Ecumenical gathering in Jamaica focuses on promoting peace
Some 1,000 worldwide faith leaders and peace practitioners are exploring the concept of “just peace” and recent advances in peacemaking practices at a weeklong International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) in Kingston.
The World Council of Churches (WCC) is sponsoring the convocation, whose theme is “Glory to God and Peace on Earth.”
It marks the culmination of the Decade to Overcome Violence that the council initiated in 2001.
Participants represent WCC member constituencies, and ecumenical and civil society networks working on peace and justice issues.
“The IEPC comes at a time when the world is experiencing significant political paradigm shifts, and much of this is coming with violence and conflict,” said the WCC general secretary, the Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit.
“This event brings the peace movements and church leaders together and offers space and time to explore the role of the church and religion as peacemaker. We will ask one another what it means to follow Christ today and tomorrow.”
“But peace is not just about ending conflicts,” Tveit said. “It is also about seeking justice and building sustainable conditions for peace. We find the need for just peace in the economy, peace among peoples and cultures, and peace within communities and with the earth.”
The convocation’s main goal is to contribute to efforts to create a culture of just peace and to facilitate new networks focusing on peace in communities and the world, according to the WCC. Bible studies, plenary sessions, workshops and seminars will address peace in the community, peace with the earth, peace in the marketplace and peace among the peoples.
The convocation will include a May 20 peace concert featuring Jamaican acts including one of the country’s top bands, Fab Five. Band member Grub Cooper penned a newly recorded song about peace, “Glory to God and Peace on Earth”, specifically for the IEPC.
On May 22, churches worldwide are invited to celebrate a World Sunday for Peace.
Convocation speakers will include Martin Luther King III, German Lutheran pastor Dr Margot Kassmann, Tveit, the Rev. Dr Paul Gardner of Jamaica, Ernestina Lopez Bac of Guatemala, Metropolitan Dr. Hilarion of Volokolamsk of the Russian Orthodox Church and Canon Paul Oestreicher of New Zealand.
Also during the convocation, Pax Christi International will lead workshops on reconciliation and restorative justice; peace spirituality and theology; religion and violent extremism; and, together with the International Peace Bureau, military spending versus development aid.
The IEPC concludes May 25.
Search for mutual collaboration
On May 16, Jamaican national leaders welcomed a delegation of leaders from the WCC and from the Jamaican and Caribbean councils of churches, which are hosting the convocation. Expressing his wishes that the IEPC be “an inspired and inspiring event”, Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding emphasised the crucial role of both the church and state in the ethical development of societies worldwide today, especially in contexts – as in his own country – marked by crime and violence.
The delegation also visited Jamaican parliamentary opposition leader Portia Simpson-Miller and the Supreme Court of Jamaica. Tveit led a prayer for child victims of violence during a short visit to a monument in downtown Kingston erected in their memory.
One of the convocation’s goals is to have a concrete impact on Jamaica’s struggle to overcome violence, said Metropolitan Professor Dr Gennadios of Sassima (Limouris), vice-moderator of the WCC Central Committee.
The convocation’s location in Jamaica intentionally acknowledges the region’s involvement in the Decade to Overcome Violence, said the Caribbean Council of Churches general secretary, Gerard Granado. Kingston was one of the focus capitals of the WCC’s “Peace to the City” campaign launched in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1997.
The Rev. Dr Margaretha Hendriks-Ririmasse, also a vice-moderator of the central committee, called on churches to search for mutual collaboration among governments worldwide.
“People are losing faith in Christianity,” she said. “We must rescue the interest of people in the gospel by showing how we can work together in this world.”
Throughout the week, a team of young people from the World Student Christian Federation will create daily video interviews with Christian peacemakers at the convocation, which will be posted at www.IEPCstories.com.
“The questions young people ask are different and offer a new perspective,” said Mark Beach, WCC director of communications. “We believe the audience they reach will be their peers, who have a great interest in the role of the church in peacemaking. Peace and justice is not only about today but the future as well.”
Founded in 1948, the Geneva-headquartered WCC brings together 349 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in more than 110 countries and works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.