Issue number 2, May 2001

Overcoming violence: Churches make firm commitment in Berlin

By launching the Decade to Overcome Violence (2001-2010) at the meeting from 29 January to 6 February in Berlin of its Central Committee, the World Council of Churches (WCC) was inviting its member churches to commit themselves to ten years of effort to overcome violence.

The 4 February Decade launch began in Berlin's Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächntniskirche with a worship service that was broadcast live on TV across Germany. The deeply moving service was evidence that spirituality is a fundamental aspect of overcoming violence. "It is not only through activism or studies, but also through spirituality that violence can be overcome; we find the strength to undertake this initiative from our worship and prayers," explained Fernando Enns, a Central Committee member from the Mennonite Church in Germany.

The 150 Central Committee members' commitment to the DOV initiative was expressed in various ways during their nine-day meeting in Potsdam, and particularly in a strong pledge to overcome violence issued at the end of the meeting: "In the Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace, we must begin with ourselves, with the ways we think and the ways we act in our families, our neighborhoods, our countries, and our churches. The real strength of the church remains in the seeming powerlessness of love and faith. We must seek every day to rediscover and experience this power. Overcoming violence calls and challenges us to live out our Christian commitment in the spirit of honesty, humility, and self-sacrifice."

Worship at the Berlin launch of the Decade to Overcome Violence

Candles form the DOV logo at Berlin's Brandenburg gate

The message challenged the churches to:

  • work together for peace, justice and reconciliation as a visible sign of the churches' unity in life and witness;
  • repent together for our complicity in violence;
  • engage in theological reflection to overcome the spirit, logic and practice of violence;
  • embrace creative approaches to peace-building within the Christian tradition, local communities, secular movements and other loving faiths;
  • stand alongside victims of violence to seek to empower those people who are systematically oppressed by violence.
  • Berlin's House of World Cultures was the setting for a richly diverse cultural programme, a display of different means of overcoming violence, and official speeches as the launch continued on through the afternoon. About a thousand people attended this part of the day-long event. One of the speakers, José Ramos-Horta, 1996 co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and cabinet member for foreign affairs in the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor, challenged the churches to advocate for efforts to solve conflicts peacefully.

    Concluding the launch, Central Committee members, observers, stewards, visitors and WCC staff braved icy weather to take part in a candle-lit march to Berlin's Brandenburg gate, where they gathered to form the DOV logo with the lighted candles. Addressing the assembled crowd, WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser reminded his listeners that "For us, the Decade journey must start with repentance for the violence that Christians and churches have tolerated or even justified. We are not yet the credible messengers of non-violence that the gospel calls us to be." Raiser paid homage to martyred peacemakers, and concluded with a passage from Hebrews (Heb. 12:1-2): "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a crowd of witnesses... let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfector of our faith."


    Good news for global peace

    More than a thousand students, academicians and community leaders gathered at St. Joseph's Indian High School grounds in Bangalore, India, on 30 January 2001 to observe the World Day of Peace, the start of the Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV), and India's Day of Martyrdom.

    The theme of the public meeting, organised by Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), was "Good News for Global Peace", and the participants resolved to commit themselves to putting this theme into practice over the coming years, in the framework of the Decade to Overcome Violence.

    National GCIC convener Sajan George says the theme is an interfaith initiative to promote peace in India, especially among youth. The interfaith element was evident at the public gathering, where Muslims, Hindus and Christian students proposed and discussed ideas to overcome violence.

    The meeting encouraged students to send letters to India's head of state, challenging the government to abolish all weapons of mass destruction, to create a friendly atmosphere on the campuses of all the nation's academic institutions, and to curb domestic violence.

    For more information e-mail

    New DOV consultant

    Laura Short
    has recently joined the World Council of Churches as a consultant to the Decade to Overcome Violence. Laura will focus on networking for the DOV.

    Laura comes from the United States and belongs to the Mennonite Church USA. She is seconded to the WCC by her church's Central Committee and by Mennonite conferences in Germany and the Netherlands.

    Before joining the WCC, Laura worked for a computer software company in Goshen, Indiana as a technician/consultant and a technical writer. She looks forward to applying her skills and energy to the work of overcoming violence.

