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CENTRAL COMMITTEE 1999 No. 16
CENTRAL COMMITTEE DEPLORES ARMED CONFLICTS AND COMMENTS ON INTERNATIONAL TROUBLE SPOTS
"The nine months since the WCC Harare assembly (December 1998) have yet again been marked by costly international and internal armed conflicts in virtually all the regions of the world, and by growing threats to international peace and security," the Committee said in a memorandum on "Response to Armed Conflict and International Law".
The memorandum deplored "the erosion of the authority and capacity of the United Nations and its institutions created to develop, codify and guarantee respect for the international rule of law".
It singled out the NATO intervention in Kosovo. "Few denied the legitimacy of the urgent humanitarian need created by increasing acts of ethnic cleansing against the ethnic Albanian population in Kosovo," the memorandum said, "but many raised serious questions about the failure of the same nations to respond with similar energy and decisiveness to crises in Africa and elsewhere."
The memorandum called upon churches "to be agents of reconciliation in a troubled world" and said that "the ecumenical fellowship needs, in dialogue and cooperation with people of other faiths, to expand and justify its efforts... of peace-making for the sake of peace and justice in the world."
The Committee approved nine recommendations, including a reaffirmation of WCC support for the UN, and a call on churches "to give expression to an ‘ecumenism of the heart,' to remain open to one another, and to engage in both bilateral and multilateral dialogue on issues related to their shared obligation to manifest the universality of the gospel... in times of religious, ethnic, national or international conflict".
The Central Committee issued a minute on Nigeria, encouraging the churches there "in their witness for human rights, justice and peace".
A minute on peace and reconciliation between Ethiopia and Eritrea expressed support for churches on both sides "who... have formed religious communities to promote a peaceful solution". Father Melake Tabor Tershome Zerihun (Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church) expressed "profound gratitude" for the statement and the WCC's contributions to dialogue in the area, and asked for these efforts to continue.
The Central Committee responded to a letter the WCC general secretary received from the patriarchs and heads of Christian communities in Jerusalem, expressing appreciation for the 1998 eighth assembly statement on the status of Jerusalem. The statement promised to continue promoting Jerusalem as a shared city of two peoples and three religions.
A minute was issued on the situation in Indonesia, where violence continues to take place following the referendum in East Timor in which citizens voted for independence from Indonesia. This statement urges the UN to extend its presence in the country "until security there is restored".
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.