due in a large part to the efficient organisational team. Even though customs officers prevented the interpretation equipment from arriving in Osijek and the entire first session had to be translated consecutively in four languages, we understood each other, and the cultural and linguistic diversity more closely resembled Pentecost than Babel.
What a mixture of people and approaches, what a context in which to be meeting, what an experience of communal inspiration! At a time when war and violence are common currency, in a corner of Europe which has had more than its share of suffering over the past few years, friends and members of the Church and Peace network were able to realise to what extent Christians throughout Europe are interested in peace and are committed to working concretely to bring it about. We heard of many fascinating projects: at local, regional, national and European levels.
We are not fated to remain passive observers of the forces destroying apart our world. Numerous stories, examples, sharing and practical information encouraged each participant to return to his or her context and continue to work within his or her own church or community. Through storytelling, the annual members’ meeting, project visits - a visit to Vukovar was particularly meaningful for some -, Bible study, prayer, singing and fellowship, participants experienced in many different ways what it means to “pursue the things that make for peace” while at the same time striving together to formulate a common vision for the network.
Church and Peace network expands
Financial situation remains fragile
While their fellow conference-goers got acquainted with reconciliation projects in the Osijek area on May 2, 2003, Church and Peace members participated in the enlargement of the network in a different fashion.
In one of their first items of business delegates at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) 2003 welcomed several groups and individuals into formal membership:
• Bienenberg Education and Conference Center (Centre de Formation et de Rencontre /Ausbildungs- und Tagungszentrum Bienenberg), venue for the C&P 50th anniversary symposium in 1999. The Centre was founded following WWII with the goal of contributing to the rediscovery of the Anabaptist tradition in Europe and today offers programs for both laity and pastors.
• the Dutch Mennonite Peace Group (Doopsgezinde Vredesgroep), with a request for reinstatement of its membership. One of the group’s foci is mediation training including seminars for pastors.
• Hansulrich and Marlene Gerber-Liniger, Swiss Mennonites and long-time C&P contacts. Hansulrich is former Church and Peace (C&P) vice-chair and current co-ordinator of the Decade to Overcome Violence of the World Council of Churches.
• Manfred Werner, pastor in the Rhineland Protestant Church and participant in mediation seminars offered by the Laurentiuskonvent in Laufdorf.
The AGM also reflected on new possibilities for making known the network’s vision. Delegates agreed that the antiwar position of many churches with regards to the war in Iraq presents an opportunity for dialogue with non-peace churches. Though some members expressed scepticism about optimistic expectations of such dialogue - since the antiwar position of many churches is limited to this particular war-, delegates agreed that a broader basis for discussion about the use of violence exists.
A new administrative committee will guide staff in determining the best course to pursue such discussion. Elected to a second three-year mandate were Bruno Bauchet (chair), Cor Keijzer, Bruno Sägesser-Rich and Gyula Simonyi. New members are Kristina Bulling (Threshold Foundation), Christiane Stoll as treasurer (former worker at the Eirene International Office), Vic Thiessen as vice-chair (London Mennonite Centre) and Lore Weber (Basisgemeinde Wulfshagenerhütten).
In other business the AGM approved the financial report for 2002 and the budget for 2003. Reflecting on his three years as treasurer, Klaus Tschentscher remarked on the difficulty in stabilising C&P’s financial situation. The years in which no international conference is held are particularly precarious. He emphasised the need for continued vigilance and creativity in finding funding, a concern seconded by chair Bruno Bauchet. Bauchet commented that the goal must be to focus on fulfilling C&P’s mission without losing sight of the overall financial situation and responsibility for ensuring a viable association.
Despite the rather gloomy financial picture, the vitality of the network was evident in the varied examples by AGM participants of peace work taking place throughout in Europe today. Delegates reported on involvement in reconstruction, reconciliation, human rights and nonviolent conflict resolution projects in Southeastern Europe; work on a peace ethics paper for distribution within the German Methodist Church; joint introductory-level courses with mainline German Protestant regional churches in nonviolent action; a Waldensian meeting on nonviolence; and a memorial service held in Rome for victims of violence.
