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Second report of the public issues committee

Second report of the public issues committee addressing the statement of Southern Asia, minutes on the peace process in Sudan, statement on the violence in Columbia, statement on the ecumenical response to the Israel-Palestine conflict in the Holy land.

02 September 2002

World Council of Churches
CENTRAL COMMITTEE
Geneva, Switzerland
26 August - 3 September 2002

Second report of the public issues committee


APPROVED


I. STATEMENT ON SOUTH ASIA

The situation in the South Asia region poses a major threat to world peace. Two nuclear powers, India and Pakistan, remain in a state of perpetual and growing military confrontation. The region has been the scene of inter-state and intra-state violence and conflict for the last five decades. It is home to over a billion people and provides a contrast of two different worlds – that of the rich elite minority and a poor, disadvantaged and socially marginalized majority. Its societies are being torn asunder as a result of nationalism, ethnocentrism and religious extremism.

Three smaller countries, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, are also in crisis. Nepal, the only Hindu kingdom in the world, is faced with a growing “Maoist” insurgency that has resulted in immense loss of life, prosperity and security for its people. The ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka has taken a heavy toll of human lives and has brought the country’s economy to a virtual standstill. The signing of the agreement in February 2002 to cease hostilities between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) provides a sign of hope. However, since it gained independence from Pakistan through a liberation war in 1971, Bangladesh remains unable to overcome the confrontational nature of its politics. Opportunist politicians and repeated military interventions have brought the country to virtual ruin. Its economy remains stagnant and wholly dependent on massive external assistance.

South Asian societies are plagued by endemic corruption and confrontational politics that often result in grave and serious human rights violations of opposition political parties. In an ever-growing environment of intolerance, religious minorities and religious freedom are under attack not only at the hands of the authorities but also in several cases from the majority communities.

The churches and Christians in the region are overall a small minority faith. The growing climate of religious intolerance and nationalism seriously threatens their and other religious minorities’ rights to manifest their faith in public worship and practice. Christians are often pressured to be silent, suffering witnesses to hope in turbulent times. In such critical times the participation of Christians in the life and action of the community comes out of their understanding and exercise in faithfulness to the power of the gospel. In the midst of brokenness, violence and conflicts, Christians and churches are challenged to be messengers of peace and provide space for healing and reconciliation.

Against this background, and in the context of the Decade to Overcome Violence, the Central Committee takes the following actions:

1. Religion, Politics and Intolerance

1.1 The South Asian Region has been the dwelling for major religions of the world, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Christianity. For centuries people practising these religions have lived in peace and harmony. That situation now seems to be changing. In the last decade religion has emerged as a significant and sometimes a dominant factor in intra-state conflicts. It has been manipulated to promote narrow political or nationalist interests and objectives. Religious intolerance has grown almost universally and South Asian societies are no exception to it.

1.2 In India the emergence of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) as a major force on the political scene has seriously undermined the secular base of the country. During recent years, Christians and Muslims have come under attack and their places of worship have been burnt. Attacks against the Dalit community too have increased. Despite all the constitutional guarantees Dalits continue to suffer indignities and discriminations not only at the hands of the authorities but also at the hands of the majority. In Pakistan the environment of religious intolerance, which was nurtured during the 11 years period of General Zia’s military rule, has made the lives and properties of Christian minorities insecure. Many families have suffered because of indiscriminate use of the blasphemy laws that have targeted innocent Christians. Christian villages and churches have come under attack at the instigation of Islamic extremist groups. The situation has worsened as a result of the US-led war in Afghanistan. In Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, Buddhist and Islamic groups have often used religion for political purposes to incite hatred and violence against religious minorities.

1.3 The increasing religious intolerance in the whole of South Asia has claimed many victims. It has undercut the multi-cultural, multi-religious and pluralistic base of societies in the region. Intolerance has encouraged a new wave of ideologies, which distort and seek to rewrite history and which incite communal violence, building walls of separation and hatred between communities and peoples.

The Central Committee calls on the churches including those in the region to:

· raise awareness of the spread of religious extremism that is affecting most religions - Islam, Hinduism, Christianity and Buddhism - negatively. This negative influence of religion often originates with groups acting out of ignorance and obscurantism in order to impose their particular religious views on society;

· encourage and support civic educational projects that promote understanding, tolerance, peace and inter-communal harmony at local, national and regional levels;

· engage in dialogue on human rights with people of other faiths and convictions in order to build a culture of peace and address such issues as rights of minorities and intolerance;

· draw attention to the plight of the Dalits suffering from the discriminatory practices and policies of the Indian government and to help secure the implementation of constitutional guarantees through legal recourse, awareness building and advocacy at the national and international levels;

· mobilise national and international support for the repeal of the Blasphemy Laws in Pakistan.

2. India – Pakistan Confrontation and the Kashmir Dispute

The post September 11th developments have again brought Pakistan and India to the brink of a major war. The war in Afghanistan and the US presence in the region have added a new dimension to an already tense situation in the sub-continent. The military establishment in Pakistan is again being rewarded for its support to the US-led international coalition against terrorism. Yet while the military regime actively participates in the war against Taliban and Al-Qaida networks in Afghanistan, it remains lukewarm in its political will to disband the militant Islamic groups at home that are engaged in violent actions in Kashmir.

