World Council of Churches

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

Introduction

23 February 2006

The following report was presented to and received by the Assembly.
Its resolutions were proposed by the Public Issues Committee and approved by the Assembly through consensus.
Dissent expressed by Assembly delegates is recorded as endnotes.

The Public Issues Committee (PIC) was asked to work on draft proposals for five statements and one minute prepared in advance through a series of consultations and reflections and endorsed by the Executive Committee of the World Council of Churches in its meeting on February 13th, 2006. These were:  

  1. Statement on Latin America
  2. Statement on the Responsibility to Protect
  3. Statement on Terrorism, Human Rights and Counter-terrorism
  4. Statement on Reforming the United Nations
  5. Statement on Water for Life
  6. Minute on the Elimination of Nuclear Arms 

In this first report the PIC presents to the Assembly the draft statements on Latin America, Reforming the United Nations and Water for Life and a draft Minute on the Elimination of Nuclear Arms. The draft statements on the responsibility to Protect and Terrorism, Human Rights and Counter-terrorism will be presented in the second report of the PIC.

In addition, the Public Issues Committee received from the Assembly participants within the stipulated 24 hours after the announcement of the proposal of the Executive Committee, seven proposals for statements endorsed by at least ten member churches. After careful examination of the proposals in the framework of the existing policy and criteria for Public Issues actions by the general Assembly of the World Council of Churches, the Public Issues Committee proposes:  

  • A Minute on Mutual Respect, Responsibility and Dialogue with People of Other Faiths which will be presented in the second report of the PIC.

 In response to the six other proposals and issues raised, the Public Issues Committee proposes the following actions would be more appropriate:

1. Trafficking of women

The Public Issues Committee received a proposal about the issue of trafficking of women and a request to pay special attention to the upcoming World Cup in Football taking place in June 2006 in Germany which will potentially bring tens of thousands of prostitutes mainly from Central and Eastern European countries to Germany.

The Public Issues Committee noted that in its meeting February 15 - 22, 2005 the WCC Central Committee issued a statement on uprooted people "Practising hospitality in an era of new forms of migration". The statement underlines human trafficking as one new trend in migration that "involves recruiting and/or transporting people using violence, other forms of coercion, or providing misleading information in order to exploit them economically or sexually (through for example, forced prostitution and bonded labour). Trafficked persons are often in conditions of slavery and are no longer free to move or to decide on their destinies. Women and children are particularly vulnerable to trafficking". The statement further recommends that churches should "combat the trafficking of human beings, particularly women and children for sexual exploitation; to work with governments, churches and concerned non-governmental organisations to ensure that the victims of traffickers receive the necessary treatment and respect; and to oppose efforts by governments to use the existence of trafficking as an excuse to restrict further immigration.

Follow-up actions on human trafficking have been initiated in the regions and taken up by some member churches. The Public Issues committee recommends that the WCC General Secretary and staff work in collaboration with their regional and international contacts to continue to closely monitor the situation, give further support to member churches and take appropriate actions. 

2. Poverty

The Public Issues Committee received a proposal for a statement on Poverty. Poverty is indeed a major issue in our world and fighting poverty a priority for the World Council of Churches. The WCC gathered at its Eight Assembly in Harare strongly stated that the "reality of unequal distribution of power and wealth, of poverty and exclusion challenges the cheap language of our global shared community". The lack of a strong ethical and moral approach in responding to poverty is sinful in the eyes of God. The Public Issues Committee agrees that the issue of poverty in our world is a challenge that the churches and the wider ecumenical family are called to address in the 21st century. This, however, must be an intentional on-going process.

Considering seriously the implications of poverty on the lives of God`s people, the Public Issues Committee is presenting to the Assembly three statements where the issue of poverty is addressed. These statements, carefully written after much consultations and reflections, call upon churches and governments to address the various causes of poverty in our world. The statements on Water for life, Latin America and on Reforming the United Nations speak firmly and specifically on issues of poverty and how to fight poverty in different contexts.

3. Incarceration of the Orthodox Archbishop in Skopje, FYROM

The Public Issues Committee received a proposal to condemn the incarceration of Archbishop Jovan of Ochrid and Metropolitan of Skopje (FYROM). The World Council of Churches has addressed the situation of Archbishop Jovan by sending, on 31 August 2005, a letter to H.E. Branko Crvenkovski, the President of the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, expressing deep concern for the imprisonment and reiterating that WCC considered that inter-church disagreements and disputes should be resolved through discussion and dialogue and judicial approach used only as a last resort.

