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 July 2001

Churches use story, symbol and dance to protest the use of and trade in small arms

cf. WCC Press Update, Up-01-04, of 27 March 2001
cf WCC Press Feature, Feat-01-02, of 26 February 2001

An ecumenical delegation present at the United Nations Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects taking place 9-20 July in New York will not only lobby government representatives but also support public action and artistic exhibits and performances during the conference. Salpy Eskidjian, WCC International Relations staff, says: "We are participating because we want to raise awareness about the impact of the use of small arms on the lives of people."

The World Council of Churches (WCC) is sending an ecumenical delegation composed of members of its Commission of Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) and representatives of its Peace to the City Network from areas heavily affected by the use of guns. Members of the Commission will be addressing the parallel events organized by the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA), including an interfaith prayer service. The WCC is also supporting an exhibit in the UN building: a "Wall of Pain" begun by Peace to the City partner Viva Rio. The 12 meter-long display of art, photos, stories and symbols of personal experiences of the effects of armed violence in society will continue to grow with contributions from around the world during the conference.

An International Rally organized by IANSA will be held in New York on 17 July at the UN (Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, 47th and 1st Avenue). The rally aims to encourage states to commit to measures that will have a real and beneficial impact in the drive to stop gun trafficking and save lives. The theme of the rally is "Guns Know No Borders".

A Peace to the City dance will be performed at the rally from 11:00 am-12:00 noon. Produced in Brazil, performed by the Marcia Milhazes Danša Contemporanea, Trio Aquarius, and Soprano Juliana Franco and sponsored by the WCC, this contemporary ballet builds on local stories from seven cities. The dance is a contribution to the WCC's Decade to Overcome Violence 2001-2010. It "brings artistic expression to the world-wide struggle to overcome violence and build a culture of peace".

UN background documents note that secretary-general Kofi Annan describes small arms as "weapons of mass destruction" in terms of the carnage they cause. Yet there is still no global non-proliferation regime to limit their spread, as there is for chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. Addressing the Security Council in September 1999, Annan called the effort to constrain small arms proliferation "one of the key challenges in preventing conflict in the next century".

A Policy Framework and Guidelines on Small Arms and Light Weapons adopted by WCC/CCIA in May 2001 challenges churches to support an emerging international small arms action agenda designed to "control the supply and availability of small arms and light weapons, to promote social, economic and political conditions to reduce the demand for small arms and light weapons, and to facilitate and ensure effective implementation of and compliance with small arms control and reduction measures".

The WCC document notes that "churches are well placed to acknowledge and testify to the impact of small arms, since they minister to the victims and their families all around the world, in rich and poor nations", and that churches have a role in policy development "bringing theological insights and moral and ethical perspectives".

This UN Conference could be a critical first, but only "early, step on the way to developing the international measures, norms and laws needed to reduce the demand for and enhance the control of small arms and light weapons".

WCC delegation members include:
Commission of Churches on International Affairs (CCIA)
Bishop Dinis Sengulane, Diocese of Lebombo, Mozambique
Tony Waworuntu, International Affairs secretary, Christian Conference of Asia (CCA)
Rubem Fernandes, executive director, Viva Rio/ISER (Instituto de Estudo da Religião), Brazil
Ernie Regehr, director, Project Ploughshares, Canada
Stein Villumstad, associate general secretary of Norwegian Church Aid

Peace to the City representatives
George Qassis, Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between People, Beit Sahour
Florella Hazely, advocacy officer, Christian Council of Sierra Leone
Rev. Jeffrey Brown, director, Ten-Point International, Boston, USA

WCC Staff
Salpy Eskidjian and Sarah Estabrooks, International Relations

Website on WCC participation in the UN small arms conference
photos of the Peace to the City dance production

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 342, 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.