    Cameroon campaign against war toys

    "We cannot claim to build a society of peace and security, and at the same time nurture violence and war in our children." The argument advanced by the late Rev. Norbert Kenne, a member of the WCC Commission of Churches on International Affairs and founder of Cameroon's Ecumenical Service for Peace (ESP), was one of the key messages used during a campaign organised in early December 2000 in the nation's capital, Yaoundé, against war toys and firecrackers.

    The decision to run the campaign was just one of many resolutions adopted at a two-day reflection on the "Proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons as a Threat to Peace and Security; a Challenge to Religious Authorities" held in Yaoundé last November. In Cameroon like many other places, it is common for shops as well as homes to be flooded with all sorts of war toys. Children play with them and watch violent films. They are thus conditioned to perceive violence as something normal, and acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to handle weapons, all of which contributes to building a culture of violence.

    Reactions to the campaign were many and varied. Many toy shops were closed and the dealers complained of poor sales. In future, ESP has plans to mount another campaign, this time against violent films. The campaign will be targeted at video clubs throughout Cameroon.

    For more information email

    Mandela wins Methodist peace prize

    Nelson Mandela, the former president of South Africa, was named the winner of the 2000 World Methodist Peace Award.The presiding bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, Mvuma Dandala, said Mr Mandela was "an icon of inspiration and hope for the people of South Africa, Africa and the world. He prevented South Africa from degenerating into a cauldron of violence and war."(ENI)

    Overcoming violence in Palestine

    Ghassan Andoni is the director of the Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement Between People. He expressed the following views in a telephone interview: "To overcome violence we need to stand firmly, for the victims and against the perpetrators".

    The situation in the occupied Palestinian territories is drenched in violence. Hundreds have been killed, thousands injured, and hundreds of homes destroyed.

    The Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement Between People (PCR), a WCC Peace to the City Network partner, has been actively engaged in countering violence and injustice by organizing campaigns to help rebuild bombarded homes in the city of Beit Sahour.

    The "Displaced Shepherds" project, initiated by Rapprochement and implemented by young activists, is a model for community sharing and caring and a way to deepen the community service tradition among the younger generation. Channeling the energy of the youth into community service is essential for the prevention of urban violence, especially in schools.

    The project is centered around a website used for advocacy and for accumulating needed resources to rebuild destroyed homes and accommodate displaced families.

    With the participation of Palestinians, Israelis, and international representatives, Rapprochement recently organised a peaceful demonstration at the Israeli military base. This base was regularly shelling the city of Beit Sahour. Demonstrators asked the soldiers to leave the site. When the demonstrators left, a Palestinian flag was waving on top of the tower in the middle of the camp as a sign of solidarity.

    Holding to the tradition of working together through such difficult times will positively influence the conflict and reduce the level of ethnic violence.

    For more information e-mail
    PCR website

    International gold medal for Fiji peace film:

    A documentary on peace-building efforts in Fiji made before the May 2000 coup has won the UNESCO gold medal award in the first annual New York Festivals Awards Competition for TV documentaries by producers from developing countries. The documentary entitled Where the Rivers Meet was commissioned in 1998 by the World Council of Churches' Peace to the City Campaign. It was researched and produced by Dr ‘Atu Emberson-Bain, with camera and sound by Michael Rokotuiviwa Preston, who composed and performed the film's original music.

    Where the Rivers Meet is set against the backdrop of Fiji's 1987 military coups and a colonial legacy of ethnic division. It features the work of three civil society organisations to build cultural understanding, religious tolerance and respect for human rights.