The Public Issues Committee recommends the General Secretary and the staff to closely continue monitoring the situation and take appropriate measures as needed. 

4. Protection of Discriminated WCC Member Churches1

The Public Issues Committee received a proposal on Protection of Discriminated WCC member churches making special reference to the Hungarian speaking minority churches East-Central Europe (Serbia-Montenegro, Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine).

On the particular situation of these minorities, the Public Issues Committee noted the report of the Central Committee in February 2005 where the situation of Vojvodina in Serbia-Montenegro was taken up as an area of great concern. Several church and government delegations have recently visited the region. WCC Programme Executive for Europe visited Serbia-Montenegro in April 2005 meeting the leadership of the minority churches. In addition the regional secretary and the WCC Commission of Churches on International Affairs monitor and follow-up the general situation in the region with special attention to minority situations in light of the WCC policy to give priority to the respect for Human Rights for all people and the unity between the different member churches in the region. Actions are being taken when appropriate with government institutions. The Public Issues Committee recommends that the CCIA and the Programme Executive for Europe, in consultation with the Conference of European Churches, follow the development and consider further actions as appropriate.

The proposal highlights the issues of persecution, discrimination and oppression of member churches of the WCC also in general terms. The Public Issues Committee affirms that supporting member churches in these situations, acting on behalf of the whole WCC fellowship, is in the core of the mandate of the Commission of Churches on International Affairs, and whenever such situations arise the WCC will act to protect members of the body, take up the issues in government relations and inter-governmental meetings. 

5. Indigenous Peoples and Language Loss

The Public Issues Committee received a proposal for a minute on Indigenous Peoples and language loss. The WCC Central Committee, meeting in Geneva in February, 2005, issued a statement on Human Rights and Languages of Indigenous Peoples. In that document, the Central Committee called on member churches to urge the establishment of a UN International Year of Indigenous Languages in 2006 or a subsequent year and to appeal to their governments to remove discriminatory laws against Indigenous Languages, to work towards removing the layers of educational and social pressures arrayed against Indigenous Languages, and to actively pursue compliance with international conventions and treaties that regard the use of the language of heritage as a basic human right. The Public Issues Committee regards the Central Committee statement of February, 2005 mentioned herein as important and relevant and request churches to consider practical ways in which they can respond to this world-wide crisis, calling attention to the critical issue of language loss and working towards remedies both in their local areas and at international level. The Central Committee remind churches and the Christian community of the diversity of spoken languages as a sign of the presence of the fullness of the Spirit of God in Acts 2 and the full diversity of languages as an integral part of the vision of worship in the presence of God in Revelation 7:9. These concerns have also been shared with the Programme Guidelines Committee of the Assembly.

6. Peaceful Reunification of the Korean Peninsula

The Public Issues Committee received a proposal for a statement on Reunification of the Korean Peninsula. During the Korean War when the peninsula was divided WCC adopted the UN position which laid the entire blame on the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea and resulting in enormous suffering of the Korean people.

The World Council of Churches continued to monitor the developments in the Korean peninsula. In 1984, October, the WCC at the request of the Korean churches organised a consultation on Peace in North East Asia. Amongst others the consultation spoke of the peace and reunification of the Korean Peninsula and its people. This even took place in Tozanso, Japan.

Subsequent to the Tozanso meeting there were series of visits by Korean Christian Federation (KCF) and National Council of Churches- Korea (NCC-K) leaders at Glion, Switzerland. These meetings continued in Kyoto and Macau. The WCC in cooperation with the Churches in Korea prepared a framework for unification. Through the 1980´s and 1990´s there were visits and exchanges between member churches in Canada, USA and Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea including meetings with separated families.

WCC continues to monitor developments in Korean peninsula including the 6 party talks. Last year the Korean working group comprising of NCC-K, KCF, National Council of Churches in Japan and Christian Conference of Asia and WCC reiterated support for 6 party talks and agreed to continue to monitor bilateral relations between North and South and the proposals made under the sunshine policy.

September 2004 the WCC Executive Committee meeting in Seoul made a statement on the unification issue but also on human rights and the nuclear concerns. WCC will continue to monitor the developments and take necessary action in cooperation with the member churches in Korea.

Resolution:

The Ninth Assembly accepts the responses of the Public Issues Committee to the requests for additional statements. 


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1 Dissent was registered from the delegation of the Serbian Orthodox Church, objecting to the wording of the paragraph.

2 Dissent was registered from John Alfred Steele, delegate from the Anglican Church of Canada, who believes that the strict application of international law should not prevent intervention in extreme situations such as genocide or ongoing widespread killing of civilian populations.

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