2.1 The Kashmir dispute remains a thorn in the side of India and Pakistan. Since the partition of the sub-continent in 1947, the two neighbours have fought three major wars. The present deployment of millions of troops across the borders could lead to open hostilities with prospects of a nuclear war that neither side can afford.

2.2 Despite the UN Security Council Resolutions of the 1940s and 1950s and the Simla Agreement of 1972, there is presently an impasse with little prospect of the parties returning to the negotiating table to seek an amicable settlement of the dispute through dialogue. The situation in Kashmir took a turn for the worse in the late 1980s, when India, instead of listening and responding to the grievances of the people of Kashmir, sent in the military forces to the valley to quell a popular uprising. The situation since has continued to deteriorate with no signs of return to normalcy. The Pakistan-sponsored incursions by Islamic militants to support the struggle of the Kashmiri people has further aggravated an already grave situation.

2.3 The people of India and Pakistan have paid a high price because of this perpetual state of military confrontation between the two countries. It has led to a steady increase in defence expenditure. Such increase has come at the cost of health care, food, education, adequate housing and other projects in the human development sectors further adding to the sufferings of the common people.

The Central Committee

affirms that the Kashmir dispute be resolved in accordance with the wishes of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The basis for such resolution should be the principles enunciated in the UN Security Council Resolutions of the 1940s and 1950s and it should be pursued in the spirit of the Simla Agreement of 1972;

reiterates that there is no military solution to the Kashmir dispute and the two parties should return to the negotiating table without delay;

appeals to the governments of India and Pakistan to take immediate steps to restore and normalise relations by undertaking confidence-building measures that could pave the way for a political dialogue;

calls on the government of India to allow increased access to the Kashmir Valley by non-governmental organisations concerned with human rights; and on the government of Pakistan to refrain from providing support to Islamic militant groups involved in cross border terrorism;

encourages WCC member churches to be in solidarity with churches in India and Pakistan and assist them in their ministry of healing and reconciliation in the region;

urges the churches in India and Pakistan to undertake the following actions to facilitate the process of an amicable settlement of the Kashmir dispute:
· to build awareness amongst the churches in the two countries about the urgency of resolving the Kashmir dispute;
· to encourage and support people-to-people relations between India and Pakistan for better understanding and for promotion of peace and reconciliation in the region;
· to organise prayer vigils, where possible on an inter-faith basis, to promote peace and reconciliation between the two countries.

3. The Nuclear Threat

The May 1998 nuclear tests by India and Pakistan caught the international community unawares. Tensions between the two countries increased, giving rise to the prospects of an accelerated arms race in the region. The tests were condemned worldwide and on 6th June 1998 United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1172 calling on the two countries to refrain from further nuclear tests. The Resolution laid down a set of guidelines to bring the two countries into the mainstream of non-proliferation regime. The ecumenical community is of the considered view that it is dangerous to rely on the assumption that nuclear weapons will not be used in South Asia. The Kargil episode in 1999 and the December 13th, 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament have shown that there is little appreciation of the changed situation in the sub-continent since the May 1998 nuclear test.

The Central Committee calls on the governments of India and Pakistan to:

· dismantle their nuclear weapons and become parties to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty;

· place all their civilian nuclear programmes under internationally recognised safeguard arrangements; and

· cooperate with other states in the region in working towards a nuclear-weapon free zone in South Asia.

calls on both governments in the meantime to immediately implement measures to reduce the risk of deliberate or inadvertent nuclear attacks by:

· jointly committing to a policy of no first use and formalising that commitment through a bilateral agreement;

· refraining from arming delivery systems;

· ensuring effective central civilian political control over nuclear policies and facilities; and

· expanding and enhancing the existing agreement prohibiting attacks on each other's nuclear installations.

further calls on the governments of India and Pakistan to:

· halt all further research, development and production of nuclear weapons or weapons components; and

· cease production of fissile materials and to support international negotiations towards a global ban on the production of fissile materials.

calls on other governments to:

· end immediately all material and political support to India and Pakistan for the development and production of nuclear weapons and/or their delivery systems.

calls on its member churches in South Asia to:

· urge their respective governments to work towards a South Asia nuclear-weapon-free zone; and to

· undertake public awareness programmes in support of the abolition of nuclear weapons in South Asia and globally.

calls on churches in other parts of the world to:

· support the churches and ecumenical bodies in South Asia in their efforts to promote a nuclear-weapons-free zone in that region; and to

· call upon their own governments to withhold all support related to nuclear weapons research, production and deployment by India and Pakistan and encourage achievement of the goal of a nuclear-weapons-free zone in South Asia.

