World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Release
150 route de Ferney, P.O. Box 2100, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
E-mail: media

18 March, 1999


The World Council of Churches (WCC) plans to raise both thematic and country-specific concerns at the 55th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR). According to Clement John, the WCC Secretary for International Affairs, issues of religious intolerance and discrimination will continue to play a central role. Together with the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), Franciscan International and the Dominicans the WCC has filed a written statement on the Blasphemy Law and growing religious intolerance in Pakistan.

Last year the WCC, the Conference of European Churches (CEC), WARC and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) already made a joint oral intervention on the subject of religious intolerance and discrimination, and there are plans to do so again this year. In making this intervention, the WCC wants to draw attention, amongst other things, to situations of tension in Eastern and Central Europe and Asia, and to call for a visit by the Special Rapporteur.

Other issues again on the WCC’s agenda this year are migrants and refugees, child soldiers, Indigenous peoples’ concerns and impunity.

In common with representatives of Indigenous peoples, the WCC will press for the establishment of a Permanent Peoples’ Forum within the UN system and support the review process of the draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

In the area of impunity, the WCC will continue to support churches as they seek to address the problems connected with impunity from the perspective of the victims, and create a culture of accountability and justice.

Another specific subject of concern is the situation of Christian minorities in Muslim countries. According to John, human rights violations against Christians in Pakistan, Indonesia, Sudan, India and elsewhere have continued to increase. Examples cited include the Blasphemy Law and electoral legislation in Pakistan, cases of persecution of Christians in Nepal, and the situation of the Dalits in India.

Two further topics to which the WCC will be devoting attention are the situation of the Ogoni people in Nigeria and economic sanctions against Iraq.

The WCC is also closely monitoring developments in Indonesia. A joint delegation from WCC/Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), which visited the country earlier this year, urged the Indonesian government to identify and bring to justice those responsible for burning and destroying churches and fomenting outbreaks of violence between Christians and Muslims, as well as violence against members of the country’s ethnic Chinese minority.

The Special Rapporteur’s report on the situation in Sudan is awaited with particular interest by the WCC. To date, the WCC has refrained from making an intervention at the Human Rights Commission, choosing instead to work closely with the Sudanese churches and councils of churches in efforts for peace and human rights.

Lastly, the WCC has continued to follow with concern the human rights situation in Guatemala and Colombia. In regard to Guatemala, the WCC’s primary concern is to ensure that the country does not disappear from the focus of international attention, while in the case of Colombia, it will call upon the Commission to urge the Colombian government to guarantee the safety of human rights activists, to carry out a critical review of the existing legal structures and the operations of the security services and to introduce concrete measures to establish effective and adequate control over these state agencies.

For more information contact:
Karin Achtelstetter, Media Relations Officer
tel.: (+41 22) 791 6152 (office);
e-mail: media
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The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 336, 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.