CEC Assembly celebrates “Fountain of Life”
The 12th assembly of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) concluded on July 2nd with a festive worship service on the banks of the Nidelven River in Trondheim, Norway. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, examined the biblical image of water of life and Jesus’ request of the Woman at the Well for water to quench his thirst. Williams reminded assembly parti-cipants that reconciliation begins when one person admits to someone else that he or she needs the other person’s help. “‘I can’t live without you’ is a cliché of romantic fiction; it becomes a sober and everyday fact when we are thinking of how reconciliation actually happens.”
On the morning of the worship service the assembly ended its plenary work with a declaration on the Christian witness of the churches in Europe and resolutions concerning CEC’s programmatic emphases in the years until the 13th assembly in 2009. These emphases include the implementation of the “Charta Oecumenica”, prepa-rations for the third European Ecumenical Assembly in 2007 together with the Roman Catholic Church, and the discernment of Christian responsibilities in Europe.
Delegates also stressed the need for the churches of Europe to work towards the healing of memories and to combat the increasing social instability caused by con-tinuing poverty, unemployment and the breakdown of social services. The 12th assembly’s Letter to the Churches emphasised to its members that “the churches must be part of the solution to the problems of growing violence, terror and fear in Europe, rather than being part of the problem”.
Delegates from CEC member churches, associate members and guests addressed these challenges in detail over the seven days of the assembly. Peace, justice and healing were common threads running through policy statements adopted by the assembly. The meeting was shaped by times of worship and spiritual reflection; the assembly’s theme, “Jesus Christ Heals and Reconciles: Our Witness in Europe”, provided the theological context* in which the participants spoke to various issues including Kosovo, indigenous peoples, the environment and the Middle East. Psalm 36 was a motif heard repeat-edly throughout the joint prayer times: “With you is the fountain of life, in your light we see light.”
“When others turn to us,” said the Archbishop in his closing sermon, “and ask for our attention and help, for food and water and liberty, it is not simply their lives we ruin when we refuse; it is our own.”
Taken from Conference of European Churches press releases
*A theological study pamphlet focusing on the theme of the assembly is available in English, French, German and Russian from the Conference of European Churches. Tel: +41 22 791 6228, Email: email@example.com
Church and Peace is an associate member of the CEC.
“I can’t be part of the killing”
Getting out - One conscience objector’s story
He cringes at the celebration of his compatriots after a missile target has been successfully shattered. He is saddened by the destruction and is sickened by the pain endured by victims. He is burdened by guilt and tormented by his contribution in this war. He is in Iraq and finds himself confronted by the realities of warfare and his role as a soldier. Last week he submitted his claim, applying for the Conscientious Objection discharge. He wants out.
To get out of the US military is not an easy venture. Several discharges exist within US military regulations that contend with soldiers who suffer from disabilities, need to care for dependents and other exceptions that grant soldiers leave. But, in order to leave the army on grounds of one’s moral, ethic or religious beliefs, seeking Conscientious Objector Status is the only way out.
Three years ago at age 18, Daniel* joined the US Army. Coming from a family that put immense pressure on him to join, he never really thought about objecting to war. He never imagined facing the brutality of what war is all about. Daniel now finds himself a highly trained analyst of the US military, taking part in something that goes against his grain. “I feel guilty, in part, for everyone that dies on the battlefield. If I do my job perfect, more of ‘the enemy’ dies. If I do it poorly, more Americans and Coalition forces die. Either way it’s death. It’s the death that tears me up inside. It’s the death I can no longer put up with. I can’t be part of the killing.”
