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3 Septmeber 1999


The World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee declared an Ecumenical Decade to Overcome Violence and set priorities for the Council's work over the next six years.

The Committee adjourned Friday, 3 September after nine days of meetings in Geneva, following closing worship.

The Decade to Overcome Violence was proposed by delegates to the WCC's eighth assembly last December in Harare, Zimbabwe, and last week the Council's general secretary Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser urged churches to help overcome the world's "generalized culture of violence".

The Central Committee also heard an appeal to put the Council's moral weight behind the United Nations Security Council resolution to save children from the scourge of war. In making the appeal, Dr Olara A. Otunnu, the secretary-general's special representative for Children and Armed Conflict, said children should be made "a zone of peace."

The Ecumenical Decade to Overcome Violence will invite churches to reflect on that theme from Christian perspectives and will run simultaneously with a UN decade to protect children from violence.

In other actions, the Central Committee decided to put significant resources into developing the concept of "ecumenical space", which may provide opportunities for churches to come together to discuss difficult issues that threaten to divide them. Some members of the Council, both Orthodox and Protestant, have been unable to agree on such issues as human sexuality, ordination of women and styles of mission. The Central Committee hopes "ecumenical space" will enable members to work and talk together in a spirit of trust and mutual respect.

It was announced that the "Special Commission" on Orthodox and Protestant dialogue in the WCC will hold its first meeting in December 1999 in Geneva. The commission, composed of Orthodox and non-Orthodox representatives of ember churches, will continue meeting for three years. It is expected to discuss divisive issues as well as issues of common agreement, and seek to move toward greater understanding.

The Committee held a special plenary on Africa to follow up on issues raised at the eighth assembly in Harare, and recommended further work on the impact of war and conflict in Africa, economic justice and the effects of economic globalization on the continent, and programmes on spirituality "and the promotion of ethical values that enhance life with dignity".

Central Committee members received reports from ACT (Action by Churches Together), the coordinating relief organization create by the WCC in partnership with other worldwide Christian organizations. ACT is responding to the needs of thousands of earthquake victims in Turkey and, in past months, has delivered supplies to North Korea and done intensive refugee support work in Kosovo. Response to emergency situations will continue to be central to the work of the WCC.

The Central Committee's recognition of the membership application of the Anglican Church of Korea brings the WCC membership to 337. The WCC also has 55 associate councils following the Committee's reception of the Council of Christian Churches in Switzerland.

The Central Committee issued several statements on public issues. A "Memorandum and Recommendations on Response to Armed Conflict and International Law" calls on churches to "be agents of reconciliation in a troubled world" and to commit themselves "at an early stage to prevent the escalation of conflicts". The ecumenical fellowship, the memorandum said, needs "to expand and intensify its efforts in the broader dimensions of peace-making for the sake of peace and justice in the world".

A minute on Nigeria, encouraged churches there "to continue to be a prophetic voice in the nation, and offered them support as they pursue reconciliation in Nigeria". A minute on Peace and Reconciliation between Ethiopia and Eritrea noted that churches and religious groups on both sides "have formed religious committees to promote a peaceful solution", and conveyed to leaders "on both sides our encouragement and the assurance of our prayers".

A minute was issued on the status of Jerusalem. The minute responded to a letter the general secretary received from the Patriarchs and Heads of Christian Communities in Jerusalem, expressing appreciation for the eighth assembly "Statement on the Status of Jerusalem", and reaffirmed "the WCC's conviction that Jerusalem is central to the faith of Christians" and "Christians' responsibility to pray and work ‘for the peace of Jerusalem.'."

Another minute focussed on the situation in Indonesia, where violence continues to take place following the referendum in East Timor in which voters declared independence from Indonesia. This minute urges the United Nations to extend its presence in the country "until security there is restored".

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.