Reflections on WCC 10th Assembly theme
06 December 2012
Reflections of the theologians and activists representing the Just and Inclusive Communities Working Group – including the five areas Dalit Solidarity, Global Ecumenical Network on Migration (GEM), Ecumenical Disabilities Advocacy Network (EDAN), Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples, and Churches Overcoming Racism, who met in Toronto, Canada, between 24 and 29 November 2012 under the theme: On the Way to Busan: Contributions from the Just and Inclusive Communities programme to the Tenth Assembly of the World Council of Churches in 2013.
The theme is a call, and needs to be asserted as one, so as to strengthen the work of justice and peace, inspiring creative and courageous initiatives. Excessive emphasis on prayer alone may be perceived as abdicating engagement and instead may encourage or justify inaction and complicity in injustice.
The following actions may be developed:
- A clear definition of the concepts related to the theme - God, Life, Justice and Peace, in view of the assumptions behind the concepts. For example, universalistic notions of justice do not necessarily ensure justice for all, especially for those whose suffering and misery are often legitimized based on certain considerations, including religio-cultural traditions and socio-economic systems.
- Naming the churches’ complicity in injustice, abuse and misuse of power, and violence in many forms.
In addition, we recommend:
a. That attention be paid to the contextual realities of the struggles for life, dignity, justice, and peace.
Churches cannot address these if they do not see and are not immersed in the experiences of suffering as well as overcoming the same. We lift up the cries of the victims of cultures and systems of discrimination and violence, such as racism, casteism, injustices affecting indigenous peoples, people with disabilities, people who are displaced and forced to migrate, ethnic, linguistic, religious and sexual minorities, and all those who are discriminated, violated, disempowered and excluded; these are the ones who must inform the reflections. It is, therefore, necessary to create spaces for the narratives of these voices, so that the churches’ reflections on life, justice and peace may enable the promise of abundant life that Jesus announced for all, in particular for those made and kept as last and the least, for whom Jesus said the coming Reign of God belongs.
b. That doing and struggling for Justice be constantly emphasized:
Churches cannot challenge injustice if they do not recognize its entrenched presence within the Church itself. Discrimination and denial of dignity and participation are expressions of injustice and instruments that deny life and its opportunities. These practices are present in many churches and often receive tacit legitimization in the name of culture and tradition. Therefore it is important to define justice as what God desires it to be. “What does the Lord require of you….” (Micah 6:8). This biblical message reminds us of the need to DO justice, since it is not an object to be obtained, a destination to be reached or an intellectual ideology to be imagined, but a reality achieved through radical concrete action. Therefore, churches must ask God to lead us or strengthen us to struggle for justice.
c. That our affirmation of hope in the God of Life must not be at the cost of ignoring or mocking the ‘nightmarish’ realities of people and communities whose lives are constantly threatened, abused and destroyed.
God of life brings people out of bondage into a life of freedom and dignity. Jesus announces liberation and restoration as important features of his ministry, and the poor and the marginalized as the inheritors of the Reign of God that he had come to announce. However, discrimination and exclusion - social, cultural, economic, and political - are a debilitating and oppressive reality in the lives of many groups of people. These realities pose the challenge that the paths to justice and peace are difficult but are to be taken in faith as an inevitable part of our affirmation of faith in the God of life. For this, the voices and experiences of marginalized people need to inform any reflection on the theme that claims to be authentic and pragmatic.
d. That God’s peace is based on justice and in that it becomes peace on the whole earth.
The biblical witness asserts loudly and clearly that justice is the pre-condition for peace. “The fruit of justice will be peace” (Isaiah 32:17). Jesus said to his disciples, “I give you peace, not as the world gives”. We are surrounded with a vast variety of definitions of justice and peace, reflecting various interests and vantage points. It is, therefore, necessary that we explore and assert that God’s justice and peace, as revealed through the biblical witness, are different. God’s peace is neither passive not placid but one that kindles and sustains hope and life through justice and love. This implies that the churches confess their historical tacit complicity in injustice and aggression against many communities of vulnerable people. Repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery, which for centuries caused large scale death and destruction of people in the Americas, by the Assembly could be one such expression. Churches can already discern God’s response to their prayers for justice and peace when they begin to act justly within and when justice becomes the reason for their existence and witness.