World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Release
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12 December 1998

WCC Eighth Assembly - Press Release No. 42

Draft public statements on human rights and the status of Jerusalem were presented Saturday (12 December) to the Eighth Assembly of the World Council of Churches, meeting at Harare, Zimbabwe. A vote on issuing them will be taken on Monday (14 December), at the end of the 12-day Assembly, after any proposed amendments have been submitted and the statements debated.

On human rights, the draft includes a call for violators of rights to be brought to international justice and welcomes the agreement to set up the International Criminal Court. "We affirm the right and duty of the international community to hold all State and non-State actors accountable for violations of human rights which occur in their jurisdiction or control, or for which they are directly responsible," the draft says.

Justice should not be limited to current abuses: "We support the efforts of churches and human rights groups in their struggle to overcome impunity for past crimes whose authors have been given official protection from prosecution."

The draft statement acknowledges that religion has become "a major contribution to repression and human rights violations". Churches and other religious groups are often urged by governments to support narrow national, racial or ethnic aims, it says.

"No religious communtiy should plead for its own religious liberty without active respect and reverence for the faith and basic human rights of others," the draft adds. It acknowledges that resolving violations of rights cannot be done by Christians alone and calls on churches to emulate WCC efforts for interfaith co-operation in this area.

A section on women's rights says that violence against women is increasing all over the world, including discrimination, sexual harassment, genital mutilation and rape. It calls on churches to urge their governments to ratify a proposed optional protocol to the UN convention on eliminating discrimination against women. The protocol would allow individual women's complaints on violation of their rights to be received.

A draft statement on Jerusalem says that settling the city's status must be done under an international aegis and as part of, rather than after, a comprehensive settlement on the Middle East. Access to the holy places of Jerusalem must be secured for all faiths, and Palestinians assured of their rights to free access, property, building and residency.

Contact: John Newbury, WCC Press & Information Officer
Press and Information Office, Harare
Tel: +
E-Mail: WCC media

The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 339, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the Assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.