    CALENDAR OF EVENTS (April - August 2001)


    DOV Launches





    DOV Launch-West Africa
    Accra, Ghana
    3-6 May 2001
    Mr Baffour Amoa
    Secretary General
    c/o P.O.Box CT 4317, Cantonments
    Accra, Ghana
    Tel: (+233.21) 77.95.03
    Fax: (+233.21) 50.71.94

    DOV Launch-Southern Africa
    Luanda, Angola
    to be announced
    Rev. David Modiega
    Box 355, Gabarone, Botswana
    Tel: (+267) 35.19.81
    Fax: (+267) 35.19.81

    DOV Launch-Swiss Churches
    Bern, Switzerland
    26 April 2001
    Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches
    Sulgenauweg 26, P.O. Box 36
    CH-3000 Bern 23, Switzerland
    Tel: (+41.31) 370.25.25
    Fax: (+41.31) 370.25.80





    DOV and Peace to the City Launch (Braunshweig)
    Braunshweig, Germany
    19 May 2001
    Rev. Klaus Burckhardt
    Tel: (+49.531) 270.28.66

    Baptist Assembly and DOV Launch
    Baptist Union of Great Britain, England
    May 2001 (date to be confirmed)
    David Coffey/Myra Blyth
    129 Broadway, P.O. Box 44
    Didcot, Oxfordshire OX11 8RT, UK
    Tel: (+44.1235) 51.20.77
    Fax: (+44.1235) 81.15.37

    U.S Conference Annual Meeting/DOV Launch
    Nashville, Tennessee
    23-24 April 2001
    Philip Jenks
    475 Riverside Drive
    RM 915, New York, NY 10115, USA
    Tel: (+1 212) 870 2535

    DOV Launch-Pacific
    (to be announced)
    Rev. Valamotu Palu
    P.O.Box 208, Suva, Fiji
    Tel: (+679) 31.12.77
    Fax: (+679) 30.32.05

    Other related events:





    "Equipping Ourselves to Become Instruments of Peace": Third World Personnel in Europe
    Evangelical Akademie, Bad Boll Germany
    13-16 May 2001
    Wolfgang Wagner
    Evangelische Akademie
    Tel: (+49 7164) 79.272

    Cycle of training on non-violent conflict resolution
    Lausanne, Switzerland
    19 May 2001
    Rolf Keller
    Schlosstrasse 39
    3672 Oberdiessbach, Switzerland
    Tel: (+41.31) 771.27.43





    International Day in Support of Victims of Torture
    26 June 2001
    International Federation of ACAT
    27, rue de Maubeuge
    75009 Paris, France
    Tel: (+33.1)

    Second Pan-African Conference on Culture and Religion
    Trinity Theological Seminary, Ghana
    29 July - 5 August 2001
    Circle Liaison Officer
    Institute of Women in Religion and Culture
    P.O. Box LG 48, Legon, Ghana


    For any events, courses and books related to DOV you would like to include inthe calendar or resource list please e-mail us


    Resources on Overcoming Violence

  • Restorative Justice: Towards Nonviolence
    by Rev. Virginia Mackey, December 1997
    Published by the Presbyterian Criminal Justice Program (USA)
    Tel: (+1.800) 524.26.12 - Fax: (+1.502) 569.80.30
    Price: Free. Available in English
    To order: Request PDS 72-630-96-705

  • My Peace I Give to You
    by World Alliance of YMCAs, June 2000
    Tel: (+41.22) 849.51.00 - Fax: (+41.22) 849.51.10 e-mail
    Price: Single copy free, fee for bulk orders. Available in English, Spanish and French

  • Our Prayers Rise Like Incense: Liturgies for Peace
    Edited by Cindy Pile, August 1998
    Published by Pax Christi (USA)
    Tel: (+1.814) 453.49.55 e-mail website
    Price: US$25.00 (+US$1.50 for postage). Available in English
    To order: Request publication number 542-413

  • Learning Peace
    Published by Swiss Ecumenical Peace Programme
    Tel/Fax: (+41.62) 844.39.07 e-mail
    Price: CHF 5. Available in German and French

  • Aikyatha: December 2000 issue
    Published by the Student Christian Movement of India
    The December 2000 issue focuses on overcoming violence
    Tel: (+91.222) 37.61 - Fax: (+91.221) 56.06
    e-mail Available in English

    Videos and Music Available through the WCC
  • Video: Living Church: Faith and Dreams in Albania
    After 23 years of religious persecution, the church in Albania was in an appalling state. The story of its dramatic renaissance in the decade that followed, led by Archbishop Anastasios, one of the most visionary leaders of the world-wide church, is told in image and interview.
    46 min., available in PAL or NTSC, Sfr.29.50, US$19.50, plus postage

