Glory to God when there's peace for women!
In this edition, we will focus specifically on violence against women, which continues to engage international media attention and our church societies. The challenge now is to maintain the momentum that led the ecumenical movement to identify overcoming violence against men, women and our children as a priority. The IEPC affords us a unique opportunity to continue to translate that commitment into meaningful action in this the Decade to Overcome Violence. Indeed, the Living Letters that arose out of the Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women (1988-1998) has become the iconic symbol of the WCC's pastoral care to the ecumenical world. This is now an opportune time for us to re-examine what our commitment to this endeavour means in our present context.
We are all familiar with countless heart rending stories of women as victims of violence; sexual and often expendable pawns in conflict zones; easy and often defenseless targets in cowardly xenophobic attacks. These stories challenge the usual simplistic mentality that confines violence against women to the realm of the home and aggressively seeks to relegate this social scourge to the realm of a private discourse. In the ecumenical movement, violence against women should actually be considered as the deprivation of God's glory. It is this continuing, and often unacknowledged injustice which threatens to destabilize the peace of both men and women in the church as faithful servants of a compassionate and nurturing God.
It is therefore for these reasons that the WCC's women's programme works with both women and men to address this and other forms of injustice against women. Two processes have emerged as particularly important as we journey towards the IEPC in May 2011 namely (a) the resilience of women and (b) the encouragement of gender equitable men (GEM) which continues to create safe spaces for networking with other men. We should therefore seek to encourage the simultaneous development of these two processes throughout the various regions. The consultation on masculinity that was held in Malawi 14-19 September, 2008, confirmed the need for male perspectives (with men in mind) in gender justice. It created a safe space for African, Asian and Caribbean men to wrestle with issues about how they were formed as men and what that means in their contexts of changing societies.
This and many other planned initiatives will contribute to ensuring that by 2011, the IEPC will be heralded as an opportunity for all men and women to strive to achieve a consensus that may ultimately lead towards a declaration that encourages and fosters the WCC's long held vision of a world deeply committed to living, working and witnessing for just peace!
Fulata Lusungu Moyo
WCC Programme Executive for Women in Church and Society
Since our last issue of Bits and Peaces (summer 2008 issue), several expert consultations took place as part of the process leading to the IEPC:
International Theological Conference on the "Promised Land" (10-14 September), in Bern (Switzerland). The Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches (SEK-FEPS) hosted 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 were conceived as exclusively male (as bread winners) and the rise in men's unemployment pose 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 wilful 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...]
Linking poverty, wealth and ecology: Latin-American and Caribbean perspectives (5-11 October), in Ciudad San Cristóbal (Guatemala). The consultation was part of a WCC study project on Poverty, wealth and ecological debt. It continues a process which was started at the WCC 8th Assembly in Harare in 1998 and became known as Alternative Globalization Addressing People and Earth (AGAPE) since the 9th Assembly in Porto Alegre. [read more... ]
Women, Disability and Violence in Latin America and the Caribbean (20-22 October), in Cardenas, Matanzas (Cuba). The consultation was organized by the Ecumenical Disabilities Advocates Network (EDAN) 20-22 October in Cuba, offered opportunities to share experiences and to discuss issues such as the causes and effects of violence, domestic violence or the role of women with disabilities in the church. [read more...]
A cloud of witnesses: Opportunities for ecumenical commemoration (29. Oct.- 2 Nov), at the Monastery of Bose (Italy). Men and women who, throughout the history of the church, have set examples of Christian life have left a rich heritage to the ecumenical community. An international symposium at the monastery of Bose, Italy explored the meaningful content which the joint remembrance of these witnesses to the faith can give to ecumenical worship. [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 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 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 enables to show the interconnectedness between the National Council of Churches to the Global Church and the Ecumenical family as a whole. The countries visited so far very much welcomed these visits, and warmly received the teams.
The following Living Letters visits have taken place so far:
More information about upcoming Living Letters visits will be published on the DOV website.
The Drafting Group - which is in charge of preparing the draft of the International Declaration on Just Peace - met for the second time on 18-22 September, at the Missionsakademie of the Hamburg University (Germany). This second meeting of the Group was generously sponsored by the local Nordelbian Lutheran Church.
The Group is currently composed of the following eight people: Dr. Benga Daniel, Rev. Dr. Wanda Deifelt, Fr. Jacob Kurian, Dr. Hong-Hsin Lin, Dr. Geiko Muller-Fahrenholz (Coordinator of the Group), Ms. Loreen Iminza Maseno, Dr. Muriel Orevillo-Montenegro, Prof. Larry Rasmussen and Prof. Robert Schreiter. [read more...]
The text of the first draft of the Declaration was sent to WCC member churches, and they have been requested to come back with comments. The current Drafting Group having fulfilled its task with this second meeting, another Drafting Group will be appointed next year to work on the comments received from member churches, theological faculties and others. This second drafting group will have as its main task to draft the text for the Declaration that will be submitted to the Convocation in May 2011.
We are used to making our gods to our likeness,
Thinking that their glory must be to crush their enemies,
To go to war at their will,
Licensed to kill,
Accountable to no one -
You need to tell us, o God,
That your glory is in your peace-making
With us and with the earth.
Your angels knew it all along,
They had to tell us
That your glory is with the little child in Bethlehem,
Jesus, your love in human likeness,
For all to see.
We are used to thinking that our's is a cursed place,
Ruled by the global players,
Ridden with violence,
Mindless of those who suffer,
To be endured without hope.
You need to tell us, o God,
That your peace is with the little ones,
You remember the names of the tortured
You breathe hope into those who despair,
You bring justice to the poor,
And dignity to the humiliated.
Open our hearts, o God, to live up to your glory
Enshrined in each living thing,
Waiting to be reborn in every human being
Calling all of us to break the spells of wars,
To struggle for justice and freedom and mercy
And peace for all.
Open our minds, o God, to be mindful of your glory
As it moves in the rhythms of the planet,
The oceans and the lands,
To be mindful of the peace that sustains us from within,
To build peace between families, clans and peoples,
To help sustain the webs of life that sustains us -
Do not take your peace away from us, o God.
For Christ's sake!