For over 4 weeks now, I have been in regular contact with Daniel, discussing the matter of Conscientious Objection with him and ultimately helping prepare his claim. At first he didn’t know what to do and was confused. But, as the war proceeded his convictions strengthened. “One morning on the news they stated that they may have killed Saddam Hussein in a café in the middle of the afternoon in downtown Baghdad. I learned they used some of the largest explosives in the US Army to do this. During the newscast I heard other soldiers begin commenting on what a great thing it was. My first thoughts, however, went immediately towards the hundreds of people in and around that café at the time. They did not deserve their fate.”
The US military defines conscientious objection as a “firm, fixed and sincere objection to war in any form or the bearing of arms” because of deeply-held moral, ethical, or religious beliefs. Applying for Conscientious Objector status can be a long and difficult process. The applicant must write a claim describing their nature of his or her beliefs about participation in war; how the beliefs have changed or developed since entering the service; how daily lifestyle has changed as a result of these beliefs. After interviews with a military chaplain, a military psychologist and an investigating officer, the claim gets sent up the chain of command for approval before the soldier can be discharged.
Daniel and I have worked through several drafts of his claim, adjusting and shoring up his CO position. We have also accumulated letters of support for him. During our correspondence, I have realized the importance for Daniel to have someone to talk to which helps him not feel alone. By handing in his claim, he will likely suffer harassment from his colleagues and superiors. The claim could be rejected or take a protracted amount of time to be processed. There are many unknowns. For Daniel, this process is a daunting challenge with serious consequences. It is not an easy decision, but for Daniel he knows it is the right one, no matter what.
He turned in his CO claim last week before his scheduled deployment into Iraq. He asked me in his last email, “Will they take my weapon right away though? It would be nice to be rid of it. I know I have to make the jump into Iraq. I will try to keep my eyes closed. However, for some reason I think I need to see what happened there.”
*Name has been changed.
Next step: an advanced-level course
The first Rhineland Protestant Church introductory course for church workers on nonviolent conflict resolution took place recently within the framework of the ecumenical Decade to Overcome Violence. Partner was Church and Peace corporate member Oekumenischer Dienst (Ecumenical Service).
Concluding a church-sponsored introductory course on conflict resolution entitled “Paths Out of Violence” with a worship service may not be viewed by some as a self-evident component at the end of the program. The course designation sounds more like the title of a conflict resolution manual than an invitation to spiritual reflection. Yet the worship service is an integral part of the course program. In addition to glimpses into mediation and other ways of resolving conflicts, topics such as biblical underpinnings, spirituality and non-violence traditions are part of the course content - along with prayer times and worship services.
Eleven church and social service workers from the Rhineland Protestant Church came together with peace consultant Dr. Anthea Bethge and Eirene peace educator Friedemann Scheffler on several weekends between January and June to search for paths out of violence.
Initiator of this introductory course in conflict resolution was the Rhineland Protestant Church which thus fulfilled part of the obligation it took on with the approval of a synodal resolution in 2000. At that time the synod debated peace ethics options and nonviolent conflict resolution concepts and decided that the Rhineland Church would support nonviolent conflict resolution training by offering either its own courses or in cooperation with other organisations. For this first introductory course the church found an appropriate partner in the organisation Oekumenischer Dienst (Ecumenical Service).
At the conclusion of the course all participants em-phasised that recognizing and understanding a conflict is the first segment of the path to be traveled to its resolution. This helps to identify feelings of powerlessness which arise in conflicts in a congregation. “We are now able to analyse a conflict, but we still are not able to resolve it,” remarked one participant, a social worker from the Saarland region of Germany.
In-depth instruction in conflict resolution is the focus of the continuation course offered by Oekumenischer Dienst, training which all the introductory course participants would like to take as well. Requests from the participants illustrate the importance of nonviolent conflict resolution for their day-to-day work. Emotional abuse in the workplace has been identified repeatedly as a topic for a future seminar. And course participants emphasise the significance of violence prevention in their professional work, for example in nursing homes.
Will there be further courses sponsored by the Rhineland Protestant Church? Regional church pastor Christine Busch hopes that her church will continue to focus on this topic; two and a half years into the Decade to Overcome Violence the conclusion of this introductory course is a highpoint of the ways in which the regional church is meeting its synodal commit-ments.
