World Council of Churches

A worldwide fellowship of churches seeking unity, a common witness and Christian service

A Basic Framework For The Decade To Overcome Violence

03 September 1999

Working document adopted by the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches, Geneva, 26 August - 3 September 1999.

Introduction

The Eighth Assembly of the World Council of Churches gathered together under an African cross, in Harare, Zimbabwe, to discern priorities and programmes for the next seven years. Around the Assembly theme, "Turn to God - Rejoice in Hope", delegates established the Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV). The Assembly stated that the WCC must "work strategically with the churches on these issues of nonviolence and reconciliation to create a culture of nonviolence, linking and interacting with other international partners and organizations, and examining and developing appropriate approaches to conflict transformation and just peace-making in the new globalized context." The WCC intends, therefore, to further its solidarity with Africa and grow together with the world communion of people who are building cultures of nonviolence and peace.

Faithful to the Assembly's mandate, the focus of the WCC's work during the Decade to Overcome Violence will be on the concept "overcome", rather than "violence". Therefore, the methodology will bring out the positive experiences of churches and groups working towards overcoming violence. The Decade to Overcome Violence must grow out of the experiences and work of local churches and community contexts. The WCC can facilitate the exchange, act as a switchboard, and highlight experiences of local peace-building, peacekeeping, and prevention of violence. The Decade to Overcome Violence, however, should move beyond WCC structures in Geneva to include all member churches, non-member churches, NGOs, and other organizations that are committed to peace.

The Decade to Overcome Violence, therefore, will highlight and network efforts by churches, ecumenical organizations, and civil society movements to overcome different types of violence. The WCC should seek to establish points of contact with the relevant aims, programmes, and architecture of the United Nations Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World (2001-2010). It is important for the Decade to Overcome Violence to focus on the specific and unique contributions of both the individual member churches and the WCC as a whole.

Calling on the WCC's rich heritage of programmes for peace and justice, the organizers for the WCC's work on the Decade to Overcome Violence can build on, and create continuity with, models of coordinating a decade, campaigns, and programmes. Organizers will particularly consider the following methodologies: team visits and Living Letters (such as those of the Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women (EDCSW)) to address concerns and perspectives from all over the world; World Wide Web, video, and print materials (Peace to the City campaign); exchanges and visits. The Decade to Overcome Violence should further these methodologies. The Decade to Overcome Violence should continue the work already done through the Programme to Overcome Violence and the Peace to the City campaign.

I. Goals

In order to move peace-building from the periphery to the centre of the life and witness of the church and to build stronger alliances and understanding among churches, networks, and movements which are working toward a culture of peace, the goals of the Decade to Overcome Violence are:

Addressing holistically the wide varieties of violence, both direct and structural, in homes, communities, and in international arenas and learning from the local and regional analyses of violence and ways to overcome violence.

Challenging the churches to overcome the spirit, logic, and practice of violence; to relinquish any theological justification of violence; and to affirm anew the spirituality of reconciliation and active nonviolence.

Creating a new understanding of security in terms of cooperation and community, instead of in terms of domination and competition.

Learning from the spirituality and resources for peace-building of other faiths to work with communities of other faiths in the pursuit of peace and to challenge the churches to reflect on the misuse of religious and ethnic identities in pluralistic societies.

Challenging the growing militarization of our world, especially the proliferation of small arms and light weapons.

II. A basic framework for the Decade to Overcome Violence

1. Keys to designing and implementing the Decade to Overcome Violence

Allowing multiple entry points through which churches, groups, and issues may join and find their voice.

Ensuring and supporting creative, effective, professional communication as central to the process and success of the Decade to Overcome Violence

Sustaining momentum over the ten years;

Using different methodologies appropriate to specific goals;

Developing clearly defined goals for the mid-point of the Decade to Overcome Violence (2005 Assembly), as well as for the end of the Decade in 2010;

Involving all WCC clusters and teams in the Decade to Overcome Violence.

2. Two stages of the Decade to Overcome Violence

2001-2005, culminating in the WCC's Ninth Assembly (2005).

2006-2010, culminating in an end of the Decade celebration.

3. Phases of the Decade to Overcome Violence

Phase I: 1999-2000: Preparation for the Decade and Launch.
The WCC Central Committee will invite member churches and ecumenical partners to join the Decade to Overcome Violence. The WCC Central Committee will ask regional ecumenical gatherings to outline their specific priorities and projects and thus to contribute to the development of the architecture; formulation of the main message; creation of an appropriate organizational framework and budget for coordination and planning; development and implementation of communication strategies; preparation for the launch.