  • Peace to the City: Stories of Hope
    Seven 30 minute videos, describe seven cities imaginative efforts to build bridges between and reconcile communities in conflict. Complete series available in English. The 23-minute introduction is available in English, French, Spanish, and German.
    Complete series in English: 233 min.
    Available in PAL or NTSC, Sfr. 30.00, US$20.00
    Introduction in French, Spanish or German: Sfr. 19.50, US$12.50 (check systems)

  • CD: Peace To The City: A Song For Peace Music from the ballet: a magnificent suite for violin, violoncello, piano and voice quartet.
    Sfr. 20.- , US$ 12.90, £8.50, plus postage.

  • T-Shirts: Overcoming Violence
    Produced in Rio de Janeiro by Viva Rio through Fair Trade, Decade to Overcome Violence and Peace to the City t-shirts are available through the Viva Rio store on the web. Purchases help the development of low-income communities in Rio de Janeiro. Each t-shirt is $9.00.

  • Photo Oikumene
    Photos on a wide variety of subjects including overcoming violence for use in publications and displays. See Photo Oikumene on this site.
  • Institutions and courses

    (If you are interested in any of these, please contact them directly)

  • Isis-Women's International Cross Cultural Exchange
    Plot 32 Bukuto Street, Kamwokya
    P.O.Box 4934, Kampala, Uganda
    Tel: (+256.41) 54.39.53; Fax: (+256.41) 54.39.54; e-mail
    Focus: Networking activists for women's human rights, publishing gender materials, and analyzing information on issues of concern to women.

  • Fiji Women's Crisis Centre
    88 Gordon St
    P.O.Box 12882 - Suva, Fiji
    Tel: (+679) 31.33.00; Fax: (+679) 31.36.50; e-mail; website
    Focus: Training on gender violence in the contemporary Pacific context: Rape - Domestic Violence - Child sexual abuse - Sexual Harassment

  • Non Violent Action And Strategies For Social Change (NOVSAC)
    9 Routledge St. Milton Park
    P.O.Box CY 369, Causeway, Harare, Zimbabwe
    Tel:(+263.4) 72.21.68; Fax:(+263.4) 70.31.22; e-mail
    Focus: Training in non-violent negotiation skills - Training in capacity-building: NOVSAC focuses on building a national network of mediators drawn from many relevant sectors of society.

  • International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA)
    Box 422, 37 Store St
    London, WC1E 7BS, UK; Fax:(+44.207) 620.0719; e-mail
    Focus: Preventing the proliferation and misuse of small arms.

  • International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (FI.ACAT)
    27, rue de Maubeuge
    75009 Paris, France
    Tel: (+33.1); Fax: (+33.1); e-mail; website
    Focus: Raising awareness among Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christians concerning torture and inhuman treatment and calling them to join in common action. About 30 ACATs exist around the world.
  • Overcoming Violence aims to communicate and share information from member churches and civil society on issues related to the Decade and the struggle against violence. You are urged to send in your contributions, not only on how we can improve our future publications but also on issues which are of prime concern to your region/country.

    Overcoming Violence is published four times a year and distributed freely(also available in French, German and Spanish).

    Produced by: WCC Public Information Team

    Editorial Team:
    Diana Mavunduse (DOV Communicator)
    Karin Achtelstetter
    Miriam Reidy-Prost
    Sara Speicher
    Laura Short

    For further information write to:
    Overcoming Violence
    WCC Communication
    P.O. BOX 2100
    1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland
    Telephone: (41-22) 791 6111
    General Fax: (41-22) 791 0361
    Communication Fax: (41-22) 798 1346

    Material can be reproduced freely: please credit the WCC

    Design: Marie Arnaud Snakkers

    Printed in Switzerland

    © WCC

    The time has come to put words into action

    "I grew up in the 40-year-old war in Sudan,
    I got married in the same war,
    I raised my children in the same war,
    I am about to become a grandmother in the same war."