This introductory course is especially significant for Christian Garve, Director of Oekumenischer Dienst, as it is the first of its kind instituted by a German Protestant regional church. For the future Garve hopes that an introductory course will be offered for church leaders as well.
Notes from the Caucasus
Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, people of about forty different ethnic groups in the many small republics of the north Caucasus between the Black and Caspian Seas have sought to resurrect their heritage, culture and language, and their rights to territory and self determination.This has brought about demands on the Russian government that have led to violence. A short war in 1992 between Ossetians and Ingush in disputed territory to the west of Chechnya displaced over 60,000 Ingush many of whom have yet to return. Chechens have suffered two horrifically destructive wars from 1994 to 96, and ongoing since 1999 as a result of their demands for independence from Russia.
The core of my service in this region is to provide training in psychosocial rehabilitation, and workshops dealing with conflict, healing and reconciliation. I work with a Chechen organisation, Agency for Rehabilitation and Development - ARD, that is supported primarily by the Dutch government and churches.
These wars have destroyed much in the psyche of individuals and in interpersonal relationships quite apart from damage to buildings and infrastructure.The foremost task I have found in this war-torn region is to be a witness to what people have experienced. This restores some of their lost dignity. People also yearn for skills that help them cope with the present and prepare them for the future, and I seek to help them through training exercises.These include listening skills and the essential skills for coping with the trauma of war. People also ask for skills to manage the conflicts that are an inevitable part of life.
Many Chechens have now lived for over three years in refugee camps in Ingushetia close to the western border of their republic. However many are still living within Chechnya and are experiencing extreme fears in what is, in practice, life in an almost lawless society: men vanish without trace; women go from office to office trying to find out where their loved ones are; people know of the torture in the filtration camps to which many men are taken on being accused of supporting terrorism; villages and houses are searched for terrorists with no regard for property or the safety of the people living there.
The service of Quakers in the North Caucasus started in 1991 in response to an invitation from the Soviet Peace Committee to Quaker Peace and Social Witness (QPSW) to arrange exchange visits between community leaders from this region and Northern Ireland with the aim of managing nonviolently their inter-communal conflicts.Friends House Moscow also occasionally works in the region.
Roswitha Jarman of York Monthly Meeting has been working amongst displaced Chechen and Ingush peoples in the North Caucasus since 1991. Both QPSW and Friends House Moscow are corporative members of Church and Peace.
Around Europe, April 2003
Eirene to strengthen reconciliation work in Africa
The international Christian peace service agency “Eirene” is planning to strengthen its involvement in peace and reconciliation work. At a press con-ference in Neuwied, Germany, agency director Eckehard Fricke said that up to ten new projects may be initiated with overseas partners by the year 2006.
Fricke announced that the secondment of approximately fifteen additional professional peace workers is to be financed with the help of the “Civilian Peace Service” programme of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation (BMZ). These measures are intended to expand first and foremost involvement in developing countries. Nonviolent conflict resolution forms the core of Eirene’s peace and reconciliation work which includes projects in Chad (mediation between cattle herders and farmers), Niger (network of trainers in active nonviolence) and Bosnia (multicultural youth work).
Fricke said that with an increased emphasis on peace and reconciliation work Eirene intends to set a new program priority in Africa and Latin America in addition to development assistance. According to Fricke, preventative work is becoming more and more important in light of increasingly critical situations in countries such as Chad, Congo or Ivory Coast in Africa and Guatemala and El Salvador in Central America. Fundamental societal values have decayed as a result of war.
Eirene is one of six recognized peace and development agencies in Germany and currently has 88 volunteers in overseas positions. They work in development projects in Africa and Latin America and social and environmental projects in the United States and Europe.
epd/RL; DER WEG, Nr. 29, 13 July
Eirene is a corporate member of Church and Peace.