4. Sri Lanka’s Ethnic Conflict

The conflict in Sri Lanka, since it escalated in 1983, has claimed over sixty thousand lives on both sides of the ethnic divide. The war has left the country’s economy in tatters. For over two decades people – mostly Tamils – have been subjected to draconian laws. Torture, detention without trial, extra-judicial killings and curtailment of freedom of the press are common practices of the state. The LTTE has imposed strict conditions in areas under its control where extortion, summary executions and forced recruitment, particularly of children, for war purposes are common practices.

The escalation of the war in 1980s and 1990s resulted in the mass exodus of Tamil refugees to India, Western Europe, North America and Australia; in addition a large number of people in the North and East were uprooted as internally displaced persons. Several attempts were made to mediate a peace agreement between the Sri Lankan government and the LTTE without much success. The situation unexpectedly changed in February 2002, however, when the Norwegian Government facilitated a Memorandum of Understanding between the Sri Lankan government and LTTE to cease hostilities, pending the peace talks that are scheduled to take place in Bangkok, Thailand.

The Central Committee:

· welcomes the Memorandum of Understanding arrived at between the government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam;

· urges the ecumenical community to

- accompany the sister churches in Sri Lanka in their journey to peace;

- pray for, encourage and provide solidarity support to the National Council of Churches in Sri Lanka and the Church of Norway in their joint efforts to build awareness and mobilise support for the peace process;

- mobilise support nationally and internationally in favour of the Peace Process in Sri Lanka;

- provide human and material resources for reconciliation and reconstruction of Sri Lanka.

5. Bangladesh and Religious Minorities

After three decades of Independence, Bangladesh has failed to evolve a viable constitutional framework of democratic governance. The country has suffered frequent changes of government and bloody military coups. Its founding principle of “Secular Bengali Nationalism” has collapsed and the country is presently caught between the throes of abrasive right-wing Islamic political parties and opportunist politicians. Lack of development of parliamentary political culture has paved the way for destructive politics of the street. There is an urgent need for building a culture of tolerance and peace in the country.

The Central Committee calls on the churches to:

· monitor the situation of the religious minorities in the country, and provide pastoral and solidarity support to the churches and Christians in the country;

· provide human and material resources to the churches of Bangladesh to enable them to initiate inter-religious cooperation and dialogue to promote tolerance and build a culture of peace.


II. MINUTE ON THE PEACE PROCESS IN SUDAN

At its last meeting (Potsdam, February 2001) the WCC Central Committee adopted an extensive statement on the situation in Sudan. That statement drew the attention to the urgency of efforts to resolve the conflict and called on the member churches, ecumenical partners and related agencies to engage in a series of advocacy actions to this end.

Through the Sudan Ecumenical Forum, the WCC and other ecumenical partners have intensified their monitoring of developments, and provided new support to the churches of Sudan and their advocacy for peace and reconciliation.

In late June 2002, the General Secretary visited the North and South Sudan at the invitation of the Sudanese churches. There he renewed the WCC’s pledge to continue to accompany the churches in their struggle for a just and lasting peace in Sudan.

Simultaneously with this visit the Government and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement / Army (SPLA/M) met in Machakos, Kenya under the auspices of the Inter-Governmental Agency for Development (IGAD) for further negotiations on a peaceful resolution of the conflict. On 20th July 2002 they signed an agreement known as the “Machakos Protocol”. The Sudanese churches, though still concerned with the increased incidents of violence in Upper Nile, have expressed unequivocal support for this commitment of the parties to enter into negotiations for a peaceful and comprehensive resolution of the conflict, based on the IGAD Declaration of Principles (DOP). They welcomed the Machakos Protocol as a valuable framework for the ongoing peace negotiations, and especially the specific agreement of the Parties to incorporate provisions for the Right to Self-Determination for the people of South Sudan and on State and Religion in a Final Agreement.

The Central Committee welcomes the Machakos Protocol and reiterates its support for the IGAD Peace Process, and expresses appreciation for the persistent efforts of the Sudanese churches to pursue peace against heavy odds. At the same time, it is concerned about the reported escalation of fighting around Tam in Western Upper Nile and Yuai in Eastern Upper Nile, in serious breach of the provisions of the earlier Nuba Mountains Ceasefire Agreement brokered by the USA and Switzerland, resulting in further serious loss of life and displacement of civilian population.

In this new context, and in light of the Decade to Overcome Violence, the Central Committee urges member churches to:

· remain constant in prayer for the churches and people of Sudan;
· support and encourage the churches of Sudan in their continued witness and work for justice, peace and reconciliation;
· monitor and exchange information on developments related to the Machakos Protocol; and
· assist the Sudanese churches to gain access to future negotiations within the framework of the IGAD Peace Process.


III. STATEMENT ON VIOLENCE IN COLOMBIA

The “Violence in Colombia” has besieged this nation for decades. After a period of comparative calm, the violence has intensified dramatically in the past few years, with an average of twenty persons per day – three children among them – being killed or “disappeared” in the midst of the continuing social and political turmoil. A relatively new feature is the targeting of Christian leaders and laypersons. A tragic example was the murder of more than a hundred persons (including at least 40 children) who had sought shelter in a church in Bellavista during a military confrontation in May 2002.

