World Council of Churches
CENTRAL COMMITTEE
Potsdam, Germany
29 January - 6 February 2001
Document No. PI 6.2


Adopted

REPORT OF THE PUBLIC ISSUES COMMITTEE

The Public Issues Committee expresses its thanks to members of the Central Committee for their proposals, advice and cooperation in developing the following public issues actions which we present for action. In order to facilitate the task during this final plenary devoted to Public Issues, we have circulated to members Document PI 6.1 for their review and comment. We have considered all the responses received and amended the draft proposals to reflect a number of them.

For the information of the Central Committee we note that:

PUBLIC ISSUES ACTIONS RECOMMENDED BY THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

I. Statement on the Situation in the Sudan
1. Background. The conflict in Sudan has been on the ecumenical agenda for over three decades. The roots of the conflict lie in its history of slavery and colonialism and date back to 1956 when the country gained independence from Great Britain. The situation today, however, has become increasingly more complex than when the almost thirty-year long conflict began. The main causes of the conflict are to be found in:

2. From 1971 the WCC, in cooperation with the AACC, engaged actively in a mediation effort with the South Sudan Liberation Movement and the Government of Sudan that led to the 1972 Addis Ababa peace agreement. Though this agreement brought a cessation of hostilities and a substantial reform of government of a united Sudan, it eventually collapsed, giving rise to a new civil war.

3. In view of the new intensification of the fighting, the WCC Central Committee adopted a Minute on the Sudan in August 1992, expressing concern about the situations in South, East and West Sudan that had displaced thousands of civilians, especially including children. It called on the United Nations to promote a cease-fire in Southern Sudan and a disengagement of troops, together with resumption of the stalemated Abuja negotiations. The Central Committee reaffirmed the need for the WCC to remain in contact with the parties to the conflict in efforts to promote a just and lasting peace.

4. Again in September 1997 the Central Committee adopted a Statement on Sudan, where it welcomed the common position taken by the church leaders in North and South Sudan in their paper: "Here We Stand United in Action for Peace." That paper called for a stop to the war and dialogue for peace among the armed factions in the South and between them and the Government of Sudan. The Central Committee urged all parties, their supporters abroad and those seeking to assist in the achievement of a negotiated peace to support the resumption of the IGAD Peace process, to cooperate with it, and to place their various initiatives within the framework of the IGAD principles.

5. The Sudanese churches have been unceasing in their own efforts to promote peace at all levels. The New Sudan Council of Churches has undertaken a significant, innovative new effort in this direction through a series of People-to-People Peace Conferences in Southern Sudan. These have resolved a series of ethnic and communal conflicts and brought hope and stability to some of the areas most affected by the hostilities. The Khartoum-based Sudan Council of Churches has also developed an active program in advocacy and grassroots peacemaking, especially among women and youth.

6. At the regional level, the IGAD Peace Process - that started with much promise and hope with the acceptance of the Declaration of Principles by the parties to the conflict - now shows signs of stagnation despite zealous efforts of the IGAD Secretariat as well as of Northern States members of the IGAD Partners Forum to keep the negotiations on track. These have not been sufficient to remove the primary obstacle in the way of negotiations, namely the reluctance on part of the Government of Sudan to accept the principles of separation of religion and state and to implement fully the IGAD Declaration of Principles. As a result, impatience with the slow progress of negotiations has led to insistent new calls by the people of the South, and of their churches, for self-determination and independence from the North.

7. The current situation. In the late 1990ís the Government's oil exploration efforts in Southern Sudan, in cooperation with Western and Asian petroleum companies, succeeded in producing some 150,000 barrels a day in the Upper Nile. Oil production has contributed to an escalation of the conflict and hardened the determination of the Government of Sudan to pursue a military solution to the conflict. The churches in Sudan, together with ecumenical partners abroad, have called for a just sharing of oil resources and have demanded that the oil revenue be spent on improving the situation of the people and not on promotion of the war effort through purchase with oil revenues of more sophisticated arms.

