Contribution to an Ecumenical Declaration on Just Peace

Ecumenical Institute Bossey


"For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of considerateness". 2 Timothy 1:7

0. Our learning-process: Discerning our Way to Peace together

We, the authors of this text, are participants of the 59th Graduate School 2007/2008 at the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey and students of the Social Ethics-module coming from different contexts in Asia, Africa, South America and Europe.

Having discussed "The Challenges of Violence: Seeking Peace in Churches and Societies" for several months, we considered it appropriate to draft a contribution to an Ecumenical Declaration on Just Peace in the preparation-process for the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) of the WCC.

The IEPC will face the difficulty to agree on a common statement despite the different backgrounds of its members: different denominational agendas and cultural trajectories of peace, tensions between spiritual and political peace, "idealism" versus "realism" etc. As our group consists of participants from equally varied viewpoints, we regard it as a chance to prove the possibility of such an agreement. We thereby wish to encourage the further preparations of the IEPC however complicated they might become.

We ourselves experienced a particular struggle concerning the genesis of this document as it was endangered to be ruled out by the striving for individual academic "credits". This underlines the importance of solidarity overagainst our competitive society.

1. Introduction: Biblical Motto and our Understanding of Peace

The biblical motto we chose needs some explanation, especially if one looks at the New Testament's corpus of pastoral letters it is taken from. Values of undisputed obedience and hierarchy (including slavery) as well as highly questionable moralistic judgments are to be found there. They have been existing in the Church from early days on, fostering opportunism and harm instead of a credible peace-witness. As Christians, we cannot deny this but opt to reflect it critically, confessing our complicity in the violence occurring on earth. However, the Holy Spirit enables us to a common witness against violence, war and their root-causes (cf. Part 2).

2 Timothy 1:7 deals with the impact of the Holy Spirit who abides in all human beings. The notion of the trinity teaches us a positive inter-relatedness which is to be made visible through social equality and participation of all human beings. Led beyond timidity, we will not evade the conflict with those who benefit from warfare and injustice. Faith inspires us not to fear but to be bold through the consciousness of Christ's presence.

The power we are given in Him is a power of peace-building; a power to fulfill the most difficult tasks, a power to stand straight even meeting apparently insuperable situations, a power to maintain faith in spite of grieves or overwhelming disappointments.

Love as the centre of Christian ethics, founding a community of the people of God, asks us to transform competition into cooperation, hatred into reconciliation (cf. Part 3).

The spirit of considerateness prevents us from blind optimism and from the ignorance which makes religion so likely to be instrumentalised. It points out the necessity of analysis and of learning, calling us to put our experience into practice. It is a Christ-given self-examination even in times of rushing passion or panic. Having this verse as a motto, we can bring our, maybe small, but hopefully valuable contribution to the process of building peace on earth while developing these qualities in ourselves.

Following the Bible, our understanding of peace is a holistic and universal concept of complete well-being, righteousness and justice, salvation and liberation. Such a notion of shalom is of course vast and we put different emphasize on the various aspects. However, we agree that peace is at the very heart of our Christian calling.

The vision of peace is a divine gift and was fulfilled in the life and work of Jesus Christ. This provides a hope which is not merely utopic and an example which calls us into the peace-making fellowship of Christ (Nachfolge) while we are waiting for the reign of God to come.

In Christ, we are reconciled with ourselves which enables us to compassion (cf. Part 3). Peace is the process in which we understand the need of the other as our personal need; we perceive us in an indispensable inter-relatedness which each other. Conversion then is a change of mentality away from neglect and exploitation to "Giving each other peace". This is to influence reality in all its levels including a transformation of the societal macro-framework which is highlighted in the following part.

2. Hope in the midst of our fractured world

In our module, we debated several case-studies, concerning the discrimination of Dalits in India and of indigenous people in Bolivia, the situation of Chinese immigrants in Cameroon, of people living on the streets of São Paulo and of the European Peace Movement. These case-studies together with our own experiences made us aware that our political, economical, social and cultural experiences are both marked by different levels of violence and by strong initiatives to improve the respective situation. So instead of merely naming problems, we would also like to point out the potential for progress towards a better world which we know is equally present in humankind as is the inclination to sin.

The following analytical considerations are in no way comprehensive but highly selective since they derive from our stated experiences as students at this given time.

"Globalization", vaguely associated with increasing injustice and exploitation, is for many too imprecise a term. Scientific and technological progress is brought about, and it needs a careful look at the question who benefits and who suffers in which way.

However, we do identify inequality concerning food, health, education, employment, well-being and opportunities in general as the hotbed for injustice and violence. This is aggravated both through economic priorities (which for instance make worn-out people on the streets seem a parasitic spot on São Paulo's flourishing marketplace) and through diverse forms of socia l disintegration such as prejudices of caste, ethnicity (e.g. Chinese presence in Africa) and gender.

