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

16 November 1999


The World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Conference of European Churches (CEC) have expressed their "profound concern" at the intervention by Russian armed forces in Chechnya. In a letter sent to His Holiness Alexy II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, WCC general secretary, Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, and CEC general secretary, Rev. Dr Keith Clements, deplore "the disproportionate and irresponsible use of force employed by the Russian military forces, which is contributing to a humanitarian crisis of the utmost seriousness."

The general secretaries also acknowledge the Russian Patriarch’s statement on the situation in Chechnya, which was issued on Friday, 12 November. In his statement Alexy II urged the Russian military "to ensure that civilians should not become victims in the struggle with the criminals". He also appealed to "the Muslims both in the armed conflict region and throughout Russia" to jointly promote "the spiritual revival of our country and the building of its life according to age-old moral norms".

Action by Churches Together (ACT), the worldwide ecumenical emergency aid network of churches and aid agencies, has issued two appeals for 2 million US-Dollars to assist people in Chechnya, Ingushetia, Daghestan, and in the region of Stavropol. Working with local partner organisations, ACT is planning to deliver food, shelter as well as clothes and will offer basic medical assistance to more than 40,000 needy people throughout the region.

The text of the letter to His Holiness Alexy II, Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, follows:

"We greet you in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ 'for He Himself is our peace' (Eph. 2:14).

On behalf of the Conference of European Churches and the World Council of Churches we express our profound concern at the continued escalation of the conflict in Chechnya and the human tragedy in the North Caucasus region, and we acknowledge with gratitude the recent statement of Your Holiness on this very matter.

The CEC and WCC recognize the context of lawlessness and terrorism which has preceded the current armed intervention by the Russian armed forces. We remember the many victims of terrorist acts, kidnapping and executions in Chechnya, including a number of Christian pastors and workers. However, we raise our voices that even legitimate political or military objectives cannot justify the innocent victims and suffering of peoples in the region.

We deplore the disproportionate and irresponsible use of force employed by the Russian military forces, which is contributing to a humanitarian crisis of the utmost seriousness. We appeal to the Russian and Chechen political authorities, and to the combatants on all sides, to manifest mercy to all people, especially the civilian population, the prisoners and the wounded.

The CEC and WCC appeal to Your Holiness and to the leadership of the Russian Orthodox Church to do everything in your authority to enable unimpeded and secure international humanitarian assistance to be brought to those uprooted by this conflict, and to promote a peaceful resolution of the crisis. The ecumenical organizations will continue to work closely with the Russian Orthodox Church and with other partners to provide relief to those most in need, through its emergency office ACT - Action by Churches Together.

We share with the Russian Orthodox Church the rejection of any attempts to manipulate religion for political ends, which Your Holiness has drawn attention to in previous statements. We oppose any radicalisation on religious grounds, and we encourage all efforts by Islamic and Christian leaders which actively promote peace, tolerance and a real solution to the conflict.

The CEC and WCC pray with the Russian Orthodox Church and other churches, and with all people of good will, that a political solution, which expresses the genuine will of the Chechen people, may be found, and which will lead to the restoration of the rule of law, a lasting and just peace for all the peoples of this region."

For more information contact:
Karin Achtelstetter, Media Relations Officer
tel.: (+41 22) 791 6153 (office);
e-mail: media
Top of page

1999 press releases

WCC homepage

The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 337, 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.