World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Release
150 route de Ferney, P.O. Box 2100, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
E-mail: media

6 September 2000

Indigenous rights in the Pacific: World Council of Churches and
Pacific Conference of Churches in joint workshop

The Pacific Conference of Churches (PCC) and the World Council of Churches (WCC) will take a significant step towards consolidating the commitment of Pacific churches to Indigenous rights in the Pacific. A regional workshop on "Indigenous Peoples' struggle for land and identity in the Pacific", September 11 to 14 in Suva - only weeks after the constitutional crisis in Fiji and ethnic conflict in the Solomon Islands - will be attended by over twenty church representatives from around the Pacific region.

"There are issues which Pacific Island leaders, both church and political, have been trying to express for many years, but they were sometimes hard to articulate. It was made harder because we were, for so long, conditioned by the colonial period. But now we have the opportunity to talk about these issues; we are able to speak freely," said Bishop Jabez Bryce, Anglican bishop of Polynesia and one of the eight presidents of the WCC. Bishop Bryce will open the PCC/WCC workshop on Monday 11 September in Suva.

The workshop is one of a series conducted throughout the world by the WCC's Indigenous Peoples' Programme. The first was held in Rwanda in 1999; this year similar workshops are taking place in Bolivia and the Philippines, with another planned for Thailand in November.

Church representatives will come to the Pacific workshop from Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Samoa, American Samoa, Kiribati, Tahiti, Niue, Cook Islands, Micronesia, French Polynesia and Nauru and Fiji.

The workshop is intended to encourage the churches of the Pacific to increase their involvement in, and advocacy for, Indigenous issues. The current situation in Fiji has underscored the importance of these issues for the churches.

Since the 1970s, the WCC has undertaken programme work in support of Indigenous Nations, communities and organizations. This has included workshops and consultations on historical analysis, discussions on Indigenous spiritualities and strategizing to increase Indigenous participation in the life of the churches. It has also meant support for networking and advocacy at the United Nations (UN), particularly in the preparation of the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the establishment of a Permanent Forum on Indigenous Affairs within the UN. It is in these forums that interrelated issues of land, culture, language, spirituality, power and identity, sovereignty and self-determination are discussed.

For further contact, or arrangements for interviews in Suva, please contact Rev. Bob Scott, WCC Communication, at Raffles Tradewinds Hotel, Lami, Suva: Tel: (679) 362 471; or cellular: (0041) 79 304 7612; E-mail:

For more information contact:
the Media Relations Office
tel.: (+41 22) 791 6153 (office);
e-mail: media
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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.