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WCC recommits itself to overcoming violence



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It's been five years since the World Council of Churches launched its Decade to Overcome Violence. Participants at the 9th Assembly paused Saturday to mark that midpoint, reviewing what has occurred so far and looking to what can yet come.


A powerful afternoon plenary session used multimedia, music, speakers, storytelling, and liturgical dance to illustrate instances of overcoming violence around the world. A special focus was given to violence that affects children and youth.


"Saving God's children from the scourge of war: few missions could be more compelling for the world today and for this Assembly," said Olara Otunnu, a former United Nations under-secretary general and current president of LBL Foundation for Children. "Children have a right to protection and well-being."


Otunnu asked the Assembly to become "Friends of 1612", referring to a UN Security Council resolution on children and armed conflict that holds especially accountable those who violate the basic rights of children. He also appealed to the WCC to be a "prophetic voice" in Uganda, where he said people in the northern part of that country are victims of "comprehensive genocide" and are asking, "'Where are the leaders of the people of God?'"


Four young people from Palestine shared stories of working against violence in that part of the world through peace education, bringing together youth from Israel and Palestine, and other means. They noted that nonviolence can be a difficult way to solve problems, since its requires patience and a long-term view. "We cannot stand still in silence," said Alfred Rock, a Palestinian from Bethelem. He said they hoped to "break the chain of violence."


In an earlier press conference, Dr. Janice Love, moderator of the international reference group for the DOV, said the exchange of such stories was at the heart of the DOV's mission, to create a snowball effect of networking and empowerment. Instead of "sterile debates" on when violence is permissible, she said, the DOV intends to highlight proactive ways in which Christians are engaged in peace and reconciliation work.


Crosses, made from either bullet shells in Liberia or uprooted olive trees in Palestine, were passed out to all those in the plenary hall. Tale Hungnes of the Church of Norway said that the cross was a "meeting place": a symbol of both suffering and hope. She led the audience in reading together the five goals of the DOV as a recommitment and a litany of prayer taken from the 2001 DOV launch in Berlin, Germany.


At the close of the plenary, four speakers brought messages of reconciliation. Muslim leader Dr Hasyim Muzadi conveyed "a message of peace" to the Assembly and expressed regret for the Danish cartoon incident that has opened the door for religious violence. The Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, moderator of the United States conference for the WCC, read a letter from the representatives of the US churches to the WCC Assembly confessing shortcomings in being able to steer American policy away from preemptive war in Iraq, environmental pollution, and economic injustice.


DOV website:www.overcomingviolence.org


Assembly website:www.wcc-assembly.info


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