Stories of Nonviolence in Israel and Palestine
From a report by Claude Franz and Jean Sarda
As a follow-up to the Easter 2002 peace pilgrimage organised by Hildegard Goss-Mayr with the participation of Father Lansu (Pax Christi International), Christian Renoux (Fellowship of Reconciliation/France) and Sister Minke (Grandchamp Community for Church and Peace), a European speaking tour was organised for two Middle East peace activists: Amos Gvirtz, Israeli, and Nafez Assaily, Palestinian. Here are some impression of the meeting held in Lyons, France, on March 24th, 2003.
What an honor to welcome at the same time an Israeli, Amos Gvirtz, and a Palestinian, Nafez Assaily, to speak about their nonviolence work in their respective areas! What courage on their part, in the explosive context of the Middle East, to be ready to take this step, each knowing that he will not be understood by his own people.
Approximately 100 persons were warmly welcomed at the Reformed Church in Lyons. Present were members of SICO (solidarity movement of Israelis against the occupation), the French Jewish Union for Peace, Women in Black, MAN (Movement for a Nonviolent Alternative) and ACAT (Action of Christians for the Abolition of Torture) as well as numerous individuals.
During the evening meal Amos and Nafez had the opportunity to share with us their profound conviction that respect for life is imperative as well as the weight of their involvement and joint, nonviolent actions for peace - what a meeting of words and actions! They stressed how helpful the contact with members of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR) from different countries is for them.
After a time of prayer for all those fighting nonviolently for human dignity in different countries, participants divided into small groups for reflection and sharing. The two keynote speakers were able to bring us up to date on the situation in their region and give concrete examples of solidarity: Israelis helping Palestinians with their olive harvest when access to the olive groves is prohibited due to closure of roads or the presence of war machines, to name just one.
Nafez impressed us with his warmth and vitality despite the wounds caused by the suffering and oppression of his people; we were touched by Amos’ conviction of being called to raise the conscience of his compatriots whom he observes engaging in “passive” violence which is in actuality a series of acts of war: colonisation, home demolitions, destruction of olive groves, rerouting of water...
We thank them for their courage to speak out and to take action, the courage to have traveled all the way to Europe to share their conviction that only the desire from all sides for nonviolence will enable a face-saving solution to be found for both Israelis and Palestinians. Now we are called to find ways of supporting our Israeli and Palestinian bro-thers and sisters in their nonviolence work.
The conference texts are available in French from M.I.R.-Lyon, 30 rue du Professeur Nicolas, F-69008 Lyon.
Milestones on the Way to Becoming a Peace Church
Rosemarie Wienss & Hermann Petersen
Using 7 milestones and multicolored index cards volunteers manning the Church and Peace booth at the German ecumenical church assembly (Kirchentag) in Berlin on May 28th - June 1st invited participants to explore the topic of becoming a peace church. Happily, many passers-by responded positively to the invitation and contributed interesting ideas ranging from simple drawings to challenging theological reflections. Through this activity many visitors to the booth became interested in getting better acquainted with Church and Peace.
Information was available in the form of three exposition panels: an explanation of Church and Peace’s mission through excerpts from the Bienenberg Declaration and accompanying photos; a large net with forms symbolising the different member groupings and categories; and a map of Europe with the names and locations of members in the network.
The decision to ensure representation of Church and Peace at the assembly was taken at the Church and Peace annual general meeting in Miribel in 2002. A planning group composed of 5 persons, including International Office staff, began its preparations in October 2002. Looking back we can say the ecumenical church assembly with its 200,000 participants was a good opportunity to increase Church and Peace’s visibility in the Germanic region.
Longtime peace service champion honored
Ulrich Frey, who had a formative influence on the German peace service agency umbrella organisation AGDF during his 28-year tenure as its director, was awarded the Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany on May 23, 2003.
On behalf of Germany’s president, Frithjof Kühn, Administrator of the Rhine-Sieg District, paid tribute to Mr Frey’s decades-long engagement for voluntary service, peace and nonviolence.