Phase II: 2001-2004: Launch and Decade to Overcome Violence Actions.
In January 2001, simultaneous launches would be organized around the world, involving local congregations and groups as well as highly visible, international events. Different issues and appropriate methodologies will be used in the Decade to Overcome Violence process which are coordinated with regard to planning, communication, joint events, and common goals.

Phase III: 2004: Synthesis through Cross-Contextual Analysis and Experience.
As some issues and actions continue, the WCC will facilitate exchanges between creative models of peacemaking addressed in the first three years with the aim of strengthening networks and building new alliances.

Phase IV: 2005: Analysis/Evaluation/Preparation for the Assembly and the Next Five Years. Analysis and evaluation of the first stage of the Decade to Overcome Violence will reflect on the process and assess the following questions: What are the lessons learned this far? What are the challenges to the churches? What are the churches doing? What still needs to be done? Strategic exchanges and visits will help Decade to Overcome Violence participants to listen and learn from one another. These evaluations and exchanges will contribute to the Assembly preparation and build new impetus for the Decade's second stage.

Phase V: 2005-2010: WCC Ninth Assembly.
Lessons and challenges from the first part of the Decade will be shared. The focus and plan of action for 2006-2010 are finalized and adopted.

4. Possible Approaches and Methodologies

Study processes
Continuing and expanding the theological reflections on violence and nonviolence, from the perspectives of the dignity and human rights of human beings and of the community; an ongoing and accessible Biblical study process (contextual, cross-contextual, cross-cultural); study and analysis of the work of truth and reconciliation commissions.

Engaging the churches and regional networks in reflection on violence and peace-building in the midst of structural challenges such as racism, globalization, violence against women, violence among youth, violence against children, etc.

Campaigns
Providing practical support and solidarity to churches and groups in their efforts to mobilize campaigns on specific issues with defined goals to prevent, transform and overcome violence in their own contexts. Encouraging churches and organizations to network for specific international campaigns.

Education
Collecting, compiling, and sharing peace education curricula for children, youth, and adults, by building on existing models, particularly from the Christian perspective, networking educators and resource people, as well as theological institutions, who are engaged in conflict resolution, transformation, and mediation. Challenging present educational systems and media which perpetuate competition, aggressive individualism and violence, especially among children.

Worship and Spirituality
Sharing resources and practices for worship and prayer across traditions and cultures in order to focus on our common efforts of peace-making and reconciliation. The concept of metanoia is particularly important as the churches take responsibility for their part in violent actions from the past and in the present. Metanoia encompasses confession, repentance, renewal, and celebration of faith and is therefore a foundation of a culture of peace.

Telling the Story - Decade "Open Space"
Sharing stories of violence, initiatives to overcome violence, and sustaining cultures of peace, churches, communities, groups, and individuals will create "open space" through the World Wide Web, print, video, events and personal exchanges. These stories will connect people and efforts, provide support and solidarity, share resources and ideas, and provide constant input into the process and focus of the Decade, particularly for the second stage, 2006-2010.  

5. Issues

"Violence" is not only physical. "Violence" is also emotional, intellectual, and structural. Throughout the Decade to Overcome Violence, the focus will be on the response and prevention to forms of violence, such as:

Overcoming violence between nations
Overcoming violence within nations
Overcoming violence in local communities
Overcoming violence within the home and the family
Overcoming violence within the church
Overcoming sexual violence
Overcoming socio-economic violence
Overcoming violence as a result of economic and political blockades
Overcoming violence among youth
Overcoming violence associated with religious and cultural practices
Overcoming violence within legal systems
Overcoming violence against creation
Overcoming violence as a result of racism and ethnic hatred

III. Concluding remarks

The Ecumenical Decade to Overcome Violence is meant to capture the excitement and expectations of churches, ecumenical organizations, groups and movements around the world for the positive, practical, and unique contribution of the churches to building a culture of peace. The design and methodology of the Decade to Overcome Violence should be focused and yet open to allow creativity and to utilize the dynamic energy of the churches and different groups in society. The architecture for the Decade to Overcome Violence will depend on the suggestions, plans, and leadership of the WCC's member churches and ecumenical partners who will define the issues and the processes that will lead the Decade to Overcome Violence forward.

This document will serve as a framework for preparatory steps in the Decade to Overcome Violence. Throughout the Decade, the Executive and Programme Committees will monitor the process and will sharpen the goals and methodologies.