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Editorial Reflections

Assembly speakers, statement on peace, intersect with Pope’s call for peace

During a recent World Council of Churches Assembly presentation on “God of life, lead us to build peace in this world,” the Most Rev. Thabo Makgoba, Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa, reminded that while some things may discourage us along the path to making peace, we need to persevere through the “sea of injustices,” because “we worship a God of hope.”

Leymah Gbowee, peace activist, social worker, women’s rights activist and 2011 Nobel Peace Laureate, told of leading a nonviolent movement of Christian and Muslim women to end Liberia’s civil war in 2003.  The war turned religious and societal values upside down.  Women were brutalized, and children became soldiers. God broke her anger and strengthened her to organize others.  More and more women sat in the street with her to say, “We don’t care about jobs or food, if we don’t have peace, Leymah said.  The women were afraid, but were also tired of war and running.  They wanted a secure future for their children.  Their persistence led President Taylor to enter into peace talks.

“If we stand by silent in face of injustices, we might as well join those shooting people,” she said.

For Chang Yoon Jae, theology professor at Ewha Women’s University in Seoul, hopes for peace in the divided Korea.  It has lived 53 years in an armistice, “filled with anxiety war could break out again any time,” he said.  Chang reported that a World Council of Churches meeting on the Korean peninsula in 1989 said Korea is a symbolic link for peace and reconciliation in the world, because it has a key role in freeing the world of nuclear weapons.

“All states of Northeast Asia have nuclear weapons or are protected by a nuclear power.  Since the 1961 WCC Assembly  in New Delhi, India, the number of states that have developed nuclear weapons has doubled and the number of nuclear plants has grown to 117, with 144 under construction,” Chang said.

Thabo suggested consciousness about consumption of electricity is one way to move from dependence on nuclear energy:  “Turning off lights symbolic challenge.”

Stanley Noffsinger, general secretary of the Church of the Brethren based in Elgin, Ill., recognizes that in the midst of war, violence, disagreement and temptation, it is not easy to walk the Brethren walk of nonviolence and loving neighbors.

“We challenge the sinfulness of war, misuse of the eco-system and use of the market system to sell death,” he said.  “We speak of the cost to our souls if we rely on tools of violence rather than God’s tools.  The journey to justice and peace is a movement to engage in radical compassion.”

A Brethren bumper sticker says, “When Jesus said for us to love our enemies, he probably meant not to kill them.”

A statement the Assembly adopted, “The Way of Just Peace,” reminds:  “Just peace is a journey into God’s purpose for humanity and all creation. It is rooted in the self-understanding of churches, the hope of spiritual transformation and the call to seek justice and peace for all.” 

• It says the intersection of peace with justice means “social justice confronts privilege, economic justice confronts wealth, ecological justice confronts consumption, and political justice confronts power itself. Mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation become shared experiences. The spirit, vocation and process of peace are transformed.”

• It acknowledges that every human being is made “in the image of God,” and we are to be stewards of creation so all people can live into the fullness of life.

• It challenges the WCC to reclaim its relationship with just peace and accompany just peace ministries; encourage member churches to engage interfaith cooperation to address conflicts and develop communication strategies that promote justice and peace; build sustainable communities and promote economies of life for sharing resources, and promote human rights.

• It calls for governments to lower greenhouse gas emissions, ban nuclear weapons, destroy chemical weapons, ban drones and robotic weapons systems, reallocate military budget expenses to humanitarian and developmental needs, conflict prevention and civilian peace building, and ratify the Arms Trade Treaty by 2014.

These ideas coincide with those Pope Francis I expressed in his Christmas message, calling believers of all religions and nonbelievers to engage daily in working for “a homemade peace” that can spread across the world, because war “shatters and hurts so many lives.”  He said:  “God is peace:  Let us ask God to help us be peacemakers every day, in our lives, our families, our cities, our nations and the whole world.”

Mary Stamp - Editor

Copyright © January 2014 - The Fig Tree