Statement on Terrorism, Counter-terrorism and Human Rights
23 February 2006
WCC 9th Assembly, Porto Alegre, Brazil, 14-23 February, 2006
"The violence of terrorism - in all its many forms - is abhorrent to all who believe human
life is a gift of God and therefore infinitely precious. Every attempt to intimidate others by
inflicting indiscriminate death and injury upon them is to be universally condemned. The
answer to terrorism, however, cannot be to respond in kind, for this can lead to more violence
and more terror. Instead, a concerted effort of all nations is needed to remove any possible
justification for such acts."
This message, included in the letter of the General Secretary of the WCC to the
Secretary General of the United Nations on October 1, 2001, is reaffirmed by the
9th Assembly of the WCC.
In recent times, acts of terror and some aspects of the so-called "war on terror"
have introduced new dimensions of violence. In addition, fundamental international
laws and norms, including long-established standards of human rights,
have come under threat.
Terrorists base their actions in absolutist claims. Religion is sometimes used as a
pretext for the use of violence as being divinely sanctioned. Assembled as representatives
from churches in all corners of the world, we state unequivocally that
terror, as indiscriminate acts of violence against unarmed civilians for political or
religious aims, can never be justified legally, theologically or ethically.
The WCC's 9th Assembly supports the stated goal of the Decade to Overcome
Violence to "relinquish any theological justification for violence and to affirm a
new spirituality of reconciliation and active non-violence".
Acts of terror are criminal acts, and should be addressed by the use of the instruments
of the rule of law, both nationally and internationally. These instruments
should be strengthened. The internationally accepted norms and standards of
human rights and humanitarian law are the result of common efforts and are
specifically meant to deal with situations of crisis and threats to individuals and
societies. There is a danger that these instruments will be eroded in the response
to terror. It is of critical importance to resist this erosion of rights and liberties.
The "war on terror" has redefined war and relativized international law and human
rights norms and standards. A military response to terror may become indiscriminately
destructive and cause fear in affected populations. It may provide legitimacy
to a violent approach rather than the criminal justice approach which is
appropriate in dealing with cases of terror. The international community should
cooperate in addressing terrorism, especially by strengthening the International
Criminal Court to respond to acts of terror. Terror can only be overcome by the
international community that upholds respect for the dignity of human beings
and the rule of law.
Churches and all other faith communities are called to respond to the reality of
living in a world terrorized by fear. At such a time it is appropriate to point to
the rich resources in religion which can guide us to peace and reconciliation. These
resources should be utilized when religious communities and religious leaders
come together to speak out against all acts of terror and any attempt to legitimize
it. They should also take action against any attempt at meeting terror with military
means and disrespect for human rights and the rule of law. 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. Churches have a pivotal role in
framing the issues within a culture of dialogue.
The Ninth Assembly, meeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil, 14-23 February, 2006:
a) Adopts the Statement on Terrorism, Counter-Terrorism and Human Rights.
b) Affirms the role of the churches to seek peace and pursue it. Violence against
unarmed and innocent civilians for political or religious aims by states and
non-state actors can never be justified legally, theologically or ethically.
c) Requests UN member states with urgency to agree on a clear definition of
d) Urges that terrorist acts and threats as well as organizational support for
terror be considered as matters of criminal justice. Measures to counter terrorism
must be demilitarized and the concept of "war on terror" must be
firmly and resolutely challenged by the churches.
e) Appreciates the theological work done by the churches on the concept of
security and calls for its further development.
f) Expresses the need to accompany and support the churches as they respond
prophetically and creatively in a pastoral and prophetic mission to assist
those that are caught up in fear.
g) Encourages interfaith initiatives to mobilize alternate responses to terrorism
that do not rely on violence. They should reject all attempts to justify
acts of terror as a response to political and social problems and play an active
role in the prevention of conflicts by serving as an early warning system
and by building a culture of peace for life.
h) Affirms that all acts to counter terrorism by the state must remain within
the framework of the international rule of law ensuring respect for human
rights and humanitarian law. Legislation to counter terrorism should not
result in humiliation and violation of human rights and dignities. It is necessary
for the states and the international community to go beyond policing
and military cooperation and embrace cooperation in order to address
root causes of terrorism.