E       d       i       t       o       r       i       a       l

justice, peace and creation news

ECHOES is an occasional publication of the World Council of Churches' cluster on "Issues and Themes", Justice, Peace & Creation team.

The executive Director of the Cluster on "Issues and Themes", Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia

Publication Staff Team:
Susie Harrison, Bob Scott, Marillia Schüller, Miriam Reidy-Prost

Articles for future publications are welcome.

Articles published in ECHOES are WCC copyright, however permission will be granted to reproduce most material on application.

All correspondence and inquiries should be directed to:

Justice, Peace & Creation
World Council of Churches
150 rte de Ferney
P.O. Box 2100
1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland

Tel: (41 22) 791 6111
Fax: (41 22) 791 6409
Email: WCC Contact


The roots of racism are deeply embedded in our global system. There is no hiding place. There are no safety zones; there is no sacred space. The violence of racism is institutional and structural; it is personal and communal, causing untold misery and death. It pervades our values and constricts our creativity.

The roots are so deep that they have taken hold of all of us, and we no longer seem to be able to see or act clearly when the issue of race hits the table. The roots are connected to centuries of conquest, genocide, and slavery, as well as centuries of exploitation and oppression.

As an African American growing up in the southern region of the United States, I experienced first-hand the reality that racism breaks, divides, dehumanises and that it destroys individuals and communities. Its purpose is to protect White power and privilege and to disempower communities of Colour. It functions as a demonic force with devastating consequences.

This was the grounding of my understanding when I became a member of the Programme to Combat Racism (PCR) Commission of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in 1984.The work of PCR was known to me as a result of its significant stance against apartheid in South Africa.

PCR was launched as a result of a speech by James Baldwin (a noted African American author) to the 1968 WCC Uppsala Assembly. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. had been invited to address that Assembly. However, an assassinís bullet ended his life in April 1968. James Baldwin was asked to step into his place, and it was the powerful word that he delivered, combined with the magnitude of the Civil Rights movement being waged on the ground in the United States, and the continuing struggle against apartheid in South Africa, that prompted that body in a decisive voice to proclaim:

...that racism was a powerful ideology maintained by economic and political structures which function at all levels of society. It further singled out White racism as the primary proponent of discrimination and declared the need for an urgent programme to guide the Council and its member churches on racism.
By the time the twenty-first century began, I found myself growing in the depth with which I understood racism from an international perspective. In 1984 racism - according to my definition - was primarily a Black White issue. As I live and move in this millennium, I carry with me a deeper understanding of the ways in which the demonic nature of this sin is being experienced around the globe. I see the many faces of it as I remember the sisters and brothers from many places and spaces who sat with me around a common table as PCR Commissioners and later as Commissioners of the Programme Unit on Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation. As you read this publication, I hope you will see the connections and the demonic threads that racism continues to weave around the globe.

As the meaning of this publication continues to unfold, it is imperative that the WCC and its member churches, as well as movement groups that use it, take it as their marching guide into the twenty-first century. If we are to make the connections that will allow us to win the ongoing fight around the world to eliminate racism, we must function in new ways. Barney Pityana calls us to a redefining of racism, and Maria-Cristina Ventura calls us to a theological deconstruction and reconstruction that involves questioning and confronting theology.

This means a time of turning for us as individuals and churches. We cannot continue with business as usual. To embrace the freedom of God is to stand on free ground - it is to recognise that we are not captive to the old order. Rather, God is calling us to new ways of looking at things, new ways of feeling and new ways of living. Isaiah 43: 19 reminds that God is calling us to leave the old behaviour and to join the God of the twenty-first century who is doing a new thing.

For me, the new involves taking racism out of the box of simply a Black and White context. It is that! But it is more. It is the more that this publication unpacks. When we see the connections, understand that the struggle is not just local, but that it is global and come face to face with the reality that racism is a demonic power that must be discerned, unmasked and engaged - we may be able to combat racism in our lifetime.

Yvonne V. Delk

© 1999 world council of churches | remarks to webeditor