Youth at the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC)
23 June 2010
By Nan Braunschweiger*
Youth is getting ready to play a key role during next year's International Ecumenical Peace Convocation, which will take place in Kingston, Jamaica 17-25 May 2011. The hope is to have 25% of participants under 30.
The World Council of Churches has always been involved in peace concerns, right from its inception in 1948, at its first assembly in Amsterdam where it was declared that “War is Contrary to the Will of God”. Throughout the years peace has retained prominence on the WCC’s agenda to the point where, in 1994 a Programme to Overcome Violence was inaugurated into the official WCC programmatic structure.
The highlight of this programme was its Peace to the Cities Campaign with a focus on seven cities around the world. The aim of this global movement was to find imaginative efforts to overcome violence through cross-community work; to build bridges between communities drawn into violent conflict, and to bring reconciliation. The campaign focused on the following 7 cities and themes:
Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) – Becoming a Citizen Again
Belfast (Northern Ireland) – We Want Peace
Boston (USA) – God Among the Children
Kingston (Jamaica) – Together Against Violence
Durban (South Africa) – No Magic Formula for Peace
Suva (Fiji) – Where the Rivers Meet
Colombo (Sri Lanka) – Voices for Peace.
The Programme to Overcome Violence was succeeded by the Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace (DOV). Running from 2001 through 2010, with the aim of moving concerns for peace, justice and reconciliation from the periphery of the church to its centre.
The DOV runs parallel to the UN International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World and addresses a wide variety of violence at all levels – individual, inter-personal and collective – while seeking to relinquish any theological justification of violence and promoting just peace. Youth have been very strong supporters of and participants in the decade, particularly through the regional and thematic foci which have taken place on an annual basis:
2002 EAPPI (Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel)
2006 Latin America
The culmination of the DOV will be celebrated in Kingston, Jamaica from 17-25 May 2011 with an International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) that will bring together a wide spectrum of people witnessing to the peace of God as a gift and responsibility of the entire human family. It seeks to strengthen the church’s position on peace, provide opportunities for networking and deepening our common commitment to the processes of reconciliation and just peace.
With a strong emphasis on youth involvement the IEPC office has been collaborating closely with the Echos commission and is committed to having 25% youth participation in the event, i.e. people in the 18 to 30 age group. To ensure youth involvement at all levels, a place was created on the 10-person IEPC International Planning Committee for a youth representative. Appointed by Echos, this role is fulfilled by Joel Richards, a young man from St. Vincent, living in Barbados, from the Trinidad and Tobago office of the Caribbean Conference of Churches who is also alumni of the University of the West Indies in Jamaica where the IEPC will take place. We can truly say we are blessed by Joel’s Caribbean-wide contribution!
The Echos commission met concurrently with the IEPC Planning Committee in January 2010 in Addis Ababa and the groups were able to have several joint sessions to ensure a common understanding of the role of youth at the event. Indeed this was affirmed in an extremely active way for all aspects - from the planning to the implementation in major areas such as the spiritual life, plenaries, seminars, workshops and cultural offerings.
Echos will continue to work closely with the IEPC planning committee, raising awareness about particular experiences of violence in the lives of youth, offering contextual perspectives on bringing about just peace, and sharing the hope of just peace within the churches and organizations ECHOS represents.
We avidly recommend the IEPC website www.overcomingviolence.org/iepc (also available in French, German and Spanish) and look forward to updating you with regular articles in forthcoming issues of the youth newsletter focusing on the importance and relevance of youth contributions and participation.
* Nan Braunschweiger, from church of Scotland, Uk, is the Coordinator of the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation since 2008.