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WCC advocacy week at UN highlights creative ecumenical peacemaking methods in Sudan, Korea, Israel/Palestine and Colombia

18 November 2004

Photos available free of charge, see below

Cf. WCC press update PU-04-61 of 17 November 2004

Cf. WCC press update PU-04-60 of 16 November 2004

Cf . WCC press release PR-04-56 of 11 November 2004

Through combined spiritual accompaniment and active advocacy approaches, the ecumenical movement is making a vital contribution to the work for peace in crisis regions around the world. A case in point - Sudan - was the main focus of the third public seminar at a 14-19 November World Council of Churches (WCC) international affairs and advocacy week at the UN in New York.

"Moral outrage and fear everywhere" define the current situation in Sudan according to seminar keynote speaker Jan Egeland, the Humanitarian Relief coordinator for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Although the signs of crisis in Sudan were present many months beforehand, the international response was "too little, too late" he said.

"The threshold for intervention should not be the declaration of genocide. Humanitarian relief and intervention actions should happen much before the situation arrives at that level of crisis," said Ernie Regehr of the WCC's Churches Commission on International Affairs (CCIA). Other participants commented that a focus on the definition of genocide draws attention away from critical needs, especially in a situation like that in Sudan.

Seminar moderator Shirley deWolf, a member of the CCIA Commission, emphasized the importance of building the capacity of churches and church leaders who are currently doing the peacemaking, and who will remain in the countries long after the aid agencies have gone.

Panelist Ørnulf Steen, general secretary of the Christian Council of Norway and a member of the Sudan Ecumenical Forum, concurred that capacity-building is as critical to achieving lasting peace as it is for the ongoing work of reconciliation. The Forum was created in 1994 to provide a shared platform for advocacy between the churches of the Sudan and partner churches, church-related agencies and ecumenical councils in Africa, Europe and North America. Combined with the efforts of councils of churches in Sudan and of the All Africa Conference of Churches, it is an important tool for peace-building in Sudan, he said.

"Women and children suffer disproportionately in Sudan's crisis, and the deep levels of abuse and trauma they have experienced will not be addressed by a written peace agreement signed in a distant city. Churches must think about how to address this issue," commented another panelist, Rev. John McCullough, executive director of Church World Service.

A mandate for advocacy in crisis

"The humanitarian work of saving people drowning in a river is normally not controversial. The political response - sending people upstream to find out who is throwing people into the river, understand why this is happening, and develop a constructive answer - can be more controversial," WCC/CCIA director Peter Weiderud suggested to participants at an afternoon seminar session on the work of advocacy in crisis.

Strategic sessions on regional situations highlighted some several "forgotten" conflict areas : Southeast Europe, Israel-Palestine, the Korean Peninsula, Colombia, and Zimbabwe.

Among the advocacy and action methods discussed, an "Eminent Persons Programme" being created in partnership with various ecumenical partners, will be an important part of global ecumenical efforts to address conflict situations in Africa. From Colombia, Patricia Cleves of the National Conciliation Commission of Colombia, and Rev. Pablo Noguera of the Ecumenical Network in Colombia shared about the ongoing struggles in their country, and the hope that the work of churches there is providing.

A senior advisor with Church World Service, Victor Hsu shared lessons learned in long-term ecumenical advocacy efforts on the Korean Peninsula. Pastoral visits and ecumenical delegations have played an important role there, as has getting key players together, increasing the participation of women and youth, and public campaigns on human rights. The work of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) is another creative method initiated by the WCC in real partnership with churches in the region and around the world. This unique programme has been a crucial step for ecumenical advocacy work in the Middle East crisis, Weiderud said.

Media contact person: Dr Laurence Konmla Bropleh, permanent representative, WCC UN Liaison Office, tel: 1 212- 867 5891, Mobile: 1 202 258 4166 email: lbr@wcc-coe.org

Information on the 2004 WCC Advocacy Week is available at:

www.wcc-coe.org/wcc/what/international/advocweek04.html

More information on the work of the WCC UN Liaison Office (UNLO) in New York is available at

www.wcc-un.org

Photos from the 14-19 November International Advocacy Week are available on our website at:wcc-coe.org/wcc/what/international/advocweek-photos.html