This is not a time for us to become pessimists…
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (KJV Luke 2:14)
As we are approaching the end of the Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV) and look towards the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC), that will take place in Kingston, Jamaica, 17 - 25 May 2011, it is a good time to stand and reflect on the moments of peace and violence our world has experienced in these past ten years.
Sadly, and despite the ongoing fair efforts of humanity, we became witnesses of the world-wide continuation, and in many cases intensification of violence, hostility, injustice, hate and oppression. The hopes and the proclamations of the past decades for the third millennium as an era of peace, reconciliation, solidarity, justice and brotherhood among the human race seems today like a childish dream. Especially now, as we are in the midst of an unprecedented financial crisis, and as millions of people worldwide are affected in their everyday lives due to the globalised economy, every hope for a better future is considered to be reckless.
As many religious leaders noticed, this crisis is not only a crisis of the financial system of the developed countries, which was believed to sustain durably a good standard of life, or a systemic crisis of capitalism itself. Actually, the crisis has deep moral, spiritual and ethical roots. It is the same crisis of values that led this world to face in our days one of the worst challenges in its history, which constitutes a great threat for every living form of life in Earth.
Peace is not in danger today only because of wars among countries or the oppression of the poor and the weak. For many years now, another “war” is taking place: the desecration of God’s Creation by our lust for more natural resources and energy, the super profit of the multinational corporations, the rise in world industrial production and the improvident hyper-consumption of goods.
Many scientists have been warning us about the results of this “war” for years now. Day by day, year by year we experience climate change, which affects already the way of life of many people around the globe and even threats their survival. Global warming is outside our door as the average temperature of the past two decades has been the highest ever recorded; more and more species of fauna and flora are threatened by total extinction due to human activity; the finding of fresh clean water is becoming in many places a matter of life and death; exquisite landscapes are in danger by destruction; the ecological refugees are increasing and some believe that they might reach the number of 200 million by 2050.
As a part of the DOV programme a number of small ecumenical teams, the "Living Letters", have travelled in various countries over the past years and have expressed their solidarity with communities that were wrestling with violence in its different forms. Last May a "Living Letters" delegation paid a visit to churches, ecumenical organizations and civil society authorities in Fiji, in order to show solidarity with the communities struggling with the impact of climate change and draw to the world’s attention its catastrophic consequences.
It is worthy to be mentioned that the people of the Pacific who have contributed least to this global threat, are already suffering first the effects. The rising of the sea level as a result of the melting polar regions, the coastal erosion and the increasingly frequent strong typhoons and hurricanes in the area are putting in danger their future. In Viwa, a very small island Southeast of Fiji, the 110 locals have witnessed the loss of four hectares of cultivable land since 2002!
The governmental authorities are compelled to form plans for future forced resettlement of whole communities to other countries, despite the understandable refusal of their citizens to leave the place of their fathers in order to become refuges in foreign lands.
The people of the Pacific are trying to raise global awareness of their situation but unfortunately the world seems to ignore the reality. Fijian participants in COP15 expressed to the “Living Letters” delegates their disappointment at the poor achievements of the conference, in contradiction to the world great expectations, and also the lack of strong will on behalf of the main polluters to take all the measures that are needed.
For how long will we refuse to see the outcomes of our actions? Have we questioned ourselves if we still have the luxury of time to overlook the warning signs of nature or do we believe that our actions will affect only other people far from us? As a young Christian who is worried on the planet's critical crossroad, I would like my voice to stand together with the voice of the Viwa people and ask the world Christian community, and particularly those who will be gathering in Jamaica, to raise awareness on the threat of climate change.
The destruction of Creation is the last sin of humanity against God. Him who created the World ex amore and made us lords and ministers. “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it” (NIV Genesis 2:15). But instead of being lords and ministers we became violators and abusers, destroying in this way our peace with God and His Creation, our only home. Thus it is an imperative need for the churches to call now for repentance. It is important to understand that our political choices, growth, prosperity and development affect in a dramatic way other parts of the world and its people.
This is not a time for us to become pessimists, we don’t have this choice. Instead it is a time when we are called to become a prophetic voice to the world. NOW is the time for the implementation of serious political decisions by the world community, that will put as a priority not the uncontrollable growth of the international markets against the quality of human life and the preservation of the environment, but the balance between the financial growth and the sustainable continuation of our existence and of the next generations, in harmony with the nature. NOW is the time for the adoption of a new conscious way of living, with new morals in all aspects of human life and activity. NOW is the time to promote a way of living that will respect and protect the sacredness of Creation, foster human dignity and equity and promote eco-justice for all humans and all the living creatures.
Echos - Commission on Youth in the Ecumenical Movement
Member of the "Living Letters" delegation to the Pacific
Dear brothers and sisters,
As we are approaching the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Kingston, Jamaica next year, I would like to share with you my personal experience as intern for Youth and Ecumenical Formation at the World Council of Churches and my involvement in the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation preparations.
I have been involved in the preparations of the Bible Studies on the four themes of the IEPC, where the group is meditating and reflecting on passages that are going to be discussed in small groups. The other part of my contribution to the event is the essay contest, initiated by Echos – the WCC commission on youth in the ecumenical movement. The idea behind the essay is to involve young people around the world in reflecting on the motto of the IEPC – Glory to God and Peace on Earth – in written form. The top 5 selected winners will get a chance to participate in the IEPC.
The IEPC offers different opportunities for youth. The pre-event gathering of all youth participating in the IEPC aims to use prayer, worship and other activities to deepen their understanding of peace within the ecumenical movement. Youth participants will use the opportunity to strategize and discuss how best to represent the voice of the youth during the Convocation. Beside the pre-event, there will be different workshops and seminars, organized by youth for youth on the issues and themes of the IEPC and last but not least, a stewards programme will be organized for young people to learn about ecumenism through the IEPC.
