“Christ has shown us a better way than violence”
DOV is launched in the Pacific regionThe Decade to Overcome Violence was launched in the Pacific region during the 8th assembly of the Pacific Conference of Churches on 13th September 2002. It is the latest region of the world to join the DOV. Attended by nearly 200 representatives from churches and national councils of churches throughout the Pacific, the assembly was held on the beautiful island of Raratonga in the Cook Islands.
The assembly opened on September 11, as memorial services were held in the USA and throughout the world, for the victims of the terrorist attacks in the USA. In her opening address to the assembly one of the WCC presidents, Dr Agnes Abuom of Kenya, referred to the tragedy as a reminder of the vulnerable state of our world. “This is a time when the world is more than ever intertwined and, at the same time, so fragmented” she said. “In view of the conflicts and increase in all forms of violence, the ecumenical vision needs to articulate the message of peace and reconciliation, ministry of peace building and conflict management.”
The overall theme of the assembly was “Holy Spirit Weave Us Together in Your Peace”. This also became the thread woven through the DOV launch itself. During the event the participants sang “weave us together” between each part of the programme. A Catholic priest even wrote a song as he listened to the different parts of the launching ceremony. He later accompanied himself on the guitar as he sang, “ Holy Spirit come, weave us together in peace, fill us with love, give us the light, that shines forth as Island of Hope”.
The ceremony began with WCC Pacific desk staff person, Fei Tevi explaining the resolutions on DOV passed at the WCC’s Eighth Assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1998. WCC president from the Pacific, Bishop Jabez Bryce, led participants in the prayers of confession and forgiveness used at the Berlin launch of DOV in 2001. WCC Communication person, Rev Bob Scott, moved among the participants asking the question, “what is your experience of violence where you have come from?”. They spoke about armed conflict, especially in Bougainville, Solomon Islands and East Timor. They spoke of political unrest, especially in Fiji. They spoke of the violence done to local communities by heavy-handed foreign multinationals who exploit local industries and resources. They spoke of the pain of domestic violence and the denigration of the place of women in some communities. They spoke of the violence present in the churches, sometimes unwittingly, as traditional religious beliefs and practices are pushed or as sexual exploitation is permitted to go unchallenged. They spoke of the ongoing horror of the long-term health consequences of French nuclear testing in French Polynesia.
Then Anglican Archbishop Sir Ellison Pogo of the Solomon Islands used his keynote address to describe the recent ethnic conflicts in his country. He said,
“The Solomon Islands over the recent past has suffered a conflict as it has never before seen. This conflict has brought new dimensions to the spiritual, political, social and economic fabric of Solomon Islands society. Globalisation has also reached us, in terms of violence that was unheard of in the Solomon Islands for over a hundred years. Violence that was heard of only in other regions of the world was practised with great skill in the conflict. There must be a lesson for all other countries in the region.”
He spoke of the challenge to the churches to give up being spectators of violence, or merely lamenting it, and acting to overcome violence both within and outside the walls and membership of the church. “The need was clear to move peace-building from the periphery to the centre of the life and witness of the churches and to build stronger alliances and understanding among churches, networks and movements which are working towards a culture of peace.”
He spoke of church involvement in visiting militia camps, offering counselling to the soldiers and trying to initiate dialogue between them. Finally it was to the churches the militia looked to help mediate a peace, which eventually became a cease-fire agreement and then a peace agreement.
Turning to his understanding of a theological basis for non violence the archbishop said, “People around the Pacific and 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…..Christ has shown us a better way---love is the way that will enable our communities to face the enormous challenges of our times. Love is the way for our churches and Christians in the Pacific to make this decade the decade that ends violence.”
The retiring moderator of the PCC (Mrs Fuiva Kavaliku of Tonga) formally launched the DOV with these words:
“Members of the assembly we have heard the challenge of the Decade to Overcome Violence. We have heard that we are called on just to be peacemakers but to go further: to name, confront and overcome violence, in all its forms.
We have also heard our own delegates speak about the forms of violence we experience in the Pacific – and there are many more.
On behalf of you all, I launch the Decade to Overcome Violence here in the Pacific region. May God’s Holy Spirit be with us as we confront the forces of darkness, the manifestations of violence and as we are determined to overcome violence.”
The DOV launch ended with students, and members of their families, from the Cook Island Theological College performing a thirty minute musical drama based on the story of the Prodigal Son, emphasising the reconciliation aspect of the DOV challenge.