World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Release
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24 January 2001

International launch of the Decade to Overcome Violence
Christians around the world will join in the official celebrations in Berlin

The World Council of Churches (WCC) will celebrate the international launch of the Decade to overcome Violence: Churches seeking Peace and Reconciliation (2001 - 2010) on Sunday 4 February in Berlin, Germany, with a series of events to which the general public is also warmly invited. The launch will take place during the meeting of the WCC Central Committee in Potsdam from 29 January to 6 February 2001.

The ecumenical service to celebrate the international launch of the Decade will be broadcast live on radio and television, directly from the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche in Berlin from 10.00 till 11.00 a.m. (local time) and can be picked up worldwide on Radio Deutsche Welle.

Churches and congregations all over the world have been invited to hold services at the same time. The outline of the Decade launch service is available in English, French, German and Spanish on this site.

For the people of Berlin, the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche is a not only a symbol of destruction and violence. After the church was badly damaged during the Second World War, it was not demolished but deliberately preserved in its ruined state. In 1961 a new church was built alongside the ruined part as a sign that, even in a world of violence, there is room for hope of a future of peace.

An all-night vigil to commemorate child victims of violence
The Decade launch service will be preceded by an all-night vigil in memory of children who have lost their lives as a result of violence in one form or another. The group preparing the service wants to remember "the suffering of these most vulnerable members of our society who are exposed to armed conflicts, abuse, depravation, destitution, disease and hunger through no fault of their own". The organizers of the vigil say, "Even though we will not know the names of all the children who have died of different forms of violence around the world, those whose names are known to us should not be forgotten. Their names will be spoken aloud, and we will pray that we may find a way to help build a culture of peace in which children everywhere may grow up safe and secure."

Christians around the world have been asked to give the WCC names of children known to them who have been victims of violence in their community, their country or region or in other parts of the world. The names can be submitted directly via the WCC website, or by other means.

Public Event in Berlin's House of World Cultures
The launch then continues with a varied programme of music and dance, speeches and interviews in Berlin's House of World Cultures, starting at 12.00 (local time). During the Foyer Festival peace groups and initiatives can present their work, projects and programmes.

The first highlight of the afternoon, at 13.00 (local time) is a presentation of the WCC's dance theatre production "Peace to the City", with the Marcia Milhazes Dançça Contemporânea company, the Aquarius Trio and the soprano Juliana Franco. With the composer Nestor de Hollanda Calvalcanti, these artists from Brazil have created a modern music theatre production vividly depicting the experience of violence and work for peace in cities.

Prominent guests from Germany and abroad have also accepted the invitation to attend, including the Nobel Peace Prize-winner, José Ramos-Horta, from East Timor, and the chairperson of the German Parliamentary Commission on Immigration and former President of the German Bundestag, Rita Süssmuth. Both will talk about aspects of violence and their visions for peace. The moderator of the WCC central committee, His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia, will then outline what is involved in the Decade and invite the churches to participate.

To conclude the event, a candle-light procession will make its way to the Brandenburg Gate.

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.