Geneva, Switzerland
26 August - 3 September 1999


Document No. I&T 3

Report of Policy Reference Committee II

Preliminaries: the Committee's mandate and task

1. The Committee spent important time initially on clarifying its task (as set out in GS 5 and the annotated agenda provided for members) and removing misunderstandings concerning its role within the new structure which had aroused expressions of confusion and frustration. After discussion, the Committee accepted its task and agenda as:


2. After lengthy discussion, the Committee with unanimity agreed that the concept of Padare provided valuable "open space", free and safe, that enabled Central Committee to share insights, concerns and experience. It was concluded that there was scope within Padare to include sessions that facilitated maximum interaction and some that had a more educational function and presentational mode: some should feed into the Central Committee agenda and others would enable Central Committee members to get to know one another and our respective contexts better. It was decided, after discussion, that the use of the term "Padare" was not inappropriate outside Africa: this was an African contribution to the ecumenical vocabulary to be developed, applied and understood in particular local contexts.

3. It is recommended that:

  1. provision for Padare should be made in future Central Committee meetings;
  2. members of Central Committee should be invited beforehand to offer suggestions for content or to lead sessions in Padare;
  3. decisions about the topics and arrangements (number, length of sessions, etc.) should be made by the Executive Committee and should involve careful preparation;
  4. a small Padare "listening group" should be appointed to accompany the process during Central Committee meetings;
  5. within Padare there should be flexibility as to the possibility of different approaches (as described in paragraph 2 above);
  6. there should be flexibility also as to whether Padare sessions might link with the Central Committee agenda or be free-standing explorations of particular topics of concern;
  7. consideration should be given to the possibility of adopting the Padare approach in certain plenary sessions of Central Committee.
4. Arising out of discussion of the feedback on the 10 Padare sessions within the current Central Committee meeting:
  1. recommendations were passed to the Programme Committee concerning:
    • the continuation of the Protestant/Orthodox dialogue' through the Special Commission and further conversations at future Central Committee meetings;
    • specific urgent initiatives for WCC and CEC concerning the situation in the Balkans, and Kosovo in particular;
    • support for the proposed youth programme on ecumenical formation;
    • greater priority for (cross-team) programmes on ecumenical spirituality;

  2. it is recommended that the next Central Committee meeting should include a full deliberative plenary on such issues relating to world trade, international economics, etc. as had been explored in the WTO session in Padare.

Africa Plenary

5. Appreciation was expressed for the opportunity, in the Africa plenary sessions, to follow up issues raised at the Harare Assembly, but a number of delegates expressed the view that the sessions had not advanced the discussion significantly or provided an adequate opportunity for those from outside Africa to consider how they might accompany the African churches in facing the challenges; and it was regretted in particular that there had been little consideration of the paper on Africa (I&T 1) and the issues it raised which provided a valuable conceptual framework for continuing work within the Africa programme.

6. It is recommended therefore that there should be further work, in the specific context of Africa, through an integrated approach on:

  1. the impact of war and conflict (recognising the links with DOV), micro disarmament, children and women in armed conflict situations;
  2. economic justice, including economic globalisation, debt and governance from the perspective of human rights and human dignity;
  3. spirituality and the promotion of ethical values that enhance life with dignity in sustainable community.

Regional Plenaries

7. The value of "regional plenaries" was strongly affirmed in enabling churches to engage in dialogue, listening to the voices of the region, and informing the ecumenical agenda. It is recommended that regional plenaries should be a regular feature of Central Committee meetings (but not necessarily to the exclusion of deliberative plenaries on other topics). After consideration of the various suggestions made (in the regional meetings and small groups as well as within the Committee - Asia, Europe, the Middle East), it is recommended that, at the next Central Committee meeting, there should be a plenary on Asia, exploring among other issues the economic dimension, and providing delegates from other regions opportunity to consider the significance, for their own church and context, of the issues raised.