Matters of greed, particularly armament production and ruthless chase of resources/ market areas, are a main cause of warfare. They connect with tensions between nations and between religions (the situation in Palestine and Israel is a sad long-term example). For solving these tensions, we regard the role of the United Nations and the contribution of individuals, groups and churches in the wider oikoumene as important. Politics is often used to foster the above mentioned tensions instead of trying to eliminate them, being too power-oriented and corrupt. However, contributing all the problems to the respective governments tends to diminishing both the negative role of the non-governmental profiteers of the situation (economic "global players") and the positive role of the people. One example for the display of divergent interests is the handling of serious environmental problems such as land being exhausted through agricultural monoculture: even if governments do not take the necessary steps and big companies keep benefiting, there are grassroot initiatives to give productive rest to the land.

When it comes to the role of religion in conflict, we find an ambiguity of complicity and aggravation through ignorance and fundamentalisms on the one hand and liberative, reconciling and educational approaches on the other.

3. Our Commitment to Peace

Peace-building in each country means to weave together the threads of equality, justice, participatory democracy and recognition and respect for the rights of all peoples and the values of their culture. Peace-building implies establishing relationships which facilitate peaceful coexistence within a framework of plurality and mutual recognition as one family in the whole of creation.

Particularly the dream and vision of indigenous peoples for a just and lasting peace and for integral and sustainable development to reign in their territories can be realized. What is needed is for others to share this dream and work in partnership with indigenous peoples to make it a reality.

All organizations, institutions, states and churches should respect and nurture the practices, values and principles of indigenous people with regard to their land, resources, and culture. Indigenous knwoledge challenges us to understand how it evolves in response to changing living conditions and how it can be combined with appropriate modern knowledge particularly concerning biodiversity, health, agriculture, religion and cultural development.

It is an imperative that indigenous peoples define their own research agenda and undertake studies which they can use to strengthen their initiatives to bring about peace as well as a sustainable development and to resolve and transform conflicts.

We repeat that peace is the common good for the whole of creation. Peace ensures the development for everything which is present in this world and at the same time for everything which will be in the future. Without peace, the whole creation - humankind and cosmos - can not live in conformity with its own constitution. Consequently, who works for a culture of peace is working for life. Peace and life must be seen together. In this context, education for peace fosters a culture for life and every person can and must be present in this activity of emancipation.

Every church, indifferent of its doctrine, is responsible for a good education of all its members and for a good example to all persons in this world. The process for peace-education must be developing permanently through our lives and behaviors.

As the earliest place of education, family plays an important role. Also the school and all political structures must be implied in the peace-education process, last but not least because the persons whom they educate today will take decisions tomorrow. The process of peace-education requires a long effort, but if it is being fulfilled, it will have many good consequences for all creation.

The implication of the Church can be of great importance in this process, Despite the many cases when the Church is failing to be heard with a clear witness for peace, we believe that such witness is needed facing socio-political structures. Jesus Christ gave the grace of peace to His Church and we as representatives of this Church are called to act accordingly. The Church's vocation is to encourage all people for good relations, peace and love because she is aware of the deepest root for both turmoil and life:

We refer to this with the image of paradise where the first broken relationship was the one between God and humankind. Although it was the human being who did wrong, God did not stop His attention and interest for humanity, but asks from us reconciliation through His incarnate Son, Jesus Christ (cf. John 3:16). Christ is our reconciliation in relation with God, but at the same time in our relation with all creation (cf. Romans 5:10-11). Christ is also our model and source for reconciliation with ourselves, with those who are close to us and even with all humankind and all creation.

It is very important to make sure that peace can only be built on truth and that all persons who are implicated in a conflict must start to look for reconciliation. As Christians, we draw the ability of forgiveness from the power of God which wants to change and renew our hearts. Christ's example is difficult but clear: every person must ask for forgiveness, not only but of course foremost the one who started the conflict. This impacts also on politics to become an art of overcoming inequality and on economics to be beneficial for all.

As brothers and sisters of the same humanity, all persons live in the same communion with the same God. Indifferent of our doctrinal approach, God remains forever the same, God who created all cosmos and humanity in the same concord (cf Acts 17: 24-26). And our common Father respects us forever with our freedoms, dreams, hopes etc so that we all participate in the same divine call. We are together on this travel and consequently we must help one another against all marginalization and oppression for to arrive at a true meeting with our one Father through the community of all humankind. Therefore, every person must learn to respect all humankind and the whole cosmos because they are God's creation. God is present through His peace and love and who discovers these human qualities gets to know God's presence.

We are grateful for having come closer to this blessing through our common statement and repeat our hope for it to be encouraging for all peace-makers and namely the IEPC.


Bossey, 14th February 2008