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Public comment on the situation in Georgia

The World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches express alarm and distress at the use of force in the dispute over South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

12 August 2008

The World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches join in expressing our alarm and distress at the violent events of recent days in the Caucasus. The use of force in the dispute over South Ossetia and Abkhazia has cost the precious lives of civilians and soldiers, risks destabilizing a fragile region, and reawakens deep fears there and far beyond.

We affirm the calls from the heads of the Russian Orthodox Church and the Georgian Orthodox Church for a ceasefire, for negotiations between the combatants, and respect for the peoples involved. We affirm a similar call for peace and for urgent relief work within the affected regions from the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia, a member church of the Conference of European Churches. We encourage churches around the world to support these sister churches and the international ecumenical emergency appeal initiated by Action by Churches Together.

It is fitting that Europe gives leadership in making peace. The European Union and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe are offering an appropriate framework for resolving the crisis. We urge all involved to cooperate actively with their endeavours. These multilateral initiatives send a welcome signal to the world that the politics of armed force are bankrupt.

We support the call for military forces to return to positions held before the current violence. The United Nations must ensure the territorial integrity and political independence of Georgia in accordance with the UN Charter and by collective action of the UN Security Council. Parties to the conflict must act urgently in a manner that will convince the international community that they are pursuing legitimate interests. Authorities who resorted to the use of force are to be held accountable for the loss of life they have caused. The well-being of people who have fled their homes and of those whose homes have been destroyed must be a high priority in the coming days.

We recognize that good relations between neighbours are a gift of God and an obligation of all people. We ask that our member churches pray for the people of Georgia and its neighbours, and for all who in these days work for peace and reconciliation.

Dr William Temu

                                                          

The Venerable Colin Williams

Acting General Secretary

General Secretary

World Council of Churches

Conference of European Churches