8. On the particular issue of children in situations of armed conflict, following the address to Central Committee by Mr Olara Otunnu, the UN Secretary General's Special Representative and the UN Security Council resolution of 29 August, a draft statement, prepared by the Africa regional meeting, was passed to the Public Issues Committee.

Regional Reports

9. In receiving reports from the regional meetings, the Committee noted and endorsed a wide range of areas of work and concerns (for instance regarding spirituality, identity, globalisation, inter-religious dialogue, issues relating to environmental sustainability and indigenous cultures) relating to existing WCC programmes, in which it was hoped that the WCC would continue to encourage and collaborate with regional projects and initiatives. The following were identified as "emerging issues" to which it is recommended that further consideration should be given by staff and subsequent meetings of the WCC governing bodies:

  1. issues of ethnicity, identity, territory and church including the relation between religion and ethnic conflicts, the political and economic effect of the emergence of forms of misused religion, racism and xenophobia;
  2. the implications of the legacy of colonialism and cold war for the process of reconciliation;
  3. the mobilisation of youth in the pursuit of spiritual renewal and Christian unity;
  4. the organising, in consultation with member churches, partners and REOs, of an international consultation for peace and security in North East Asia;
  5. the creation of a framework to enable the WCC to take up the specific offer from South Africa in relation to truth and reconciliation;
  6. the review of mission policies where they have disruptive even violent potential in the local context.

Decade to Overcome Violence

10. A revised draft is attached of the message to be sent to member churches and others relating to the Decade to Overcome Violence.

11. During discussion of the Padare sessions, Africa plenary and regional meetings a number of issues were identified as requiring attention in the context of the DOV - including the intrusion of international militarisation, small arms proliferation, conflict resolution and peace-building, the linkages between DOV and religious and ethnic conflict.

Issues relating to Process, Staffing, etc.

12. The Committee recommends that the following matters be taken into account in planning future Central Committee meetings and the process within Central Committee meetings, and in developing the CUV process:

  1. the dominant methodology, with its emphasis on the consideration of papers often presented at short notice and couched in fairly complicated language, is weighted against those more familiar with other ways of working;
  2. further work needs to be done on issues of communication for example in strengthening links between the WCC and REOs and enhancing links among the regions;
  3. the development of a sense of mutual accountability, involving both support and challenge, within the Central Committee meetings is to be welcomed; but further attention needs to be given to the development of a consistent process whereby issues emerging from the regional meetings can be identified and discussed;
  4. considerable sensitivity is needed in planning the process for the conduct of meetings - even in relation, for example, to seating arrangements, and to securing participation by all Committee members;
  5. there is concern that certain regions (e.g. Asia, Caribbean) are under-represented within the current staffing structure: it is important that the aspirations and perspectives of all regions should be reflected in staff appointments and that in the development and prioritising of work through the CUV framework careful consideration should be given to the most appropriate methodology (whether within WCC itself, at REO level or through a process of collaboration):
  6. concerns for disappearing langauges of Indigenous Peoples.

Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace

Message by the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches

Seek peace and pursue it.
(Psalm 34:14)

In response to a call by the Eighth Assembly of the World Council of Churches,we embark on a Decade to Overcome Violence in the years 2001-2010 and invite churches, ecumenical groups, individual Christians and people of good will to contribute to it.

We are gathered for the first Central Committee meeting after the Harare Assembly at the end of the most violent century in human history. We are convinced: the churches are called to provide to the world a clear witness to peace, to reconciliation and nonviolence, grounded in justice.

We remember the saints and martyrs who have given their lives as a witness for God against the powers of violence, destruction and war. We recall the witness of people who became signs of hope within and beyond their respective communities, opening up alternatives to the deadly cycle of violence. As representatives of member churches of the World Council of Churches, we are inspired by the Gospel message of the peace of Christ, of love and of reconciliation, and the rich biblical tradition of peace with justice. God's promise of life and peace for all humankind and creation calls us to make our lives consistent with our faith, as individuals and as communities of faith.