8. In its war effort the Government of Sudan has used air power ever since the war began in Southern Sudan. In recent times, however, aerial bombardment has targeted civilians and taken an increasingly heavy toll through high altitude bombing. Densely populated civilian areas like Kotobi and Lui have been bombed repeatedly, resulting in loss of life and destruction of property. One of these bombings that occurred in the in the hometown of Bishop Paride shortly after he addressed the Eighth WCC Assembly in Harare was vigorously protested immediately by the WCC Officers to the Government of Sudan through its embassy in Zimbabwe.

9. The continuing bombing has further increased the suffering of the people already caught in the midst of this seemingly endless conflict. Bombing missions have not spared NGOs involved in humanitarian relief operations, a number of whose aircraft have been destroyed. These air strikes eventually drew international attention. They were suspended for a period in the middle of last year after UN General Secretary Kofi Annan intervened, but were resumed with a vengeance later. On 29th December 2000 the Sudan air force bombed the Episcopal Church Cathedral in Lui, Equatoria Province, completely destroying it. The raids continue unabated taking a continuing heavy toll of casualties.

10. The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches meeting in Potsdam from 29 January to 6 February, 2001, profoundly conscious of the unbearable suffering of the Sudanese peoples, especially those in the South, as a result of more than thirty years of civil war:

10.1. calls on the Government of Sudan to immediately cease the bombing of civilian targets of Southern Sudan, Nuba Mountains, Southern Blue Nile and other marginalized areas, and to abide by international law;
10.2. calls for the establishment of a no-fly zone in these areas, except for protected access of aircraft transporting humanitarian supplies;
10.3. urges the Government of Sudan, the SPLA and other warring parties to abide by the Geneva Convention and to allow independent observers to monitor the situation.
10.4. reminds the Government of Sudan of its responsibility to guarantee the safety and security of all its citizens both in the North and in the South;
10.5. notes with concern that the oil revenue earned by the Government of Sudan is diverted to its war effort and contributes to the escalation of fighting in Southern Sudan rather than being utilized to meet the urgent needs of the people affected by the hostilities;
10.6. requests member churches to undertake lobbying and advocacy efforts with governments and oil companies based in their countries for the cessation of further petroleum exploration and development in Southern Sudan until such time as a peace agreement is reached between the parties;
10.7. reiterates its conviction that any lasting peace in Sudan must be negotiated with the support of partner states in the region through the IGAD peace process and the Declaration of Principles enunciated thereunder;
10.8. reassures the churches of the Sudan of the continuing support and prayers of the World Council of Churches in their peace efforts;
10.9. appeals to WCC Member Churches to intensify their efforts to encourage and support the joint peace initiative of the Sudan Council of Churches and the New Sudan Council of Churches;
and 10.10. urges churches and church-related agencies to continue to provide necessary humanitarian support to the Sudan for the needs of refugees and displaced persons, those in desperate situations of poverty, and the victims of war, including especially those disabled as a result of wounds inflicted through war, mines and bombing.
RECOMMENDATION: The Public Issues Committee recommends the adoption of this statement.


II. Minute on the Situation in the Holy Land after the Outbreak of the Second Palestinian Uprising
In an appeal on November 9, 2000 all thirteen Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant Churches of Jerusalem, expressed their conviction that:

The Church believes that it is the right as much as duty of an occupied people to struggle against injustice in order to gain freedom, although it also believes that non-violent means of struggle remain stronger and far more efficient. In this sense, both parties must show the necessary fortitude, both in their hearts and in their minds, to look at the core of the conflict so that the Palestinian people can gain at long last its full freedom within its own sustainable state. It is imperative now to implement principles of international legitimacy by enforcing the binding UN resolutions. Such fortitude is a wise sign of foresight and an indispensable prerequisite for long-lasting peace. (Excerpt from "A Faithful Appeal,")

The Central Committee expresses its deep sadness and grave concern at the new escalation of violence in the Palestinian autonomous and occupied territories as well as Israel over the last four months that has claimed a terrible toll of human life, especially among Palestinian children and youth. It extends its consolation to all the afflicted and the bereaved and assures the Heads of Churches and Christian communities of Jerusalem of its constant prayers and solidarity, as they bear in their hearts and minds the pain of their communities and of all those Palestinians and Israelis who are suffering the consequences of this conflict.