Once again, the violence in Colombia knows no limits; the plight of its people is reminiscent of the words of the Psalmist,

    My mouth is dry as a potsherd and my tongue sticks to my jaw; I am laid low in the dust of death. The huntsmen are all about me, a band of ruffians rings me round and they have hacked off my hands and my feet… Lord, do not abandon me! Come quickly to my aid! Deliver my soul from the sword, my life from the power of the evil ones! (Psalm 22)


Churches and the broader civil society in Colombian have for many years opposed the military escalation, engaged in massive non-violent protests and in actions for a peaceful, negotiated solution. Many have paid with their lives and many others have been driven into exile by threats on their and their families’ lives. The number of people forcibly displaced from their communities is now over two million – five percent of the total population – nearly one-fourth of these displaced in 2001 alone. Most of those displaced by the violence and the consequences of the implementation of Plan Colombia are indigenous people and Afro-Colombians; and as is so often the case in civil conflicts, women and children are the most seriously affected.

For the Colombian churches and other civil society organizations, the root of the conflict does not lie in drug-trafficking or in the violence of the armed guerrilla movements (though these too are held to account), but in the long history of social injustice, the concentration of economic and political power in a few hands, competition for control of potentially rich oil fields, and a social structure built on the pillars of exclusion, inequalities and impunity.

After years of efforts to achieve a negotiated solution to the violence, early this year the government discontinued its peace negotiations with the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) and ceased to respect the demilitarized zones. New elections brought Alvaro Uribe Veles to power, and shortly after his inauguration in August 2002, the new government declared a state of emergency, and said that it would double the size of the country’s armed forces, and begin negotiations with the paramilitary forces.

These developments come in the context of “Plan Colombia” that is backed financially, militarily and politically by the USA. The Central Committee sharply condemned this military-based strategy when it met in Potsdam (February 2001), calling on the churches and the WCC to intensify their ecumenical efforts in support of a negotiated peace. “Plan Colombia” has subsequently been transformed into the “Andean Initiative” with military actions in different countries in the region.

In response, the WCC, in cooperation with the Lutheran World Federation, hosted an Ecumenical Forum on Colombia at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, in which representatives from Colombian churches and civil society, the Latin American Council of Churches (CLAI), and European churches and partner agencies met to develop a strategy for responding to the war in Colombia. It too called for a strengthening of international ecumenical action and an emphasis on working for peace in the framework of the Decade to overcome Violence (DOV).

In the light of this tragic situation and the threat it poses to the entire Latin American continent, and in the context of the Decade to Overcome Violence, the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, meeting in Geneva, 26 August – September 3, 2002,

Reiterates its expressions of solidarity and prayers for the Colombian people, especially the families and friends of those killed, maimed, disappeared or displaced, and with the Colombian churches in their courageous and sacrificial witness and work for peace;

Calls upon all political, military and religious leaders in Colombia to spare no effort in pursuing a peaceful resolution of the conflict, the disarming of the paramilitary and the restoration of the rule of law;

Calls upon all the armed opposition movements to respect the rules of engagement applicable in situations of armed conflict, to desist from all actions that endanger the civilian population, and to seek a return to good-faith negotiations for peace;

Denounces once again “Plan Colombia” and all strategies based on the preemptive use of military force;

Urges the Government of Colombia to rescind all emergency measures, to guarantee full respect of the human rights of its citizens, and to respect fully those provisions of international rule of law applicable in times of civil conflict, especially including the protection of civilian populations in areas of armed conflict;

Calls insistently upon the Government of the United States of America to withdraw all its military forces, including military and other related advisors, from Colombia and from its other installations in the Latin American region without delay;

Urges all governments in the region to take all possible actions to encourage a peaceful resolution of the civil conflict in Colombia and to respect the rights of those forced to flee the violence in Colombia and to attend to their humanitarian needs;

Expresses appreciation to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights for the work done through her Office in Colombia, and to Human Rights NGOs and church-related organisations for their efforts to protect and assist victims and to develop peacebuilding programmes;

Draws once again to the attention of the member churches and related agencies the urgent situation in Colombia, expressing deep appreciation to those who have already made it a priority, and calling for prayers and actions of concrete solidarity with the churches, victims, and the endangered population in areas of armed conflict;

Calls especially upon the churches in the United States to press their government for an immediate cessation of their role in “Plan Colombia,” and for foreign assistance to Colombia to be redirected from military to humanitarian purposes and for a renewed emphasis on strengthening respect for human rights in that country; and

Calls upon the staff of the Council to continue and strengthen its efforts to support peace and reconciliation initiatives in cooperation with the Colombian churches, CLAI, and other church and ecumenical partners around the world.


