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Message of peace with justice

from the women gathered at the consultation on Peace with Justice: Women Speak Out!, jointly organized by the WCC, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.

21 March 2002

from the women gathered at the Ecumenical Centre, Geneva, Switzerland 16-21 March 2002 at a consultation on Peace with Justice: Women Speak Out!

(The consultation was jointly organized by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches, Geneva)

Fifty women representing all the regions and various faith traditions of the world met in Geneva to share our stories of conflict situations and to state our commitment to peace with justice. We brought with us the spiritual resources from a variety of religions which under-girded our reflections. As our stories unfolded it became increasingly apparent that the accounts of conflict had certain themes in common. These themes included, situations that directly compromised peace and justice efforts, the impact of the ‘war against terrorism' launched by the United States and its Allies, economic, environmental, and political injustices due to instruments of global governance and the international financial institutions that are strangling the lives of women and children, violence against women and children during widespread conflicts, their displacement from homes and relegation to refugee status as a result of conflicts, and women's marginalisation during the solution processes to these wars. Violence begins without women's participation in initiating the conflict situations but then it finds its most evident and palpable expressions on the bodies and beings of women and children. The women from various countries observed that while we were never central players in initiating warfare, women carry the heavy burdens of helping our families survive and in rebuilding shattered lives. During our conversations over the few days it also became apparent that everyday women around the world are pursuing efforts of peace and justice, a better life for our children, and ways in which to restore our dignity and humanity in the face of excessive and violent opposition from patriarchal structures and institutions.

During the meetings and exchanges, the full meaning and wide range of violence as well as that of search for peace with justice were extended in a large arc of implications. The violence women experience is not due to war alone. Women bear the burden of racial violence, domestic violence, violence against Indigenous women when our rights are denied, violence committed against women in past wars about which there continues to be tacit silence, the seemingly innocuous role of media in perpetuating violent messages about women's place in society, economic violence when our access to economic equity is abrogated, religiously sanctioned and even promoted violence, unchecked disease committing violence on women via the extensive prevalence of AIDS which is killing us in large numbers, violence enacted on women's bodies when new nations are mapped and re-mapped, the continued violence when defence budgets are more than that of education, food, and health combined...the litany of these inequalities continued in the conversations. These stories and their implications were at times overwhelming except for the fervour and tenacity of women in our desire for a cessation of the entire scale of violence and conflict.

Remarkable in their intensity and power were the numerous stories of women continuing our efforts at holding at bay the fullest dehumanising effects of all these forms of violence. As we laughed and cried together, we shared numerous stories that spoke of bravery, resolve, determination, wisdom, and deep insight into the true meaning of life in community. Our vision of peace and justice was imbued with continuing resistance to the power of violent patriarchal institutions in eroding our sense of humanity. Our accounts enumerated the several ways in which we are involved in making the visions a reality in our public and private lives. We sought and shared ways in which peace and a full life in communities could be realised for all members of the community; it meant creating models of inclusive community living. We recognised the necessity of simultaneously challenging patriarchal structures of power and exercising our own individual and collective power at home and in our societies. To that end, we acknowledged the need for immediate cessation of violence in all its forms, a sustained commitment to peace in our homes and nations, and restoration of the dignity, respect, and humanity for women all over the world.