I encourage you, brothers and sisters to make your way to the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation and let God plant the seed of the unity of church, so that you may carry it into the world and share it in your parishes, communities and churches. For more information please visit the youth programme page at www.ecumenicalyouth.org
You are the present, not the future.
The following thematic consultation was the last one in a long series that started in 2007 and that contributed towards the process leading to the IEPC:
For more information about expert consultations that took place so far, please visit our website.
Since our last issue, the following Living Letters visits have taken place:
For more information about the Living Letters visits that took place so far, please visit our website.
The second and last meeting of the Drafting Group took place at the Near East School of Theology (NEST) in Beirut/Lebanon from 27 September - 3 October 2010. Members of the group dealt with the quite significant feedback they had received - mainly from Europe - to the second draft elaborated in Bogota last March.
The draft was substantially revised and will be ready in its final form by the beginning of November. At the same time they were also working on a companion document which deals with more developed theological and ethical considerations, proposals for further exploration and examples of good practice. Together with input from the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Kingston (May 2011), these materials will hopefully enable the WCC Assembly in 2013 to come to a new ecumenical consensus on justice and peace.
While in Beirut group members also met with representatives of the Middle East Council of Churches, the Christian-Muslim Group and professors at NEST. In the absence of H.H. Aram I, Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church (Cilicia), they were received by H.G. Bishop Nareg Alemezian at the headquarters of the Church in Antelias. Members also visited St Michael's Monastery in Baskanta (Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch) and became acquainted with the monastic life of that church in Lebanon.
Nomination forms and applications have been received working towards establishing the participants list by the end of November 2010. To the extent it is possible, participants will register online: they will receive an individualized ID and password and can begin registering in January 2011.
The workshop selection process has been completed to provide a selection of some 20 motivating and challenging workshops for each of the 8 reasoning sessions on the programme. Participants will receive further details and have the opportunity to sign-up for workshops when registering for the convocation.
A series of short video-clips has been compiled comprising peace-making testimonials from people’s experiences in their communities as well as their input on the importance of the IEPC. Go to the IEPC website to view the first one: It is by Rev. Eilert Rostrup, who reminds us that God's peace includes just relationships between human beings and between humanity and the rest of creation. New videos will be posted weekly until May.
The Spiritual Life Working Group met in Bossey from 7 to 11 September and worked on content for prayer services as well as the compilation of the IEPC song book which will be entitled Singing Peace, the third and final publication in the series following Imagine Peace and Telling Peace.
“Dem Dry Bones”
by Jason Henry
Reference: Ezekiel 37: 1-14
There are times in our lives where we feel trapped, smothered or subdued by any of the varied ills that are present in this world, be it financial, spiritual or in our relationships. We often question if there is a way out. Is there is an escape from the rat race to find freedom and a real sense of peace?
Ezekiel the prophet recorded many visions in his book. One of the most seminal was that of the valley of dry bones found in chapter 37, verses 1 to 14. Ezekiel is told to prophesy to the bones in order for them to become connected, attain flesh and assume breath. As a result, the prophet witnessed before him a vast army.
It is important to note that Ezekiel received this vision at a time when the Israelites were exiled in the land of Babylon. God revealed such a vision to Ezekiel to indicate that he would not leave them in a foreign land as slaves, but return them to their home, as free men and women.
In the Valley
The Spirit of the Lord brought Ezekiel before a bone yard and questions him, “Son of man, can these bones live?” Ezekiel claims that only the Sovereign Lord would know. Ezekiel is told to first prophesy to the bones of the valley to come to life by attaching tendons, making flesh appear, and allowing breath to enter, for this is “the word of the Lord”. What Ezekiel saw next was probably something out of a zombie horror movie: the bones came together and skin covered those bones. Then Ezekiel is told to prophesy that these men may breathe, and so they did.
The House of Israel
This vision is a metaphorical one. The bones personify Israel’s misery as captives of King Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian empire. Their bones are dried up and…hope is gone (Ezekiel 37:11) and they probably thought God had deserted them, forever, this time. Fortunately that was never to happen for the Lord said, “I am going to open your graves and bring you up from them.” The resurrection of the bones served to represent God’s promise to lift us out of captivity and bring us back home, to our own land, a home of peace and hope and love.
In a Present Perspective
Today, we find ourselves challenged by the depressing empire of divorce, debt, disease and danger. We sometimes wrestle with hope and reality; thoughts of not being able to escape the thought that we have been forsaken overcome us. That’s because the reality of our driven situation blocks the peace that God promised; we forget that God will open our graves and take us back home.
Today, break the chains that would wish to determine your depressed reality. I implore you to believe in God’s power to do the impossible, to bring peace where there is war, to bring hope where there is despair, to bring light where there is darkness, to turn the frown into a smile; for he is an omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent God. He is everywhere, he is aware of your dismay. He knows of your problems and ailments and has the solution to them all. Furthermore, he has the power to deliver you from them all and restore you to a safe and familiar haven. He did it for the Israelites. He will do it for you.
About the Writer:
Jason A.G. Henry is 21 years old. He is a member of the Saint Andrew’s Scots Kirk United Church, 43a Duke Street Kingston, Jamaica, West Indies, where Rev. Dr. Ralph A. Hoyte has been the Minister for 16 years. Jason is a church school teacher in his local congregation assigned to children 5-7 years old. He is a recent graduate of the University of the West Indies, where he received a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Psychology.