World Council of Churches Office of Communication|
150 route de Ferney, P.O. Box 2100, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
Christmas Message 2000
Can this dynamic be stopped? In many places, people have begun to stand up and to form alliances resisting the culture of violence. Through its "Programme to Overcome Violence", the World Council of Churches has tried since 1994 to support such initiatives and give them greater visibility. Now at the beginning of the year 2001, the WCC will reinforce its efforts and launch a "Decade to Overcome Violence". This Decade is rooted in the conviction that Christians and their churches are called "to provide to the world a clear witness to peace, to reconciliation and non-violence grounded in justice". It is the objective of the Decade to open the space where an alternative culture of peace and reconciliation can grow.
Building a culture of peace and non-violence is an urgent demand, not only for political reasons. Churches are called to articulate the protest of the gospel against the cult of force and greed, against unbridled competition and impunity where fundamental human rights are being violated. The culture of violence is the result of a perversion of basic values; it manifests the inability to sustain relationships. Overcoming violence therefore has to begin in the hearts and minds of people. A culture of peace cannot be imposed from above. It grows where space is provided for learning how to resolve conflicts peacefully, to sustain difficult relationships, to encounter the stranger without anxiety.
Each year at Christmas, we hear the message of the angels: "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those whom he favours" (Luke 2:14). We celebrate the birth of the "Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6), the one who reconciled us to God and with each other and thus proclaimed peace (Eph. 2:17) and a new relationship between those who had been separated by alienation and hostility.
As we celebrate Christmas this year, let us consider what we can contribute to overcoming violence and building a culture of peace. Living in a situation where violence has become omnipresent, those who have heard and accepted the gospel of the peace of Christ are entrusted with the message of reconciliation. They are made ambassadors for Christ and called into a ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18-20).
This, then, is our mission today as Christians: wherever the walls of hostility are being broken down, wherever communal conflict is being resolved peacefully, wherever women and children are being saved from becoming victims of violence, the peace of Christ is being proclaimed to the glory of God.
The Christmas message is also available on cassette, free of charge.
Cassettes of the Christmas message, read in English, French, German and Spanish by the general secretary of the WCC, Konrad Raiser, may be ordered by radio broadcasters and audio-visual services until 12 December.
Orders should be sent to the WCC Media Relations Office (see below)
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.