In her greeting AGDF vice chairperson Dr. Gisela Kurth (Eirene) emphasised that Mr Frey’s contributions continued to bear fruit even after his retirement in the year 2000. Within the Civilian Peace Service programme of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) there is a high percentage of projects with professional peace workers seconded by AGDF members. The AGDF certification association is the largest and most well-known entity in Germany offering education and training in civilian, nonviolent conflict resolution. Ms Kurth remarked further that the AGDF plans to continue pressing for adequate legal structures for overseas voluntary service placements.
Church and Peace is a member of the AGDF, a German umbrella organisation of peace service agencies and related groups. The AGDF is active as a peace work and peace policy advocate within the mainline Protestant church in Germany, with a focus on training in Christian peace engagement and civilian conflict resolution.
AGDF press release 7/2003
Terrorism and Love of Enemy - 10 theses
How can Christians in a post-September 11, 2001, situation of escalating violence articulate anew and comprehensibly the Gospel alternative of overcoming evil with good rather than waging war against evil? With its first paper “Feindesliebe und Terrorismus - 10 Thesen”, the Church and Peace theology working group has taken an initial step in opening dialogue on this question.
The concise document published in mid-March 2003 resulted from a discussion process of more than a year and is an attempt at exploring Biblical commentary on the development of humankind with its religious and ethic premises. The ten theses and accompanying preface describe Jesus’ life-giving path of loving one’s enemy and explore how this teaching can be put into practice today.
The text is intended as a discussion starter; the theology working group welcomes feedback and further contributions. For a copy of the German-language paper or to submit comments to the working group, contact the Church and Peace International Office (address page 2).
NEWS FROM THE NETWORK
• Community in motion - News from the Basisgemeinde Wulfshagenerhütten
As our business* underwent substantial changes and challenges last year we were reminded of our task: to witness through our communal work that a just economy which serves all in society is possible. We felt affirmed and encouraged in this calling by a visit from theology professor Ulrich Duchrow.
We spent a weekend reflecting together with him from a Biblical perspective on radical alternatives to the destructive economic practices predominant today. He explained to us in a very comprehensible manner the emergence of the current monetary and interest system and its negative effects. Once again we became aware of the necessity of alternative eco-nomic structures as a precondition for global and local justice.
These interrelationships shed new light on certain passages from the Gospels, in particular some of Jesus’ parables: it became clear just how vehemently Jesus criticised the power and economic structures of his day and how radical his call to a life of sharing and service was then - and still is today. Thus these Scripture passages admonish us to not slack off in our efforts to reveal current injustice.
However our biggest challenge is to live peacefully and justly together on a day-to-day basis, to open ourselves to receive again and again the convic-tion that this new society is possible - even if we do not always experience it on a daily basis - and to preserve vitality after so many years of walking together, to not let resignation take root. It is worthwhile taking up this challenge for it is the price for the necessary work of constructing the new culture of peace which Jesus offers when he says, “Blessed are the peacemakers...” (Matthew 5:9). We can confess that God builds the church out of weak human beings and that God builds a lovely house! (Trans: TRM)
*production of wooden toys and furniture for kindergartens etc
• Friedensweg Taunus disbands
Church and Peace International Office staff learned recently that the group Friedensweg Taunus (Way of Peace, Taunus), C&P member since 1989, has disbanded due to the increasing age of its members. Thorwalt Fellner, former director of Friedensweg Taunus, will be a familiar name for participants at the Peace Church Assembly in Braunfels in 1986. Fellner was responsible for the Church and Peace prayer and fasting group for several years. Church and Peace thanks the members of Friedensweg Taunus for their involvement in the past and wishes them God’s blessing.
