It is with much pleasure that I write a few lines of introduction for this second issue of Bits and Peaces. As of 1 September I will assume the role of Coordinator for the IEPC. After a career of 20 years at the WCC - in the Commission on the Churches Participation in Development [CCPD], Conference Office of the General Secretariat and Income Monitoring and Development - I am honoured to be entrusted with this responsibility and very much look forward to the challenges, trials and surely joys that await us all.
I am extremely grateful to be joining a process which is already well underway and in very good hands, with contributions abounding from the endeavours of the Living Letters visits, expert consultations and the Drafting Group as well as through our different networks and partners.
I am particularly pleased that the convocation will take place in Kingston, one of the seven cities in which the Peace to the City Campaign was grounded in the late 1990s, at the time sowing the seeds of an ecumenical peace movement. Additionally, with the DOV annual focus highlighting the Caribbean in 2009, we truly hope the convocation will be a poignant, enriching and significant event for all concerned but especially for the region.
My specific contribution will be to coordinate the different streams, themes and processes through to the culminating point of the convocation itself. We are planning a momentous event which will encompass not only the important agenda content but will also bring together so many people from such different backgrounds in encounter, prayer and celebration which we are sure will contribute to make the convocation a very important moment in our ecumenical history.
As I ease gently into this position, I express my heartfelt thanks for all those that have contributed so much so far and eagerly look forward to working with everyone involved in any way and thank you in advance for your valuable collaboration and support.
Since our last issue of Bits and Peaces of April 2008, 3 major expert consultations have taken place as part of the process leading to the IEPC:
"Religions: instruments of peace or causes of conflict?" (11-16 May 2008), organised by the Ecumenical institute of Bossey (Switzerland). This seminar tried to bring together participants from various countries and regions of the globe, representing contexts in which violence has sadly become a daily reality. [read more...]
"Human Rights and Human Dignity" (26-31 May 2008), held at the Ecumenical institute of Bossey (Switzerland). The concept of human rights is not alien to any culture. Human rights, human dignity and fundamental freedoms are applicable to every human being, everywhere. Building a culture of human rights to uphold human dignity is essential at every level of society today. It is in this context that the discussion on the universality of human rights continues to be relevant as it affirms the cardinal principle of right to freedom and equality in dignity and rights. [read more...]
"Response of women with disabilities to violence and HIV and AIDS: Social transformation approach", (17-20 June 2008), in Bukavu (Democratic Republic of the Congo). Considering the situation of women living with disabilities in the Great lakes sub-region in Africa, and the need to raise awareness about the issue of violence and HIV and AIDS in the post-war Rwanda, Burundi and DRC, the EDAN/Central Africa - through IMAN'ENDA Ministries - organized this consultation which is expected to articulate the problems pertaining to HIV and AIDS and violence against women living with disabilities, as well as to give the impetus for social transformation with regard to the way that the society perceives people living with disability in the sub region. [read more...]
Women as Peacemakers Through Religion (4-7 September), hosted by the Diocese of Gothenburg in Sweden. Although both the Bible and the Qur'an affirm that men and women are of equal worth and have complementary and essential contributions to make within the life of the whole community, there is no doubt that women throughout history have been relegated to a subordinate category in their religious community and in society at large. [read more...]
Women, Disability and Violence in Latin America and the Caribbean (9-11 September), held in Cardenas, Matanzas (Cuba) [read more...]
International Theological Conference on the "Promised Land" (10-14 September), in Bern (Switzerland). The Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches (SEK-FEPS) will be hosting an international theological consultation organized by World Council of Churches (WCC) within the framework of the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum (PIEF) to deal with biblical and theological issues that may play a role in the conflict in Israel/Palestine and may hamper church advocacy for peace.[read more...]
In Partnership For Gender Justice: Towards Transformative Masculinities (13-20 September), in Blantyre (Malawi). How do men conceive themselves as God's image within their historical contexts especially of enslavement, colonialism and still existing racism? In the global south, the changing realities of urbanisation with more women taking up roles that traditionally conceived as exclusively male (as bread winners) and the rise in men's unemployment pause another level of challenges to the understanding of masculinity... [read more...]
Peace with the Earth. Peace of Creation (14-18 September), at the Centre John Knox (Geneva, Switzerland). Christians and Christian peoples have been among the first to degrade and destroy the balance in God's creation. Today's ecological crisis is the catastrophic consequence of a willful and manipulative abuse of God's earth for the benefit of some of the world's peoples. Human "progress" is accompanied by destruction and death. Creation suffers in silence. [read more...]
