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29 January - 6 February 2001
Potsdam, Germany

30 January 2001

Creative dialogue key to Decade to Overcome Violence, Moderator says

People of different nations, cultures and backgrounds should engage in "creative dialogue" to seek nonviolent solutions to problems. That should be the intention of the "Decade to Overcome Violence," said His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia, moderator of the World Council of Churches' (WCC) Central Committee.

Aram I, speaking at a January 29 press conference following the first plenary session of the Central Committee meeting in Potsdam, Germany, said nonviolence pertains to the very being of the church, and is not related to "function or methodology."

The Central Committee serves as the chief governing body of the WCC between international assemblies. It meets every 12 to 18 months. Its meeting in Potsdam began January 29 and concludes February 6.

In an address to the plenary, Aram I shared personal reflections on violence in the world and how the WCC's Decade to Overcome Violence may address issues related to violence. He also said under certain circumstances and as a last resort, people may have to engage in "limited, controlled" violence to overcome injustice. In those cases, "that is understandable," Aram I said though he added "we are not endorsing violence".

"The church is a covenant between the people and God," Aram I said at the news conference, adding the church should reflect God's nonviolent nature. The Decade to Overcome Violence is "a process we are embarking on. It's a very critical process," he said.

The Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, WCC general secretary, said the Decade to Overcome Violence has a subtitle: "Churches Seeking Peace and Reconciliation". "The goal is to establish peace and reconciliation," he said. "That is what we need to formulate criteria for."

"Justice needs to be associated with peace and not with violence," Raiser added.

On another subject, Raiser addressed the progress made between the Roman Catholic Church and the WCC on baptism and justification. The Catholic Church and the WCC have a working group to consider the practical implications of baptism, he said. He pointed to the October 1999 signing of the "Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification" in Augsburg, Germany, between the Catholic Church and the Lutheran World Federation as "a significant development" and said Presbyterians and Methodists are considering joining the agreement.

Photos from the Central Committee

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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.