World Council of Churches Office of Communication|
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"Racism no more" is motto of ecumenical delegation at World Conference against Racism
NGO Forum activities began on 26 August with a youth forum and continue through 1 September. The governmental conference runs from 31 August to 7 September. As NGO access to the latter is restricted, a smaller ecumenical delegation will remain in Durban after 1 September to follow the conference and lobby government representatives on the conference "Declaration and Plan of Action".
According to Marilia Schüller, WCC programme executive for combatting racism, the main issues being addressed by the ecumenical delegation relate to ongoing WCC work on the situations of Indigenous Peoples and Dalits, and the triple discrimination of women due to gender, race and class.
White racism as it relates to Africans and African descendants is also an issue to which the delegation is paying careful attention. Schüller notes that in preparing for the conference, a number of NGOs have been seeking recognition by WCAR that slavery, the slave trade and enslavement were crimes against humanity. According to Schüller, "Governments have been reluctant to allow these issues to be tabled for discussion because of concern about reparations and compensation". "As the WCC, we recognize the call for justice and for the redress of inequality by Africans and people of African descent in matters related to slavery," Schüller states. "The situations of racism that affect people today are connected to the issues of the past. At the same time, we don't want the WCAR to lose its focus on issues related to, for instance, the legal aspects of preventing discrimination and racism, or the question of education, history books and school curricula, which should be inclusive of the perspectives of all peoples who have contributed to the life and development of a country."
Another issue the WCC will follow is discrimination of Palestinians based on descent and national origin. Schüller notes that the WCC, through the team on International Relations, has long followed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but that this is the first time it is addressing the cause of the Palestinian people from a racial discrimination point of view.
In preparation for the WCAR, the WCC has held regional meetings in Latin America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, North America, Asia and Pacific, and two meetings in Africa. An international meeting on gender and racism was also held in Africa. Ecumenical delegations have participated in the majority of the experts' meetings and all of the preparatory meetings for the WCAR.
Schüller hopes the conference "will renew the commitment of governments to implement the best possible programme of action endorsed in Durban", and that this commitment "is not bureaucratic but ethical, a position taken in relation to the quality of people's lives".
A team of journalists will accompany the ecumenical delegation and follow issues and events at the conference. WCC Updates will be sent to our media list. In addition, there will be a series of Features in English, French, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Zulu. If you would like to receive these Features, please send an e-mail message or fax to WCC Contact at +41.22.798.13.46, also indicating which language(s) you wish to receive.
Members of the delegation:
Sra Ofelia Alvarez de McDavis, CLAI Nicaragua