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14 March 2000

WCC to try new approach at UN Commission on Human Rights

At the forthcoming 56th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR), 20 March-30 April, the World Council of Churches (WCC) plans to raise thematic as well as country-specific concerns. This year, WCC involvement will be marked by a greater emphasis on "work outside the official Commission session by arranging parallel meetings on thematic and country-specific issues", explains Clement John, WCC executive secretary for International Relations.

After the last UNCHR session in 1999, WCC staff had critically reassessed the role of oral interventions and decided to seek new strategies for participation at the UNCHR.

This year, the WCC has filed three written statements: one on the situation in Indonesia, another on religious intolerance and violence, and the third on the discrimination of Dalits in India. Already last year the WCC together with the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), Franciscan International and the Dominicans had filed a written statement on the blasphemy law and growing religious intolerance in Pakistan.

In cooperation with national and international non-governmental organizations (NGO's) the WCC is planning to hold a meeting during the UNCHR session on the situation in Indonesia and East Timor. "At least two representatives will be invited from Indonesia to speak at this meeting," says John.

A similar meeting on the issue of religious freedom has been planned in close cooperation with the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), WARC and the Conference of European Churches (CEC). The special rapporteur on religious intolerance will participate in the meeting, which will take place immediately following the delivery of his report.

The WCC will also support various delegations coming to Geneva to attend parts of the UNCHR session. In addition to representatives from Indonesia, the WCC will receive delegations from Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Guatemala and Ethiopia as well as a delegation of Dalits, led by Bishop Azariah of the Church of South India.

Click here to "WCC at the 56th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights".

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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 337, 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.