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WCC assembly speaks on terrorism, other public issues

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A UMNS photo by Igor Sperotto, WCC

Participants join in a march to end violence against women and children during the World Council of Churches 9th Assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Feb. 27, 2006

By Linda Bloom*

PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (UMNS) — Churches must “respond to the reality of living in a world terrorized by fear” and then use their resources to provide a guide for peace and reconciliation.

That is part of a statement on terrorism, one of a series of statements on public issues adopted near the end of the Feb. 14-23 World Council of Churches 9th Assembly in Porto Alegre, Brazil. United Methodists and Methodists from around the world were among the assembly participants.

Religious leaders need to use those resources for peace and reconciliation when coming together to speak against all acts of terror, as well as any disrespect for human rights and the rule of law when fighting terrorism.

“Religious communities and leaders should be in the forefront of the struggle for a society which is ruled by law and respect for human dignity,” the statement said. “Churches have a pivotal role in framing the issues within a culture of dialogue.”

Agnes Abuom, an Anglican from Kenya who was elected as a WCC president in 1998, explained that most of the statements presented by the public issues committee evolved through a long period of consultation.

But a couple of the topics brought to the assembly were a “direct and immediate response to current issues?which we have highlighted in a minute form,” she said.

For example, “A Minute on Mutual Respect, Responsibility and Dialogue with People of Other Faiths,” refers directly to the political and religious crisis triggered by the cartoons of Prophet Mohammed, first published in Denmark last September.

“As people of faith we understand the pain caused by the disregard of something considered precious to faith,” the statement said. “We deplore the publications of the cartoons. We also join with the voices of many Muslim leaders in deploring the violent reactions to the publications.”

The Rt. Rev. Tom Butler, an Anglican bishop from London, noted that the bishop in Jerusalem had immediately contacted Muslims in Palestine after the cartoon controversy arose to voice his concern. In response, “the Muslim leader took bunches of flowers to the Christian churches to demonstrate they were not to be a target,” Butler said.

“The real tension in our world is not between religions and beliefs but between aggressive, intolerant and manipulative secular and religious ideologies,” the minute on mutual respect pointed out. “Such ideologies are used to legitimize the use of violence, the exclusion of minorities and political domination.”

Also adopted was a “Minute on the Elimination of Nuclear Arms.” It calls on each member church “to urge its own government to pursue the unequivocal elimination of nuclear weapons under the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Governments that have decided to abstain from developing nuclear weapons should be affirmed; states that are not signatories of NPT must be pressed to sign the treaty.”

Three states ? India, Israel and Pakistan ? have not signed the treaty. North Korea has withdrawn and Iran has threatened to withdraw.

The Rev. R. Randy Day, chief executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, and part of the United Methodist delegation to the assembly, said his agency and the WCC have similar aims related to issues of human rights, peace, hunger and development.

“Historically, we’ve been a strong supporter (of the WCC),” Day said, adding that he wants to find more ways to connect with the council on issues related to the poor and marginalized.

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A UMNS Web-only photo by Paulino Menezes, WCC

Mother and child listen to discussions during the public issues plenary session.
A statement on protecting vulnerable populations noted that prevention can be a key tool for churches. “Because churches and other faith communities and their leadership are rooted in the daily spiritual and physical realities of people, they both have a special responsibility and opportunity to participate in the development of national and multinational protection and war prevention systems,” it said.

Churches also can use their ministry of reconciliation and healing to bring trust to national and political dialogues. “A unifying vision of a state is one in which all parts of the population feel they have a stake in the future of the country,” the statement said.

A statement on reform of the United Nations reaffirms its purpose and role in the world. But it also supports changes to membership of the U.N. Security Council “that would make it more geographically, politically and culturally representative of today’s world and that would encourage working methods and decision-making processes that enable fair, effective and timely responses to the needs of vulnerable people and to prevent the outbreak of violent conflict.”

Reflecting on the assembly’s location, a statement on Latin America recalled its history, the struggles to overcome poverty and injustice and the role of the churches there.

The assembly also adopted a statement on “Water for Life” to promote awareness of needed measures to preserve and protect water resources against over-consumption and pollution and to help local people exercise responsible control over water resources.

Peter Weiderud, director of the Churches Commission on International Affairs and coordinator of the WCC’s International Affairs Peace & Human Security team, said some of the statements will become guiding principles for WCC policy.

“The others help local churches to formulate their own responses to particular crises,” he added.

The full texts of the public issue statements can be found at, the 9th assembly Web site.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or

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