We share the frustration and disappointments of our Palestinian sisters and brothers. We are deeply disturbed by and deplore a pattern of discrimination, routine humiliation, segregation and exclusion which restricts Palestinian freedom of movement, including access to the holy sites, and the disproportionate use of military force by Israel, the denial of access to timely medical assistance, the destruction of property, including tens of thousands of olive trees, and which requires special permission for Palestinians to enter areas under Israeli jurisdiction and establishes "cantonization" of the land, so that Palestinian land is separated from one another - a pattern so very reminiscent of policies that the WCC has condemned in the past.

We therefore urge the member churches of the WCC to increase their efforts to condemn injustice and all forms of discrimination, to end Israeli occupation, to pray for and promote a comprehensive and just peace in the Middle East. To help inform and strengthen those efforts, we commend to the churches the background information presented to this meeting for their study and urgent action.

We call upon the General Secretary and staff of the Council to:

RECOMMENDATION: The Public Issues Committee recommends the adoption of this minute.


OTHER PUBLIC ISSUES ACTIONS

III. Minute on Colombia
The United States of America has approved and is implementing its "Plan Colombia." This plan, that includes the provision of additional military equipment and action in Colombian territory was denounced by the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI) at its Assembly in Barranquilla, Colombia (14-19 January 2001). This plan has also been denounced in the "Letter of the Excluded" prepared by non-governmental organizations in Latin America and sent to the United Nations last year.

The Latin American churches consider that this plan is adding more violence to the already critical situation in Colombia and there is a serious danger of expansion of the conflict into other Latin American countries. In fact, the neighboring countries are already deploying military forces on their borders with Colombia. As a consequence of this, the number of refugees and displaced people has grown dramatically. In the year 2000, 38,000 people were killed. Thousands more have disappeared, been maimed or displaced from their homes. The Afro-Colombian communities and Indigenous Peoples have been particularly affected.

The churches in Colombia are in dialogue with sister churches in other parts of the world, including the churches in the USA, in order to inform them about the situation and develop joint actions of advocacy and solidarity. The General Secretary of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA recently led a delegation to Colombia to assess the expansion of violence and seek ways to be supportive of the churches in Colombia and the region.

Convinced that military aid does not help the cause of peace, the Central Committee joins with the CLAI Assembly in opposing this Plan. It expresses its solidarity with the Colombian people, especially the families of those killed, maimed, disappeared or displaced, and with the Colombian churches in their work to support peace. It urges the staff of the Council to intensify its efforts in support of a negotiated peace to end the decades-long violence in Colombia.

RECOMMENDATION: The Public Issues Committee recommends the adoption of this minute.


IV. Minute on Cyprus
Meeting in the reunified Germany, the Central Committee recalls that it was during its meeting in Berlin, in August of 1974, that Turkish armed forces invaded Cyprus causing the exodus of more than 250,000 people from their lands, and occupied thirty-seven per cent of its territory. We renew the World Council of Churchesí appeals for justice, peace, reconciliation and the reunification of Cyprus, and reassure the people and the Church of Cyprus of our continuing prayers that this long-standing conflict will soon be settled through negotiation and this last wall of separation in Europe finally be brought down.

RECOMMENDATION: The Public Issues Committee recommends the adoption of this minute.