IV. STATEMENT ON THE ECUMENICAL RESPONSE TO THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT IN THE HOLY LAND

The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, meeting in Geneva, 26 August to 3 September, 2002:

Recalling its “Minute on the Situation in the Holy Land after the Outbreak of the Second Palestinian Uprising”, adopted at its last meeting (Potsdam, February 2001) in which the Central Committee expressed

    its deep sadness and grave concern at the new escalation of violence in the Palestinian autonomous and occupied territories as well as Israel over the last four months that has claimed a terrible toll of human life;


Alarmed and dismayed at the escalation of violence over the past twenty-three months that has claimed hundreds of lives in Palestine and Israel, and that has created the worst humanitarian catastrophe for the Palestinian population in recent history;

Expressing once again its grief and profound condolences to all the victims of the conflict, and
especially to the families of those who have been killed in both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories;

Profoundly regretting the inability or unwillingness of the international community, especially the governments most directly concerned, to respond to repeated appeals to establish a presence in the area to bring the parties to the conflict into compliance with the resolutions of the UN Security Council, thus allowing illegal actions to continue and a climate of mistrust, fear and hatred to grow;

Reaffirming its conviction that a just and lasting solution of the Arab and Israeli conflict must be sought through active negotiations based on United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973);

Reiterating its appeal that the universally accepted norms of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which is the cornerstone of international humanitarian law and provides basic legal standards for the treatment of civilians during armed conflict or under occupation, be respected in all circumstances;

Reaffirming the right of an occupied people to struggle against injustice by non-violent means in order to gain freedom;

Reiterating its support for Israeli and Palestinian individuals and organizations who reject the logic of violence and occupation and are striving together for justice, peace, security, mutual understanding and reconciliation between their peoples;

Reaffirming the need for full respect of the Holy Places, and condemning all actions that violate them;

Condemning the occupation and misuse of church or other religious buildings and sites for military or other purposes inimical to their religious vocation;

Reiterating its support for the churches and Christian communities of the Holy Land as guardians of the Holy Places, for their efforts to sustain and serve their communities and their witness as peacemakers;

Reiterating its long-standing commitment to active dialogue and cooperation among Christians, Muslims and Jews;

Reiterating its conviction that Jerusalem must remain an open and inclusive city with free access assured for the Palestinian people and shared in terms of sovereignty and citizenship between the State of Israel and the future State of Palestine, and that Jerusalem can be a source of peace, stability and coexistence rather than of division and conflict;

1 Calls again and insistently for the immediate withdrawal of the Israeli occupying forces from Palestinian territories, to end its illegal occupation of Palestinian territories;
2 Calls upon Israel, the occupying power, to abide scrupulously by its legal obligations and its responsibilities under the Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 12 August 1949;
3 Receives with appreciation the report of the actions taken by the Council in pursuing the recommendations of the Potsdam meeting of the Central Committee;
4 Endorses the Executive Committee Resolution on Ecumenical Response to the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict of September 2001 and welcomes the considerable efforts of the General Secretary and staff to implement it;
5 Reaffirms, in the context of the Decade to Overcome Violence, the belief Christians share with Jews and Muslims that all human life is sacred in the eyes of God, and that the taking of human life is contrary to the moral and ethical teachings of the three monotheistic faiths;
6 Joins its voice with those many Christians, Muslims and Jews in the region and around the world who have strongly deplored all acts of violence related to this conflict, including:
· Israel’s military invasion and reoccupation of the Palestinian territories, extra-judicial executions of Palestinian leaders, killing of Palestinian civilians, application of collective punishments, and destruction of Palestinian homes and property in Israel and the occupied territories; and
· all acts of terror against civilians in Israel and in the occupied territories, including especially the growing and deeply troubling practice of organized and indiscriminate suicide bombings;
7 Calls upon all concerned parties, including Israelis and Palestinians, to ensure the safety of all civilians, and to respect the universally accepted norms of international humanitarian law;
8 Calls upon the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention to enforce their declaration of 5 December 2001 in which they

    call upon the Occupying Power to fully and effectively respect the (Convention) in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and to refrain from perpetrating any violation of the Convention, …(and) reaffirm the illegality of the settlements in the said territories and of the extension thereof, and the need to safeguard and guarantee the rights and access of all inhabitants to the Holy Places;

9 Calls insistently upon the international community, especially the Quartet (United Nations, European Union, USA and Russian Federation), to take a more active, determined, objective and consistent role in mediating between the two parties based on the relevant UN resolutions and to do its utmost to stop further bloodshed and suffering;
10 Urges the Government of Israel to recognize the election of His Beatitude Patriarch Irineos I as the head of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem;
11 Calls on all authorities concerned not to interfere in the internal affairs of the churches;
12 Welcomes the positive response of many member churches and ecumenical partners to the call to join together, in the context of the Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace (2001-2010), in an action-oriented ecumenical campaign to end the illegal occupation of Palestine, in support of reconciliation between Israelis, Palestinians and others in the Middle East and their coexistence in justice and peace, and urges others to join them in:
a. Supporting the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), as a concrete manifestation of Christian solidarity through active presence and witness of a non-violent resistance to the occupation of Palestine, working towards public awareness and policy change through advocacy;
b. Calling for the suspension of the EU-Israel Euro-Mediterranean Association Agreement that conditions “relations between parties, as well as the provisions of the Agreement itself on respect for human rights and democratic principles which guides their internal and international policy and constitutes an essential element of this Agreement”, until such time that Israel complies with these provisions;
c. Pressuring governments, in particular the USA, to review economic aid to the State of Israel and to halt all forms of military cooperation with the State of Israel including instituting a strict arms embargo, until such time that Israel complies with UN Security Council Resolutions
d. Providing generous financial resources towards the ecumenical humanitarian and human rights efforts that seek to respond to the ever increasing human suffering;
e. Praying together for peace and for all those who work for peace and an end to all forms of violence in the Holy Land, seeking to embody our shared hopes and aspirations for peace with justice for all the peoples in these lands where our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was received as the Prince of Peace.


