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

19 May 1999


cf. WCC Press Release of 10 May 1999

The World Council of Churches (WCC) is supporting two national campaigns to reduce the availability of small arms, such as handguns and assault weapons, and surveying churches for information on their current anti-gun efforts. The WCC is calling on its ecumenical partners to support and join in these initiatives.

Signature Campaign in Brazil
A Brazilian anti-gun campaign has been launched by WCC's Peace to the City partner VIVA RIO on Tuesday, 11 May. The Peace to the City global campaign is part of the WCC Programme to Overcome Violence.

Last April Brazil's president Fernando Henrique Cardoso proposed legal steps to ban the commerce of small arms in Brazil. With its signature campaign VIVA RIO seeks to support this political initiative. According to VIVA RIO coordinator, Rubem CÚsar Fernandes, "Brazil accounts for more than 9 per cent of the world's fatal casualities from gun shot wounds, while Brazil's population amounts to 2,6 per cent of the world's population." Fernandes is optimistic about the outcome of the campaign: "The political will of the president of the Republic as well as the existence of a strong social movement in the country create the possibility of a significant example, which can be boosted on a global scale."

The International Action Network of Small Arms (IANSA) has called for an international signature campaign in support of VIVA RIO's national initiative, which seeks to end the trade of small arms Brazil. As a founding member of IANSA, the WCC endorses the international campaign.

The Bell Campaign in the United States of America
The WCC also supports a new campaign in the USA aimed at "reducing the numbers and availability of handguns and assault weapons". The Bell Campaign, led by "victims of gun trauma" will be launched on Tuesday, 25 May in eight major cities in the USA, and national organizers have indicated that many churches will ring their church bells at the conclusion of the official launch at 11:00 am (local time).

Rev. Jeffrey Brown, WCC Peace to the City partner in Boston, is called for more churches to join in the campaign. "As an inner-city pastor who presides over funerals for victims and comforts families traumatized by gun violence, I applaud any action to mobilize a large scale effort to reduce gun violence. Events in places like Littleton, Colorado consistently prove that the spectre of violence is universal, and has spread like an epidemic from the cities to the suburban enclaves and rural hamlets of the US. At the root of this is a moral and spiritual malaise. If churches do not fully commit themselves to come out of their complacency and act as part of the solution, then our children's futures are gone."

WCC survey on microdisarmament
The WCC has also launched a survey to compile a resource list of faith-based organizations which are specifically engaged in small arms and light weapons disarmament. It seeks information on problems faced by communities and the type as well as the impact of initiatives dealing with small arms disarmament.

From the information gathered in response to the questionnaire, the WCC will create a database of existing micro disarmament initiatives for resource-sharing and networking. The database will also be a tool to encourage churches to act on this issue and to assess how, in the future, the WCC can support member churches and related organizations in their efforts to ban small arms.

Further information on the VIVA RIO campaign can be found at
Further information on the Bell Campaign can be found at

For more information contact:
Karin Achtelstetter, Media Relations Officer
tel.: (+41 22) 791 6153 (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.