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Reports of historic International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Kingston, Jamaica

“The world’s churches – those within the World Council of Churches (WCC)– are further on the way to becoming “living peace churches” than many of us in our “historic peace church” might imagine. This gathering of Christians, lay and clergy, women and men, young and old, black and white and shades in between – all following a call to “Just Peace” – was simply awesome! It was a joy and a privilege to spend a week amongst so many wonderful, Spirit-led people. So writes Gordon Matthews of Britain Yearly Meeting, who represented FWCC at this historic event, which explored the themes of:

  • Peace in the Community
  • Peace with the Earth
  • Peace in the Market Place
  • Peace among the Peoples

Anglican priest and Quaker Paul Oestreicher was one of three keynote speakers on the opening day, 18th May 2011. In his address he called for war to be made illegal, just as slavery was made illegal, as a step towards its ultimate abolition.

Kees Nieuwerth , Clerk of Netherlands Yearly Meeting, and Janna Postma, representing Church and Peace co-presented a workshop entitled “The Responsibility to Witness: The Historical Peace Church Testimony towards Peacebuilding”. Kees called for an ecumenical peace council to be held in 2021. He said that the churches should finance nonviolent responses to conflict and that the WCC should campaign for nuclear disarmament and the abolition of war. Kees also wrote a report of his experience of the convocation.

The convocation ended with a powerful message, which, among other things, stated:

“We appeal to governments and other groups to stop using religion as a pretext for the justification of violence.

We are unified in our aspiration that war should become illegal.
Issues of sexuality divide the churches, and therefore we ask the WCC to create safe spaces to address dividing issues of human sexuality.
At every level churches play a role in supporting and protecting the right of conscientious objection, and in assuring asylum for those who oppose and resist militarism and armed conflicts.

We acknowledge the peacemaking capacity of youth and call on the churches to develop and strengthen networks of Just Peace ministries.
We join global civil society in urging governments to reconstruct radically all our economic activities towards the goal of an ecologically sustainable economy.

It is a scandal that enormous amounts of money are spent on military budgets and toward providing weapons for allies and the arms trade while this money is urgently needed to eradicate poverty around the globe, and to fund an ecologically and socially responsible reorientation of the world economy.
History, especially in the witness of the historic peace churches, reminds us of the fact that violence is contrary to the will of God and can never resolve conflicts. It is for this reason that we are moving beyond the doctrine of just war towards a commitment to Just Peace.

We continue to struggle with how innocent people can be protected from injustice, war and violence. In this light, we struggle with the concept of the “responsibility to protect” and its possible misuse. We urgently request that the WCC and related bodies further clarify their positions regarding this policy.

We call on the ecumenical movement as a whole, and particularly those planning the WCC Assembly of 2013 in Busan, Korea, with the theme “God of life, lead us to justice and peace”, to make Just Peace, in all its dimensions, a key priority. Resources such as An Ecumenical Call to Just Peace (ECJP) and the Just Peace Companion can support this journey to Busan.

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