V. STATEMENT ON THE THREATS OF MILITARY ACTION AGAINST IRAQ

The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, meeting in Geneva 26 August to 3 September, 2002:

Profoundly concerned and alarmed about the persistent efforts of the Government of the United States of America to gather international support for a new military action against Iraq with the stated objective of overthrowing the present government of Iraq;

Recalling and reaffirming the words of the WCC First General Assembly (1948): War as a method of settling disputes is incompatible with the teaching and example of our Lord Jesus Christ. The part which war plays in our present international life is a sin against God and a degradation of man.

Recalling and reaffirming the 1991 Seventh Assembly Statement on the Gulf War, the Middle East the Threat to World Peace and its statement on the Situation in Iraq of February 1998, where it warned against renewed military action which would result in large scale casualties and increased suffering by the Iraqi people;

Recalling and reaffirming subsequent WCC actions and public statements calling upon the United Nations Security Council to lift immediately all sanctions that have direct and indiscriminate effect on the civilian population of Iraq;

Reiterating its conviction that “under the sovereignty of God, no nation or group of nations is entitled to prosecute vengeance against another. Nor is any nation entitled to make unilateral judgements and take unilateral actions that lead to the devastation of another nation and the massive suffering of its people.” (Central Committee, Potsdam, 2001);

Shares the fears and concerns of the churches in the Middle East and as expressed by the Middle East Council of Churches in its statement of August 5, 2002, and supports its call for “a sustained and determined diplomatic and political effort that engages the Iraqi government directly, and a sustained campaign to re-empower the Iraqi people and restore their dignity”;

Welcomes The Christian Declaration launched in mid-July by Pax Christi UK which considers the pronouncements of war plans against Iraq by the USA, with a possible British support as immoral and illegal, deploring the fact that the world’s most powerful nations continue to regard war as an acceptable instrument of foreign policy, in violation of both the United Nations and Christian teachings;

Further welcomes the positions taken by churches in the USA, the UK, Canada, Australia and other nations expressing grave concerns about the threat of war against Iraq;

Calls upon the Government of Iraq to respect the resolutions of the UN Security Council, including demands that it destroy all weapons of mass destruction and related research and production facilities, to cooperate fully with UN inspectors deployed to oversee compliance, and to guarantee full respect of the civil and political, economic, social and cultural human rights for all its citizens;

Calls insistently upon the Government of the United States of America to desist from any military threats against Iraq and any further development of plans for military actions against that country;
Urges the international community to uphold the international rule of law, to resist pressures to join in preemptive military strikes against a sovereign state under the pretext of the “war on terrorism,” and to strengthen their commitment to obtain respect for United Nations Security Council resolutions on Iraq by non-military means;

Calls upon all member churches and ecumenical partners to prevail upon their governments to address the root causes of the conflict itself and to put an end to the dire humanitarian crisis in Iraq; and

Reiterates its expression of solidarity with and prayers for the churches and people of Iraq.


VI. MINUTE ON THE TRAGEDY OF SEPTEMBER 11TH 2001 AND THE
IMPLICATIONS OF THE US GOVERNMENT’S RESPONSE

The Central Committee expresses its deep appreciation for the report it has received on the extensive efforts undertaken by the Executive Committee, the General Secretary and the staff of the Council in response to the terrorist attacks on the USA on 11 September 2001. It endorses the brief message sent to the US churches by the General Secretary on behalf of the Executive Committee that was in session in Geneva on that day, and his subsequent pastoral letter to them of 20 September. As the letter of 11 September said: “We pray especially for the victims of these tragedies and for their families and loved ones…We fervently pray that this is the end of terror, and implore those responsible to desist from any further such acts of inhumanity.” Those prayers continue.

By the sending of a “living letters” pastoral delegation to the churches in the USA, the Council embodied the outpouring of solidarity and sympathy – and also the forebodings – of churches and related councils around the world. As the team expressed, “we have come out of our wounded contexts to share with you in your woundedness. We have been moved to humility and encouraged to hear church leaders battling with questions that are broader than their own concerns, that take in the larger context of the world.” US churches have been encouraged and uplifted by the expressions of support and sympathy from every corner of the globe, including from those who have experienced the devastating effects of terrorism and war.