V. Minute on Indonesia
The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches notes with great pain and sorrow that the inter-communal violence in the Malukus region began in January 1999 has left over 5,000 people dead, some 500,000 displaced, and property worth billions of rupiah destroyed. Trust between the Muslim and Christian communities has seriously eroded. Though cease-fires and moratoriums on killings have periodically been agreed between the two communities, these have all been of short duration and fighting has been renewed with a vengeance. The Indonesian security forces have often been irresponsible and inept in the carrying out of their responsibilities, and have repeatedly failed to stop or control the violence and bring the perpetrators to justice. In fact there is clear evidence that members of the Indonesian army and police forces have participated directly in some of these attacks. National authorities have to date failed to take any disciplinary action against such offenders.

The situation has been further compounded by the organized entry of the Java-based radical Islamic group called "Lashkar Jihad," thousands of whose members have indulged in systematic "religious cleansing" of Christians and acts of forced religious conversions. This group has been provided arms and training by a section of the Indonesian armed forces and has also received support and encouragement from Jakarta-based politicians.

The Central Committee:

RECOMMENDATION: The Public Issues Committee recommends the adoption of this minute.


VI. The Protection of Endangered Populations in Situations of Armed Violence: Toward an Ecumenical Ethical Approach
The Central Committee received prior to this meeting Document No. PI 2, entitled "The Use of Armed Force in Support of Humanitarian Purposes: An Ecumenical Ethical Approach". Some Central Committee members accepted the invitation to comment on the document prior to this meeting. Others have spoken to its contents in response to the Moderatorís Report and in other plenary and committee discussions during this meeting. Some submitted written comments to the Public Issues Committee.

The Public Issues Committee has taken all these into account and has substantially revised the text of the document, giving it a new title, "The Protection of Endangered Populations in Situations of Armed Violence: Toward an Ecumenical Ethical Approach". Specific references to "humanitarian intervention" and the use of "armed force" have been removed in favor of other formulations.

The Committee has also added a new introduction to the document, in the light of the debates, recalling the decision of the Central Committee in 1992, "that active non-violent action be affirmed as a clear emphasis in programmes and projects related to conflict resolution." It briefly recalls the different, still unresolved differences of perspectives among Christians and churches with respect to violence and non-violence and the use of arms, a debate that has continued in the modern ecumenical movement almost since its beginnings. It took seriously the remark of the First Assembly (Amsterdam, 1948) that said:

We must frankly acknowledge our deep sense of perplexity in the face of these conflicting opinions, and urge upon all Christians the duty of wrestling continuously with the difficulties they raise and of praying humbly for Godís guidance. We believe there is a special call to theologians to consider the theological problems involved. In the meantime, the churches must continue to hold within their full fellowship all who sincerely profess such viewpoints as those set out above and are prepared to submit themselves to the will of God in the light of such guidance as may be vouchsafed to them.

Seeking to follow this injunction, and keeping in mind that this document comes before the Central Committee during a meeting in which the Decade to Overcome Violence will be launched, the Public Issues Committee has sought a formulation that could be adopted by consensus.

We were not able to forge such a consensus, however we were able to develop and agree upon a document which recognizes different opinions. We believe that in this form, it commends itself to the Central Committee and to the churches for further study and reflection.

We express our gratitude to all those who have participated in this dialogue both in the beyond the Public Issues Committee, and for the spirit prevailing amongst us that sought to hold "all who sincerely profess" different viewpoints together in fellowship.

RECOMMENDATION: The Public Issues Committee therefore recommends that the Central Committee

1. Note and convey to the churches that on the substance of the concern to protect populations caught in situations of armed violence described in the background document (PI 2rev, pp. 1-13) there was broad agreement, but that some differences remain with respect the use of armed force for the protection of endangered populations in situations of armed violence;

2. Receive and commend the document to the churches for further study, reflection and use - as they may deem appropriate - in their continuing dialogues with policy-makers, governments, international organizations, research bodies, groups advocating large-scale non-violent civilian intervention and other peace intiatives and with civil society at large;

3. Request the churches to share the results of these studies, reflections and dialogues with the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA); and

4. Request the CCIA, in consultation with the Decade to Overcome Violence Reference Group, to report back to the Central Committee at a later date.


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