|WCC committee advocates for vulnerable people|
A young girl carries a water jug in the Hassa Hissa
Camp for internally displaced persons outside Zalingei in Sudan's Darfur
region. The World Council of Churches executive committee, meeting in
Etchmiadzin, Armenia, advocated protection of at-risk people in the
violence-torn area. A UMNS photo by Paul Jeffrey, ACT-Caritas.
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
Oct. 3, 2007
The location of the recent World Council of Churches executive
committee meeting was just as significant as the business conducted
there, according to a United Methodist participant.
Meeting Sept. 25-28 in Etchmiadzin, Armenia, the committee
experienced the religious influence of the host Armenian Apostolic
Church, a WCC member, and the still-significant impact of a genocide
that occurred nearly a century ago.
For the Rev. Larry Pickens, an executive committee member who is chief
executive of the United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and
Interreligious Concerns, the setting provided striking examples of how a
church can survive under extreme conditions, including genocide and
years of totalitarian rule by the Soviet Union.
The Rev. Larry Pickens
"They have learned how to move forward without hate," he said.
The committee's visit included a trip to the Armenian Genocide
Memorial Complex near the capital of Yerevan. The council has long
advocated for public recognition of the massacre of one-and-a-half
million Armenians in Turkey and the deportation of another million
between 1915 and 1917.
"In many ways, the ecumenical movement was born out of the forces of
World War II," Pickens said. "It's a constant reminder that we have a
stake in building humanity and in peacemaking."
With a strong history of Christianity dating to the fourth century,
the church in Armenia is thriving, according to Pickens. Churches were
open and accessible to the public, and committee members visited a
seminary where young people are preparing for ministry.
The Armenian Apostolic Church "is a very vital church," he said.
"Everywhere we went, there was construction going on, churches were
Crisis in Darfur and Chad
Armenia's experiences were remembered as the executive committee took
action. "Meeting in the country of Armenia, where genocide nearly a
century ago still casts a deep shadow, we reiterate the international
responsibility to protect people at risk in the Darfur region of Sudan
and in neighboring Chad," the WCC executive committee said in a "Minute
on Darfur," which it approved.
“Meeting in the country of Armenia, where
genocide nearly a century ago still casts a deep shadow, we reiterate
the international responsibility to protect people at risk in the Darfur
region of Sudan and in neighboring Chad.”–World Council of Churches statement
Member churches are encouraged to advocate for the protection of
people in Darfur with their governments and ask them to pay special
attention to the implementation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1706
on Darfur, the first time the Security Council has referred to the
responsibility to protect in a specific country crisis.
Ecumenical delegations should make fact-finding and solidarity visits
to the region including Darfur, as well as offer prayer and provide
humanitarian aid, according to the executive committee.
Pickens said sending a WCC fact-finding delegation to Sudan "has been
the subject of a lot of discussion," but that churches in the region
had not deemed the time to be right in the past. He expects the WCC
Central Committee will receive a report on a possible delegation visit
when it meets next February.
Christians in Iraq
Concern also was raised about Christians in Iraq. The executive
committee pointed out that while Christians represent only 4 percent of
Iraq's population, they make up 40 percent of its refugees.
"Their fate speaks twice, informing overseas churches about both the
general humanitarian needs in Iraq and the urgency of saving Iraq's
Christian communities," said a statement on Iraq's humanitarian crisis.
Violent attacks, kidnappings and other traumas that affect Christian
communities also impact Iraqi society at large. "The fate of Christians
must not be seen in isolation from the fate of Muslims, or of other
minorities such as the Yazidees and Mandeans, or used to worsen
relations with Muslims or other groups," the statement said.
statement called for prayers, support through church-related relief
organizations and raising awareness about the general suffering of the
Iraqi people, including its Christian communities.
"Church-only actions and joint initiatives with Muslims are both
needed in order to show support for the people of Iraq and to make clear
once again that policies of occupation do not have international church
support," the statement said.
WCC member churches also need to advocate with their governments to
remind them of obligations to Iraqis under the Geneva Conventions and
"the need to break the international silence on the humanitarian crisis
in Iraq and provide greater assistance to displaced and refugee Iraqis
through organizations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for
Refugees and the International Organization for Migration."
Pickens said it is important to make U.S. church leadership "aware of
the impact that (Iraqi) Christians are feeling as a result of the war."
The concern about Christian communities should extend to other Middle
Eastern countries as well, he added. "If we're truly a worldwide
church, these are the type of issues we are called to speak to."
Tensions over Iran
In a statement on Iran and the Middle East crisis, WCC member
churches were "urged to impress upon their governments their acute
concern that the U.S. and its allies must settle the dispute over Iran's
nuclear program through negotiations and not through the use of
The council's concern is for the protection of all citizens,
including those in the United States and Israel. "Years of unilateralist
military incursions in the Middle East have compromised human security
and national well-being across the region and left many people
vulnerable," the council said.
A "Statement on the 10th anniversary of the Kyoto Protocol" called on
the 174 ratifying states to fully implement its provisions. Countries
that have not ratified the treaty, such as the United States and
Australia, are urged to meet strict targets to reduce emissions of
greenhouse gases, which are considered responsible for global warming.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.
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Minute on Darfur
Statement on Iraq and its Christian Communities
Minute on Iran and the Middle East
Statement on Kyoto Protocol
World Council of Churches
United Methodist Commission on Christian Unity and Interreligious Concerns