    The words may sound like a poem, but they are a bitter reality for a distraught mother who shared her experience during a Decade to Overcome Violence regional ecumenical forum held in Kampala, Uganda from 21-24 March 2001.Her words still ringing in their ears, participants were left with a thorny question that none of them had dared to ask aloud: "Is she going to die in the same war?"

    The experience prompted them to realise that it is no longer viable to come to meetings and discuss violence unless ideas, suggestions and resolutions are put into action. "Whilst we are talking and debating, people are dying every day. It is high time for us to put words into action!" said Dr Peter Kanyandgo, vice-chancellor of the Catholic University of Uganda.

    The ecumenical forum, that concluded with a regional launch of the Decade to Overcome Violence, was organised by the Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in the Great Lakes and the Horn of Africa (FECCLAHA), a sub-regional ecumenical organisation based in Kenya.

    The two-day forum was the occasion for national councils of churches and churches in the region together to plan concrete and realistic actions to be undertaken during the ten-year initiative.

    Delegates agreed, among other things, to:

  • focus on the plight of the Sudanese and the devastating war that has displaced the people in Southern Sudan,
  • organize a solidarity visit to the Democratic Republic of Congo,
  • facilitate the reintegration of street children into their communities of origin,
  • address the critical issue of land resources in the different countries.

    For more information e-mail

    Children's voices sound strongly at DOV launch in Latin America

    Gathered in Barranquilla, Colombia on 13-19 January 2001, delegates to the fourth general assembly of the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI) found themselves doing something unusual: listening attentively to what children were telling them... for more than two hours!

    The occasion was the regional launch on 16 January, during the assembly, of the Decade to Overcome Violence. And the children's contributions - stories, songs and poems - to the debate on overcoming violence were in many ways more telling than long speeches by adults.

    The effectiveness of alternative modes of communication was shown when the CLAI delegates pledged their commitment to the Decade by reciting a poem:

    DOV launch in Baranquilla, Colombia: from left Bishop Federico Pagura, Argentina, WCC president, and Rev. Emilio Castro from Uruguay, former WCC general secretary

    "La paz llegará como la aurora
    Para este mundo maltratado
    Y ya casi cansado y llegará de la mano de los simples,
    De la gente humilde,
    De los pobres de la tierra,
    Y será anunciada por la boca de los niños y nintilde;as,
    Y al sonido de la música de los jóvenes corajudos.
    Será como el rocio para esta tierra seca."

    ("Peace will arrive like dawn,
    For this tired and ill-treated world
    And it will arrive from the hands of the humble,
    From the poor of the earth,
    And it will be announced through the mouth of the children,
    By the rhythm of the music of young brave people.
    It will be like dew for this dry land.")

  • Overcoming violence: young people's perspectives

    Valtteri Mujunen (17) from Finland wants to be a theologian when he finishes his studies.

    Psychological violence is always the beginning of physical violence Many people around the world are discriminated because of their religion, sex or race. People expect you to be something that you are not, and when you rebel it results in physical violence.

    However, the best way to end violence on earth is to educate people that the small things we take for granted can cause more harm than good. A change in one's behaviour starts in the mind. Once our minds are educated against all forms of violence, then we might begin to see some changes in behaviour.

    I truly pray and hope that "a world free of violence" could be reality one day. I am sure that the educated new generation is interested in overcoming violence.

    Clare O'Sullivan (15) is from Preston, northwest England. She hopes to become a doctor and work in a developing country.

    I don't like to walk alone in certain areas of my hometown when it's dark because I'm afraid of violence.Recently, my friend was physically attacked by a woman whilst she was standing at a bus stop. It was not provoked and there was no explanation for why it happened. I can't help feeling that it was not the physical damage that harmed my friend the most, but the lack of any reason for the attack.

    I feel that all violence stems from desperation, a lack of understanding and a lack of knowledge. If all those who became Nazis had known that the Jews were no different from themselves, then ethnic cleansing would probably not have occurred. If the woman who attacked my friend had felt that her problems were being listened to, she may not have carried out the act of anger that she did Communication seems to be the only way not only to solve, but also to avoid violence. In a world where global communication is not only possible but commonplace, we must ensure that everyone has not only the means to "speak" but also to be heard.