But we are also aware that Christians and churches have added, through words and actions, to growing violence and injustice in a world of oppression and graceless competition. We are yearning for a community of humankind, in which nobody is excluded and everybody can live in peace with human dignity. As we engage in constructive efforts to build a culture of peace, we know that we are required to embark upon a deep process of change, beginning with repentance and a renewed commitment to the very sources of our faith.

We must give up being spectators of violence or merely lamenting it and must act to overcome violence both within and outside the walls of the church. We remind ourselves and the churches of our common responsibility to speak out boldly against any defense of unjust and oppressive structures, of racism, of the use of violence, including especially violence against women and children, and of other gross violations of human rights committed in the name of any nation or ethnic group. If churches do not combine their witness for peace and reconciliation with the search for unity among themselves, they fail in their mission to the world. Leaving behind what separates us, responding ecumenically to the challenge, proving that nonviolence is an active approach to conflict resolution, and offering in all humility what Jesus Christ taught his disciples to do, the churches have a unique message to bring to the violence-ridden world.

There are a number of positive and encouraging examples from congregations and churches around the world. We recognize the steady witness of monastic traditions and of the "historic peace churches", and we want to receive anew their contribution through the Decade. There are congregations and churches that have become centers of reflection and training for active nonviolence in their own context. They show the kind of courage, skills and creativity that is necessary for active nonviolence and nonviolent resistance. They are sensitive to the destruction of nature and concentrate on the situation of the most vulnerable groups. Part of the contribution to building a culture of peace involves listening to the stories of those who are the primary victims of violence, including people who are poor, women, youth and children, people with disabilities, and Indigenous Peoples.

There are those who teach us through their example that presence in the situations of violence, on the streets and in the war torn areas, the active involvement with victims and perpetrators of violence, is the very key to every process of transformation and change. Prior to the Harare Assembly, the WCC Programme to Overcome Violence and the Peace to the City Campaign have shown: peace is practical, it grows at grassroots level and is nurtured by the creativity of the people. They cooperate locally with civil society and engage in dialogue and common action with people of other faith. The groups from the seven cities participating in the campaign were strengthened and encouraged by each other, sharing their experiences across different contexts and gaining new insight from reflection and exchange at the global level.

The Decade to Overcome Violence will provide a platform to share stories and experiences, develop relationships and learn from each other. The Decade will build upon the initiatives that are already there; we recognize that our work is parallel to the work of the United Nations "Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World". We hope to connect with such initiatives and help them to motivate and strengthen each other. It will facilitate the churches to assist and support each other in their ministry. We offer with the Decade to Overcome Violence a truly ecumenical space, a safe space for encounter, mutual recognition, and common action. We will strive together to overcome the spirit, logic and practice of violence. We will work together to be agents of reconciliation and peace with justice in homes, churches and communities as well as in the political, social and economic structures at national and international levels. We will co-operate to build a culture of peace that is based on just and sustainable communities.

The Gospel vision of peace is a source of hope for change and a new beginning. Let us not betray what has been given to us. People around the world wait with eager longing for Christians to become who we are: children of God embodying the message of love, peace with justice and reconciliation.

Peace is possible. Peace is practical. Seek peace and pursue it.

Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.
(Matthew 5:9)

Working document adopted by the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches
26 August - 3 September 1999


The Eighth Assembly of the World Council of Churches gathered together under an African cross, in Harare, Zimbabwe, to discern priorities and programmes for the next seven years. Around the Assembly theme, "Turn to God - Rejoice in Hope", delegates established the Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV). The Assembly stated that the WCC must "work strategically with the churches on these issues of nonviolence and reconciliation to create a culture of nonviolence, linking and interacting with other international partners and organizations, and examining and developing appropriate approaches to conflict transformation and just peace-making in the new globalized context." The WCC intends, therefore, to further its solidarity with Africa and grow together with the world communion of people who are building cultures of nonviolence and peace.

