8th assembly/50th anniversary

Together on Holy Ground
Defending Human Rights
Genocide, persecution, proselytism condemned

Actions on Jerusalem and "child soldiers"

The assembly adopted major statements on "The Status of Jerusalem" and on "Child Soldiers".

After hearing that more than 300,000 children under the age of 18 are currently engaged in armed conflicts around the world, delegates called for "an immediate moratorium on the recruitment and participation of children as soldiers and the demobilization of existing child soldiers".

The statement on Jerusalem declares that:

* Jerusalem is a holy city for three major religions -- Judaism, Christianity and Islam;

* a solution for the "question of Jerusalem" is essential to any negotiated peace agreement in the Middle East;

* negotiations on the future status of Jerusalem must be undertaken without delay;

* any agreement on Jerusalem should assure free access to holy places and equal rights of citizenship for both Palestinians and Israelis.

The churches' commitment to supporting human rights emerged early on as a prominent theme in assembly discussions. In his report to delegates as moderator of the central committee, Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia in the Armenian Apostolic Church, issued a strong affirmation of human rights, describing the defence and preservation of human rights as "a growing ecumenical concern". Deploring the fact that perpetrators of war crimes and genocide are often not brought to justice, Aram insisted that violators of human rights "must be held accountable to humanity".

At a subsequent press conference, the moderator noted that while Christians are called to forgive, forgiveness comes in response to confession. "If the violators of human rights are not confessing their sins, we have to pursue legal actions." In response to a question about what measures should be taken against such persons, WCC general secretary Konrad Raiser stressed that "the WCC has clearly rejected capital punishment as a form of punishment".

Ambassador Thomas Hammerberg from Sweden and Bishop Aldo Echegoyen from Argentina give a press conference on human rights

Photo by Chris Black/WCC. Click on the photo to order (ref. 7140.13s)

The assembly observed the 50th anniversary of the United Nations' adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with a special ceremony on 10 December. Delegates adopted a statement praising the UN Declaration and recommitting the WCC to uphold its principles.

Later in the assembly delegates approved a more comprehensive statement on human rights, expressing support for the rights of women, uprooted people, indigenous people and people with disabilities.

Among other things, the statement:

Padare on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Photo by Chris Black/WCC
Click on the photo to order (ref. 7141-14a)

  • declares that human rights are universal;
  • links human rights with human responsibility;
  • calls human rights "the essential basis for a just and durable peace";
  • affirms religious freedom as a human right and condemns religious persecution;
  • condemns proselytism, urging member churches to "respect the faith and integrity of sister churches";
  • describes racism as "a violation of human rights".

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© 1999 world council of churches | remarks to webeditor