• Initiative Schalom restructures
Church and Peace member Initiative Schalom will continue its work despite the closure of its central office for financial reasons. Of importance for the group is not its organisational structure but rather the desire to see talk of peace and work for peace made relevant in light of current political and societal realities. Volunteers plan to co-ordinate locally activities in three areas: a “Schalom-Cafe”; a Balkans working group with a focus on reconciliation work in Novi Sad; and the organisation of various events such as bibliodrama courses, worship services, occasional peace actions and demonstrations as well as fasting and an annual newsletter.
• Quaker peace witness in Eastern Croatia
Since January 2003 an informal Quaker group has been meeting for worship in Vukovar and Osijek in eastern Croatia. Meeting initiators Dusanka Ilic and Charles David Tauber work as volunteers with a local nonviolent conflict resolution group and a psychotrauma and peace organisation, respectively. They view their work as expressions of their witness and of the peace testimony in this still highly troubled region. For more information contact Charles at +385 98 346753 or firstname.lastname@example.org (Among Friends, Spring 2003)
• Open Forum “Decade to Overcome Violence”
The German-language “Open Forum”, organised by the Evangelical Church of Germany, met in June to explore the feasibility of organising campaigns within the framework of the Decade to Overcome Violence. Uli Wohland from the Workshop for Nonviolent Action, Baden, informed the 27 participants from church-related organisations and the mainline German regional Protestant churches on various methods of campaign work. The seminar was informative though of necessity brief due to a full agenda for the day; another main topic of discussion was collaboration with the World Council of Churches within their proposed study process “Theology of Peace”. General secretary Marie-Noëlle von der Recke participated in the Open Forum on behalf of Church and Peace. (AGDF-Aktuell, July 2003)
• Quaker research project on non-violent responses to terrorism
The Quaker Council for European Affairs (QCEA) is planning a research project entitled “Terror: a nonviolent response”. The project, which will focus on Canada, Europe and the United States, is intended to bring Quakers and other Christians together to discuss the war on terror, own reactions to violence and terrorism, and the treatment of these topics in the media in order to reflect on nonviolent responses. For more information contact Martina Weitsch at QCEA, +32 2 230 49 35 (Around Europe, June 2003)
• Religious for Peace receive Aachen Peace Prize
The national Aachener Friedenspreis 2003 was awarded to the German Initiative Ordensleute für den Frieden (Religious for Peace). Since their demonstrations 20 years ago against the NATO missile resolution the Initiative has worked for peace and disarmament and, according to the awards committee, “at the same time has focused as a central theme on the capitalist economic system as a source of ongoing injustice and exploitation”. Their methods include attention-getting acts of civil disobedience (see News and Views, Autumn/Winter 2002). Israelis Dr. Reuven Moskovitz and Nabila Espanioly received the international prize for their tireless work for peace in their region. The Aachen Peace Prize honors individuals and groups who build peace through appealing to a sense of justice, nonviolence and civil courage.
• Christian Peacemaker Teams Announces 2004 Delegations
CPT is seeking participants for upcoming delegations to Columbia, the Middle East, Asubpeeschoseewagong (First Nations community in Ontario) and Iraq. CPT, a faith-based group, seeks participants interested in human rights work, committed to nonviolence, and willing to participate in team worship and reflection. The delegation experience culminates in a nonviolent public witness challenging structural violence. Delegates are expected to share about the trip upon return to their home communities and congregations. For more information or to apply: PO Box 6508, Chicago, IL 60680, USA; Tel: +1 773 277 0253; Fax: +1 773 277 0291; Email: guest.903627@MennoLink.org; http://www.cpt.org. (Click on "Delegations")
• Studying peace
Fellowship of Reconciliation/France has just released an issue in their Chairs de la Réconciliation series devoted to the Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World (2001-2010). The double issue, intended as a study guide and resource tool for the decade programmes of the United Nations and World Council of Churches, includes articles on nonviolence and the Biblical roots of nonviolence as well as stories from groups active in promoting a culture of peace and action suggestions for becoming an agent of peace and nonviolence. The 12 € pamphlet can be ordered from FOR/France, 68 rue de Babylone, F-75007 Paris. tel : +33 1 47 53 84 05, fax : +33 1 45 51 40 31, email : email@example.com
• “Why Violence? Why Not Peace?”