"You show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts." (2 Corinthians 3:3,RSV)
Living Letters are small ecumenical teams, composed of 4 - 6 women and men from around the world and from different confessions, and who have witnessed violence in its various forms and are engaged in working for just peace.
Living Letters visits are seen as a unique opportunity for the host countries to uplift their voice on issues of concern with which they are wrestling nationally and, to a larger extent, in the region. It is also an opportunity that aims to show the interconnectedness of the National Council of Churches to the Global Church and the Ecumenical family as a whole.
So far, a Living Letters delegation has visited the following countries:
Sri Lanka - 4-12 August 2007
USA - 15-23 September 2007
Kenya - 30 January - 3 February 2008
Sudan - 26 March - 2 April 2008
Germany - 27 June- 4 July 2008
Indonesia - 17-24 July 2008
Other visits are also scheduled for the rest of the year. More information will be available soon on our website.
The Drafting Group - which is in charge of preparing the draft of the International Declaration on Just Peace - met for the very first time on 9-11 July 2008, in Nadi (Fidji). The Group is currently composed of the following eight people: Dr. Benga Daniel, Rev. Dr. Wanda Deifelt, Fr. Kurian Jacob, Dr. Hong-Hsin Lin, Dr. Geiko Muller-Fahrenholz (Coordinator of the Group), Dr. Loreen Iminza Maseno, Dr. Muriel Orevillo-Montenegro, Prof. Larry Rasmussen and Prof. Robert Schreiter. [read more...]
The Drafting Group will meet for the second time from 18-22 September 2008. This second meeting of the Group has been generously sponsored by the local Nordelbian Lutheran Church.
The Missionsakademie of the Hamburg University will host the Group. The Missionsakademie is a well known place for many ecumenical travelers. Students from all over the world have lived there while working on their degrees with the Hamburg University. If you want to learn more about the academy, please go to http://www.missionsakademie.de/dt/index.html .
This meeting of the Drafting Group will also be an opportunity for the drafters to meet with Rev. Dr. Prof. Fernando Enns, who teaches at Hamburg University and is the Moderator of the DOV Reference Group.
Every year, the DOV has an annual focus that highlights a specific region. A pertinent theme is developed with the churches of the relevant region in order to promote and highlight local, national and regional initiatives on overcoming various types of violence, and also to exchange specific experiences and learnings from the region of the focus.
It has been a decade-long tradition for the DOV Reference Group to meet on a yearly basis in the region of focus of the Decade. Hence, for 2008, DOV's annual focus being on the Pacific Islands (for more information, click here), DOV's Reference Group (RG) met in Nadi (Fiji).
On the way to Christian Unity
Biblical Meditation: an Orthodox perspective
Be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus (Philippians 2, 2-5)
Though the content of the text from Philippians does not refer directly to the nature of the unity of the Church we seek, it refers to the process, or rather to the attitude one may adopt during the process of common search for Christian unity.
1. The key words which are coming out from this text is so familiar to both Orthodox theology and spirituality: humility, love, service and care for others.
Though the search for unity remains a commitment for all those involved in ecumenical encounters and dialogue, the difficulties persist as different parties understand and approach it differently. For some, the dialogue is accepted as long as the different identities, as they are understood and lived in their historical developments, are not threatened. There is a fear of loosing one's particularity; there is a fear that in the process of searching for unity, some may gain some may loose. And no one wants to be a loser.
There is, at times, a power struggle of offering one's "truth" over against the "truths" of the others. For the people with such thinking, attitudes and approaches, the dialogue is accepted and promoted as long as it leads to and remains to the level of "cooperation" , but does not imply any notion of change or transformation.
The problem is that some of us behave, at times, as the two disciples from the Gospel text of the day. They asked to be put of the right and left hand of Jesus when He will come in His Kingdom. However, some of us involved in the ecumenical dialogues and in search for Christian unity behave as being already placed at the right and left hand of Jesus. And from there we speak arrogantly to the others.
2. Christian truth is not an ideology; it is not a system of thought, a collection of right formulations in conflict or competition with other ideological systems. The Christian truth is to be found in the person of Christ who offered Himself as being the truth, the way and the life. The Christian witness refers to the witness of the fullness of Christ. Through Christ, we have relation to the Father and are partakers of the koinonia of the Holy Spirit. The formulations of the early ecumenical councils were not innovations or additions or further doctrinal developments of the apostolic Kerygma, but affirmations and articulations about the fullness of Christ when it was challenged or disputed. Even then, it was not the intent of clearly putting in antagonism the bad and the good verbal formulations. The main reason for such formulations was related to the issue of salvation, which was very much dependent on the fullness of life in Christ. [read more...]