In adopting this minute, the Central Committee recognizes that it has been just one year since the attacks, that the wounds are still deep and that the resulting and pervasive sense of vulnerability remains in the people of the United States and people elsewhere. We also recognize that these attacks were orchestrated by a well-financed and dispersed terrorist network. Further, we recognize that many members of the US churches are still engaged in the spiritual struggle to resolve the tension between a heightened patriotism evoked by these attacks against US symbols and citizens on the one hand and a renewed spirituality that calls for them to embrace unfamiliar vulnerability and to reflect on the moral complexities of these events on the other hand.

The US churches responded and continue to respond to grief, to broken communities and to the shock of unfamiliar vulnerability. Many US churches have spoken publicly about the negative consequences of their government’s response to the terrorist attacks. At its November 2001 Assembly, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA (NCCCUSA) stated “We believe that the tragedy of the September 11th attacks and the ensuing war on terrorism…provide a kairos moment, a place within God’s time – a time for the Church to bear witness to the fullness of God, our creator, redeemer and comforter.” In that statement, NCCCUSA also expressed grave concern about the violation of human rights and the civil liberties of those being detained by the US government and expressed a concern that the US government work with the community of nations in responding to the threat of terrorism and working for justice and peace. But the space for open public discussion of the current US response to terrorism is limited and critics are often portrayed as disloyal and unpatriotic.

The US military response to the attacks led the WCC to take a series of clear and appropriate public issues actions. Through Behind the News: Voices of Faith, Visions of Hope, produced jointly with Action by Churches Together (ACT) and the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, the Council provided essential information and analysis that was not otherwise generally available, helping member communions and others to better understand developments. The two “discernment” consultations convened in Geneva (November 2001) and Washington, D.C. (August 2002) by the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs have helped churches around the world to think through the issues and challenges and to begin to develop their responses in a concerted way.

The background paper on Public Issues prepared for this meeting by the International Relations staff seeks to provide a cogent analysis of the implications of the US government’s response to the events of 11 September. In solidarity with those who suffer in the USA and around the world because of the events since 11 September, we share the following concerns in hope and prayer for a more just and peaceful world:

1. The impact on international peace and security. The US government has responded to the events of 11 September through military means and has pressed all the nations of the world to align themselves with US policies by threatening serious repercussions if they do not. This “war on terrorism” has reinforced the concept of military “solutions” to complex issues, thus giving licence for the continuation and escalation of civil wars and other armed conflicts, including the Israel-Palestine conflict. Further, governments in all regions have used the “war on terrorism” to justify repression of political dissent. By dividing the world into the “good and the evil”, US leadership has encouraged dangerously simplistic approaches to complex realities. The churches have a particular responsibility to resist oversimplification of complex realities.

2. The impact on human rights and international law. In its response to the attacks, the US government has implemented a series of measures which threaten human rights and civil liberties in both the United States and elsewhere. The US government has demanded decisive measures by other nations to adopt legislation and practices that mirror those of the US. In doing so, the USA has contributed to the adoption of policies in many countries reminiscent of the 1970s and 1980s when repressive military governments applied the doctrine of “national security” through declarations of states of emergency that set aside constitutional protections for human rights and civil liberties. Both the immediate and long-term implications of this are deeply troubling and challenge Christians to continue to speak and to support strong human rights standards which churches themselves have had a preeminent role in developing.


    Similarly, the US government has indicated on many occasions that it will bypass the United Nations. By so doing, and by its opposition to the newly-established International Criminal Court, the USA has seriously undercut international law and standards. It has thus put in severe jeopardy efforts of more than half a century to establish a just world order. The churches’ own long-standing commitment to the development of international law and cooperation is at stake.


3. The practice of unilateralism. The determination of the US government to act alone wherever it deems necessary, and to claim for itself immunity both under the UN Charter and its own treaty obligations sows the seeds of serious international confrontations in the future. It has already abrogated several treaty obligations entered into by previous Administrations, several of them ratified by the US Congress (for example the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.) In UN gatherings before and since 11 September, the US has often stood virtually alone against the world on matters ranging from disarmament to environmental policies to racism. This too is troubling. As participants in the August 2002 Washington meeting said in their message to the WCC Central Committee, “peaceful relations among nations and peoples are achieved through multilateral decision-making, not by the unilateral economic and military actions of one country”.

4. The global rise of militarism and new military doctrines. Already before 11 September, the USA had strengthened its own military presence around the world. This presence has been growing since 11 September so that it is reported that US military forces are today stationed in more than 100 countries. Beyond this extension of its global military reach, the Bush administration advocates unilateral pre-emptive military strikes in response to perceived threats to US security. This runs counter to the UN Charter and creates a pattern that could seriously undermine international security. This implied equation of security with military force is in stark contrast to the commitment of churches to human security, which can be achieved only through economic justice, peace, and respect for human rights and international law.

As the world faces the real and ongoing threat of terrorism, we reaffirm that the most effective ways of combating terrorism are to be found in building a more just world order in which the rights and dignity of all human beings are upheld and affirmed. Powerful as it is – politically, economically and militarily – the USA is only one nation within the world community. It is earnestly hoped that the US government will again work with other nations to strengthen the framework of world order that it was itself instrumental in shaping at the Founding Conference of the United Nations in San Francisco.