The World Council of Churches has published a study guide to encourage individuals and groups in the churches to re-examine their biblical understanding of God’s call to reconciliation and justice. The booklet focuses on the four themes identified for study and reflection during the Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV): the spirit and logic of violence; the use, abuse and misuse of power; issues of justice; and religious identity and plurality. Included are an introduction to the DOV, material for reflection, Bible study suggestions, prayers, ideas for action and information on further resources. Why Violence? Why Not Peace can be downloaded in English, German, Spanish and French at http://www.wcc-coe.org/dov. For more information, contact the DOV office: Tel: ++41 22 791 6111, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
• Resources on Israel-Palestine conflict
"Perspectives of a future peace between Israelis and Palestinians" Msgr. Michel Sabbah, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and President of Pax Christi International, Ecumenical Church Congress, Berlin, 30 May 2003, Ref.ME.81.E.03 <http://www.paxchristi.net/PDF/ME81E03.pdf> .
"Blood. Gore & Peace?" Dr Harry Hagopian, LL.D, KOG-KSL, Ref. ME.84.E.03 <http://www.paxchristi.net/PDF/ME84E03.pdf> .
Written intervention on Israeli - Palestinian conflict for the UN Sub-Commission on Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, Pax Christi International, available in English <http://www.paxchristi.net/PDF/ME85E03.pdf>, ref.: ME.85.ES.03.
(Pax Christi International, Newsletter 114)
• Words for Peace - Prayers, Thoughts, Poems
In response to recent geopolitical developments, various meditative texts, prayers and sayings were grouped together to express the human longing for peace and illustrate paths of peace. “Worte für den Frieden. Gebete-Gedanken-Gedichte” is a 160-page collection of contributions from many well-known Protestant and Catholic writers including Brother Roger (Taizé) and Pope John Paul II. The book also contains prayers by different religious traditions from the joint peace prayer meeting held in Assisi in 2002. With a preface by Bishop Heinz Josef Algermissen, president of Pax Christi Germany. 11,90 €, Verlag Butzon und Bercker, ISBN 3-7666-05321. To order: www.Kolpingladen.de.
• Ending the Occupation
The World Council of Churches has produced a video entitled ‘Ending Occupation: Voices for a Just Peace’. This video is an invitation to all WCC member churches and ecumenical partners to join the ecumenical campaign “End the illegal occupation of Palestine: Support a just peace in the Middle East,” launched by the WCC Central Committee in September 2002. Copies of this video can be obtained from the WCC International Affairs, P.O.Box 2100, CH-1211 Geneva 2 or email: email@example.com (Pax Christi International, Newsletter 112)
• Documentary film on peace fast at the UN
“La guerre n’est pas la solution, elle est LE problème - le sens d’un jêune” (War is not the answer, it is THE problem - fast at the UN) This French-language educational and documentary film was produced following a fast at United Nations headquarters in New York by a group composed of Community of the Ark members, Quakers and Franciscans. The film invites its viewers to prayer, fasting and reflection on the reasons for war. Price: 22 Euro (France), 25 Euro (other). Contact Association Shanti, 37 rue de la Concorde, F-11000 Carcassonne, tel & fax: +33 4 68 71 18 33, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
MARK YOUR CALENDARS! !!
Upcoming Church and Peace Events
• 2004 Annual General Meeting
May 14-16, 2004, Schänzli Mennonite Church, Basel, Switzerland
• Britain and Ireland Regional Conference
16-18 July 2004, venue to be determined. Joint conference with the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship
• Germanic Regional Conference
10-12 September 2004, Schömberg, Germany
• Francophone Regional Conference
5-7- November- 2004, La Chardonnière (Franciscan retreat centre), Lyon, France
• International conference 2005
28 April - 1 May 2005, Communität Christusbruderschaft, Selbitz, Germany