E d i t o r i a l

Table of Contents
issue 17/2000

justice, peace and creation news
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, Deenabandu Manchala, Miriam Reidy-Prost

Layout and design:
Marie Arnaud Snakkers

Printed on environmentally friendly paper

Cover photos: John Taylor, WCC, of a sculpture by the brazilian artist
Guido Rocha, "The tortured Christ"

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


There can be no doubt that our way of thinking is influenced by where you are. I am writing from the South of the world, from Argentina in Latin America - Buenos Aires, to be exact, a large city of some 12 million inhabitants. Writing about violence from this place, as from other countries in the South, is to write about a fact of life and human situations which deeply grieve the heart.

Those of us who defended human rights in the South under harsh military dictatorships know very well that human rights are not an academic exercise but a living experience of suffering and grief - one that continues to sadden thousands of families who still do not know where to go to lay a flower on the grave of their loved ones who disappeared. But violence today is a fact of life damaging communities everywhere in the world. The headlines of the newspaper I read this morning tell the story: Truck Drivers Strike in Argentina; Bank in Buenos Aires attacked - police officers and attackers killed or wounded; Bolivia, peasants and teachers block roads to demand their rights; Colombia, military power to be stepped up with the help of the United States; violent clashes between Palestinians and Jews... We may well ask "what’s going on?" My answer is short and simple: we are living in a "civilisation" based on power and in a context like this, violence is built into the system, with all the consequences we know for the lives of people and the natural world.

However, power as such is not the problem - the real problem is the use we make of it. When power is used to serve life it creates good, when it is used to serve death it creates violence. In this conflict God is not neutral, God condemns power in the service of death and upholds the pillars of love-truth-justice and human dignity Today the power of the globalised economy generates violence. The foreign debts of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean and Africa in particular are producing such extremes of poverty and human destitution that one Anglican bishop has denounced this as the new slavery. Never before in history have some 1000 million people in the world been affected by such a degree of violence. Military power and the manufacture of weapons are a continuing harsh reality, fed by conflicts around the world where huge profits are to be made. The political power of the rich nations determines the life and decisions of the impoverished countries. The power of racism and sexism go on generating violence against women, Black and Indigenous peoples. Not to speak of the millions of children living on the streets around the world, especially in Africa and Latin America, and the old people living as best they can in the poor countries and even in the big cities of the rich North.

I could include many statistics on poverty, malnutrition, exclusion and human destitution but these are not necessary for the readers of this publication. Let me just say, however, that behind the statistics are people who are suffering. On the other hand, it is important to remind ourselves that this is happening at a moment in history - the start of the third millennium - when humanity holds an unprecedented degree of power.

In this context, life comes from any programme that dignifies the human person and defends nature. Death comes from networks trafficking in drugs or arms, and all abuse of women, workers, children, poor people.

I would not like to end this editorial without mentioning the word hope - but let us not confuse hope with mere optimism. Hope is grounded in the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and his victory over violence and death.

Only those who are capable of giving their lives for the sake of the human person and taking concrete action to prevent violence have this kind of hope. This is the path of life.

Bishop Aldo M. Etchegoyan, Argentina
(a member of the WCC Central Committee)

© 2000 world council of churches | remarks to webeditor