The churches of all nations have a critical moral and ethical responsibility to speak truth to power. The fulfillment of this responsibility requires thoughtful discussion of these issues and prayerful discernment of Christian responses. Within the framework of the Decade to Overcome Violence, the churches are challenged to promote reconciliation and healing, to intensify efforts at inter-faith dialogue, and to strengthen their relations with each other in responding to this new and dangerous world order. We are called to address these issues taking account of Christ’s words to his disciples:

    You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. (Mt 5:43-45)

VII. MINUTE ON THE RENEGOTIATION OF THE COMPACTS OF FREE ASSOCIATION BETWEEN THE USA AND THE FEDERATED STATES OF MICRONESIA AND THE REPUBLIC OF THE MARSHALL ISLANDS

At the end of World War II the USA was given trusteeship of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands by the United Nations, with an obligation to assist the two Pacific nations in becoming self-sufficient and independent. These islands, located in Pacific halfway between Hawaii and Australia, were seen as militarily strategic by US policy-makers, and from 1946 to 1958 the USA conducted 67 nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands.

Since 1986, the US relationship to the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) has been defined by Compacts of Free Association, which expired in 2001 and are under re-negotiation until October 2003. In early September 2002, a delegation of church representatives from the RMI, hosted by two U.S. churches, will visit Washington, D.C. to meet with members of Congress concerning the Compacts, which were negotiated by Micronesians and Marshallese unaware of the full consequences of the nuclear testing and of the true costs both of independence and of the clean-up from the testing.

In the year prior to the Vancouver Assembly (1983), the World Council of Churches sent a delegation to Micronesia and the Marshall Islands as part of the pre-Assembly visits and through them learned of the health problems suffered by the people as a result of the nuclear testing, and of the forced relocation of people from some of the atolls of the Marshall islands to accommodate US military requirements. Several weeks before that Assembly, a four-member delegation, including a nuclear physicist, was sent to the Marshall Islands and Micronesia to assess the health impact of radiation on the people and the social and human costs of the US military presence there. This delegation’s report was received in Vancouver, where Ms Darlene Keju-Johnson, a Marshallese woman, gave a powerful personal testimony in which she informed Assembly delegates that the problem of nuclear exposure was far greater than the US had admitted. She pointed out that the US restricted its health care for her people to those of just two atolls. Darlene died in 1996 at age 45 of breast cancer.

While the WCC’s comprehensive report laid an excellent foundation, little follow-up has been given in recent years. A University of Hawaii study has now been released that shows that the 67 nuclear detonations carried out in the atolls were roughly the equivalent of ten Hiroshima-sized bombs per week throughout the testing period. Likewise, a recently declassified US government document, “The Solomon Report,” reveals an effort to keep both of these Pacific countries permanently tied to the USA through “strategic economic dependency”. To all this must now be added the environmental impact of global warming on sea-level islands.

The Central Committee therefore requests the WCC to monitor developments related to the renegotiations of the Compacts of Free Association, to study the issues and concerns of the peoples of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands, and in cooperation with the US churches explore ways to support their advocacy for just compensation and the removal of unfair provisions of the Compacts. This work should be linked with similar efforts being made by the Council to advocate for just compensation for the damage caused to the lands and peoples of all the peoples in the Pacific, including especially those in and near Tahiti, who have been deeply affected by French nuclear testing.

VIII. INFORMATION ON INDONESIA

The Public Issues Committee also considered the request made related to continuing religious and communal tensions in Indonesia and informs the Central Committee that it has responded to this, according to the procedures for public issues, as part of the ongoing work of the WCC. As indicated in the Preliminary Report on Public Issues prepared by the International Relations staff, the Council has given high priority to the continuing tension and conflict between Muslims and Christian in Indonesia, especially in Aceh and in the Malukus. Of particular concern now are the developments in South and Central Sulawesi where, despite the Malino Agreements I & II between the Muslim and Christian communities and the Government of Indonesia, violence and killings continue almost unabated. In response to the above-mentioned request, a letter will be prepared to reiterate ecumenical concerns to the President of Indonesia. International Relations staff of the Council will continue to monitor developments closely, in regular contact with the churches in Indonesia and the Christian Conference of Asia, and plans are being made for a pastoral visit by staff and key partners to give a further expression of ecumenical solidarity with the churches in the hope of helping them to restore harmonious inter-communal relations.


IX. APPRECIATION TO THE REV. DWAIN EPPS

As Dwain Epps now retires from his long and committed service with the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches, the Public Issues Committee on behalf of the Central Committee of the WCC, would like to express its deep appreciation for Dwain’s contribution to its deliberations and wish him all the best in his retirement. We have drawn on his extensive knowledge. We have been gifted with his excellent ability to formulate texts which are precise and have created consensus among us, guiding the Council in the area of international affairs. We have benefited tremendously from his theological insights and political analysis. Most of all we have appreciated his sense of humour, his company, his friendship and his deep loyalty for the ecumenical movement. In short: we shall miss him immensely.