Faithful to the Assemblys mandate, the focus of the WCCs work during the Decade to Overcome Violence will be on the concept "overcome", rather than "violence". Therefore, the methodology will bring out the positive experiences of churches and groups working towards overcoming violence. The Decade to Overcome Violence must grow out of the experiences and work of local churches and community contexts. The WCC can facilitate the exchange, act as a switchboard, and highlight experiences of local peace-building, peace-keeping, and prevention of violence. The Decade to Overcome Violence, however, should move beyond WCC structures in Geneva to include all member churches, non member churches, NGOs, and other organizations that are committed to peace.

The Decade to Overcome Violence, therefore, will highlight and network efforts by churches, ecumenical organizations, and civil society movements to overcome different types of violence. The WCC should seek to establish points of contact with the relevant aims, programmes, and architecture of the United Nations Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World (2001-2010). It is important for the Decade to Overcome Violence to focus on the specific and unique contributions of both the individual member churches and the WCC as a whole.

Calling on the WCCs rich heritage of programmes for peace and justice, the organizers for the WCCs work on the Decade to Overcome Violence can build on, and create continuity with, models of coordinating a decade, campaigns, and programmes. Organizers will particularly consider the following methodologies: team visits and Living Letters (such as those of the Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women (EDCSW)) to address concerns and perspectives from all over the world; World Wide Web, video, and print materials (Peace to the City campaign); exchanges and visits. The Decade to Overcome Violence should further these methodologies. The Decade to Overcome Violence should continue the work already done through the Programme to Overcome Violence and the Peace to the City campaign.

I. Goals

In order to move peace-building from the periphery to the centre of the life and witness of the church and to build stronger alliances and understanding among churches, networks, and movements which are working toward a culture of peace, the goals of the Decade to Overcome Violence are:
  • Addressing holistically the wide varieties of violence, both direct and structural, in homes, communities, and in international arenas and learning from the local and regional analyses of violence and ways to overcome violence.
  • Challenging the churches to overcome the spirit, logic, and practice of violence; to relinquish any theological justification of violence; and to affirm anew the spirituality of reconciliation and active nonviolence.
  • Creating a new understanding of security in terms of cooperation and community, instead of in terms of domination and competition.
  • Learning from the spirituality and resources for peace-building of other faiths to work with communities of other faiths in the pursuit of peace and to challenge the churches to reflect on the misuse of religious and ethnic identities in pluralistic societies.
  • Challenging the growing militarization of our world, especially the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.
II. A basic framework for the Decade to Overcome Violence

1. Keys to designing and implementing the Decade to Overcome Violence
  • Allowing multiple entry points through which churches, groups, and issues may join and find their voice
  • Ensuring and supporting creative, effective, professional communication as central to the process and success of the Decade to Overcome Violence
  • Sustaining momentum over the ten years
  • Using different methodologies appropriate to specific goals
  • Developing clearly defined goals for the mid-point of the Decade to Overcome Violence (2005 Assembly), as well as for the end of the Decade in 2010
  • Involving all WCC clusters and teams in the Decade to Overcome Violence

2. Two stages of the Decade to Overcome Violence
  • 2001-2005, culminating in the WCCs Ninth Assembly (2005)
  • 2006-2010, culminating in an end of the Decade celebration
3. Phases of the Decade to Overcome Violence
  • Phase I: 1999-2000: Preparation for the Decade and Launch
    The WCC Central Committee will invite member churches and ecumenical partners to join the Decade to Overcome Violence. The WCC Central Committee will ask regional, ecumenical gatherings to outline their specific priorities and projects and thus to contribute to the development of the architecture; formulation of the main message; creation of an appropriate organizational framework and budget for coordination and planning; development and implementation of communication strategies; preparation for the launch.

  • Phase II: 2001-2004: Launch and Decade to Overcome Violence Actions
    In January 2001, simultaneous launches would be organized around the world, involving local congregations and groups as well as highly visible, international events. Different issues and appropriate methodologies will be used in the Decade to Overcome Violence process which are coordinated with regard to planning, communication, joint events, and common goals.

  • Phase III: 2004: Synthesis through Cross-Contextual Analysis and Experience
    As some issues and actions continue, the WCC will facilitate exchanges between creative models of peacemaking addressed in the first three years with the aim of strengthening networks and building new alliances.

