World Council of Churches

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

Messengers of Peace - DOV launch

Liturgy of a service held in the Gedächtniskirche of Berlin, Germany, on 4 February 2001 to launch the Decade to Overcome Violence.

04 February 2001

In the Gedächtniskirche of Berlin, Germany, on 4 February, 2001, a worship service will launch the Decade to Overcome Violence, sponsored by the World Council of Churches. This is an English version of that worship service somewhat adapted for local use. Further adaptation is not only allowed, but encouraged so that local churches may participate in this event.


The World Council of Churches has called for a Decade to Overcome Violence from 2001 - 2010, in conjunction with UNESCO, who proclaimed the years 2001 - 2010 International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World". The Decade appeals to all people

  • not to put up with destructive violence any longer;
  • to have the courage to ask themselves, how far their own words and deeds increase the potential of violence;
  • to set up signs for nonviolent ways of living together in congregations, movements and groups;
  • to try out methods and ways of non-violent conflict-resolution;
  • to work together for a world of peace with local communities, secular movements, and people of other faiths.

Many churches, groups and congregations have decided to participate in the Decade. It will be launched on Sunday, 4 February, 2001 with the following ecumenical worship service to be celebrated in Berlin on the occasion of the forth-coming meeting of the WCC Central Committee. Churches and congregations are welcome to adapt the service to their needs and possibilities.

Text in bold and italics is for the people. Plain text is for a single reader.


Brothers and sisters in Christ,
We have come together to stop for a moment to let ourselves consciously be drawn into the world-wide ecumenical movement. All around the earth there is growing concern about increasing violence between individual persons, peoples and religions. News about wars and violence against women, children and foreigners haunts us every day. The constant brutality seen every day on video, films and television hardens us. We are shaken by events happening around us, in our own neighbourhood and in our own region. The World Council of Churches is calling for a Decade to Overcome Violence, beginning this year. With this worship service we start to participate in it. We are invited to build a new culture of peace.

Violence comes in many forms, there is a diversity of victims and perpetrators. In the WCC proposal for this worship, children and their suffering from direct and indirect spiritual and structural violence are central.

Those who are vulnerable, small and without a lobby or voice of their own, do not count in the society of the strong emphasized by the global economy. But Jesus has spoken against this logic. During this worship service, we will name children who suffer and give them a face. All Christians, and the society at large, need to remember the names of those who suffer injustice. We will hear the lament of the victims, become aware of our own participation in the history of violence and face the denial to others of a full life. Then we will move toward the liberating forgiveness from our complicity with violence. We will be encouraged to become messengers of peace and to set up signs of life to overcome violence in a chain of light.

Prelude: a lament played on an instrument like a Saxophone

Blessed is our God now and for ever and unto the ages of ages.


A voice is heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping. Rachel is weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted for her children, because they are no more. (Jer 31:15)

Musical lament

Even when I cry out, "Violence!' I am not answered; I call aloud, but there is no justice. (Job 19:7)

Musical lament

Remember this, O Lord, how the enemy scoffs, and an impious people reviles your name. Do not deliver the soul of your dove to the wild animals; do not forget the life of your poor forever. Have regard for your covenant, for the dark places of the land are full of the haunts of violence. Do not let the downtrodden be put to shame; let the poor and needy praise your name. Rise up, O God, plead your cause; remember how the impious scoff at you all day long. (Ps 74:18-22)

Musical lament

Remember this, O Lord,
Remember this, O Lord,

Do not let the downtrodden be put to shame.
Do not let the downtrodden be put to shame.

Rise up, O God.
Rise up, O God.

Procession of cross and candles

The musical lament is played again. During the lament a cross is brought forward and a candle for each of the children that will be named in the service. In Berlin children who have died by violence will be named in a vigil the night before. Some of those names will come at this moment in the service. Their name, their country, and the cause of death will be said and then the congregation responds. It is important to try and represent all the variety of ways that violence comes against children.

The congregation responds,
In your mercy, remember them O God.

Hymn "Out of the depths", Martin Luther’s setting of Psalm 130

(During this song a Bible will be brought in as well as the Icon of St. Stephen.)

A reading from the book of Acts

Acts 7:54-8:1

Call to Confession

Saul, later St. Paul the Apostle was among those who executed Stephen, the first Christian martyr. Saul was convinced that he was doing a good and holy thing as he watched the killing. Christians have a painful history of either participating in or passively supporting violence for the best of reasons. Victims and the oppressed can become in their turn oppressors. At times we resort to aggression, violence and intolerance. At times we are the ones who cause pain in others. At times we watch and approve.