  • Phase IV: 2005: Analysis/Evaluation/Preparation for the Assembly and the Next Five Years
    Analysis and evaluation of the first stage of the Decade to Overcome Violence will reflect on the process and assess the following questions: What are the lessons learned this far? What are the challenges to the churches? What are the churches doing? What still needs to be done? Strategic exchanges and visits will help Decade to Overcome Violence participants to listen and learn from one another. These evaluations and exchanges will contribute to the Assembly preparation and build new impetus for the Decades second stage.

  • Phase V: 2005-2010: WCC Ninth Assembly
    Lessons and challenges from the first part of the Decade will be shared. The focus and plan of action for 2006-2010 are finalized and adopted.
4. Possible Approaches and Methodologies
  1. Study processes
    Continuing and expanding the theological reflections on violence and nonviolence, from the perspectives of the dignity and human rights of human beings and of the community; an ongoing and accessible Biblical study process (contextual, cross-contextual, cross-cultural); study and analysis of the work of truth and reconciliation commissions.
    Engaging the churches and regional networks in reflection on violence and peace-building in the midst of structural challenges such as racism, globalization, violence against women, violence among youth, violence against children, etc.

  2. Campaigns
    Providing practical support and solidarity to churches and groups in their efforts to mobilize campaigns on specific issues with defined goals to prevent, transform and overcome violence in their own contexts. Encouraging churches and organizations to network for specific international campaigns.

  3. Education
    Collecting, compiling, and sharing peace education curriculum for children, youth, and adults, by building on existing models, particularly from the Christian perspective, networking educators and resource people, as well as theological institutions, who are engaged in conflict resolution, transformation, and mediation. Challenging present educational systems and media which perpetuate competition, aggressive individualism and violence, especially among children.

  4. Worship and Spirituality
    Sharing resources and practices for worship and prayer across traditions and cultures in order to focus on our common efforts of peace-making and reconciliation. The concept of metanoia is particularly important as the churches take responsibility for their part in violent actions from the past and in the present. Metanoia encompasses confession, repentance, renewal, and celebration of faith and is therefore a foundation of a culture of peace.

  5. Telling the Story - Decade "Open Space"
    Sharing stories of violence, initiatives to overcome violence, and sustaining cultures of peace, churches, communities, groups, and individuals will create open space through the World Wide Web, print, video, events and personal exchanges. These stories will connect people and efforts, provide support and solidarity, share resources and ideas, and provide constant input into the process and focus of the Decade, particularly for the second stage, 2006-2010.
5. Issues
"Violence" is not only physical. "Violence" is also emotional, intellectual, structural. Throughout the Decade to Overcome Violence, the focus will be on the response and prevention to forms of violence, such as:
  • Overcoming violence between nations
  • Overcoming violence within nations
  • Overcoming violence in local communities
  • Overcoming violence within the home and the family
  • Overcoming violence within the church
  • Overcoming sexual violence
  • Overcoming socio-economic violence
  • Overcoming violence as a result of economic and political blockades
  • Overcoming violence among youth
  • Overcoming violence associated with religious and cultural practices
  • Overcoming violence within legal systems
  • Overcoming violence against creation
  • Overcoming violence as a result of racism and ethnic hatred
III. Concluding remarks

The Ecumenical Decade to Overcome Violence is meant to capture the excitement and expectations of churches, ecumenical organizations, groups and movements around the world for the positive, practical, and unique contribution of the churches to building a culture of peace. The design and methodology of the Decade to Overcome Violence should be focused and yet open to allow creativity and to utilize the dynamic energy of the churches and different groups in society. The architecture for the Decade to Overcome Violence will depend on the suggestions, plans, and leadership of the WCCs member churches and ecumenical partners who will define the issues and the processes that will lead the Decade to Overcome Violence forward.

This document will serve as a framework for preparatory steps in the Decade to Overcome Violence. Throughout the Decade, the Executive and Programme Committees will monitor the process and will sharpen the goals and methodologies.

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