(Three people come with a confession of their participation in violence. After each short confession, they may bring an object to the cross, which symbolizes the violence they are confessing).

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we will not overcome violence until we acknowledge the violence that is within us. Few of us are free from its grasp. We take a moment to name this violence silently .

Song "A ti Señor te pedimos" from Chile or another song of confession

Two churches, one in Coventry, England, and the Gedächtniskirche in Berlin were bombed in World War II. In a remarkable gesture of reconciliation the people of Germany helped rebuild Coventry Cathedral and to this day a prayer is said in both places Fridays at noon. The response is a prayer of Jesus, Father forgive. We will respond with this prayer in many different languages.

The hatred which divides nation from nation, ethnic group from ethnic group, class from class,
Vater, vergib

The covetous desires of people and nations to possess what is not their own,
Father, forgive

The greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth,
Père pardonne

Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others,
Padre, pardónalos

Our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugees,
Aberdgi yongserhasoser

The lust which dishonours the bodies of men, women and children,
Baba dariji

The pride which leads us to trust in ourselves and not in God.
Pater, afes

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Declaration of Forgiveness
Hear the good news.
Christ is our peace.
He has united those who were separated.
He has broken down the wall of hostility.
Through his death he has reconciled us with God in one body.
He has proclaimed peace to those, who were far away,
and to those who were near. (Eph. 2:14-17)
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger
who announces peace, who brings good news,
who announces salvation
who says to Zion, "Your God reigns!" (Is. 52:7)

Hymn "Give us peace", India or "Donna Nobis Pacem"

Matthew 5:43-48

In many congregations there would be a sermon at this point.

Prayers for the enemy (from the Eastern Orthodox tradition)

O Christ, Our God, who prayed for those who crucified You, and asked us, your servants, to pray for our enemies; forgive those who hate and oppress us and, through Your Grace and love for humanity, change their lives from doing wrong and wickedness to love for their neighbors and life filled with goodness. That none of them may perish because of us but rather they and us together be saved through penitence; we pray You, Lord, hear us and have mercy.

Kyrie eleison (Ukraine)

Help us, O Lord, as much as it is in our power, to fulfill Your commandment to love our enemies and to do good to those who hate us. We entreat You and pray: You, the Compassionate One, turn the cunnings of our enemies into acts of love and reconciliation, and their thoughts towards You and your Holy Church so that they might not perish in that state of doing wrong; we pray to You, our Compassionate Lord, hear us and have mercy.

Kyrie eleison

As your first martyr Stephen prayed to You, O Lord, for those who were killing him, we are also coming to You in prayer and together with him we implore You: O Lord, God of rescue and care, do not count the sin of our enemies who hate and oppress us, but in Your pity forgive them, have pity on them, put in them the longing for repentance and change their lives so that none of them may perish because of us, but all be saved through Your Grace. We also pray that You have pity on us; with Your mighty hand protect and deliver us from their oppression and wickedness we pray to You, the Almighty Lord, hear us and have mercy.

Kyrie eleison

Lord, our God, Compassionate and caring God, look to our hearts which are in lack of love and unity but are encircled by the thorns of hatred and of other sin. May a drop of the Grace of your Holy Spirit fall on them so that we all may bring forth abundant fruits of good works and live in love and unity with one another. By the grace of Your Holy Spirit melt the hatred which inhabits us and heat our hearts and souls with the flame of Your love and with that for one another, diligently we implore You, hear us, O Lord, the source of all goodness, hear us and have mercy.

Kyrie eleison

The Lord’s Prayer

Song "O healing river"

The vision of peace

In unison with the experiences of the victims of violence,
with the way of Jesus Christ 
and with the witness of our Fathers and Mothers in the faith,
we are joined together,
reconciled with one another
and encouraged by one another through the cross of Christ.
Together with the ecumenical community of churches
we commit ourselves to work for a culture of non-violence 
and to overcome the violence we encounter in our lives. 
Together we are carried forward by the vision of the one Church,
of the people of God on the way, 
challenging all separations of race, gender, age or culture 
and striving for justice, peace and the integrity of creation. 
Enough children have suffered violence.
We are longing for the day, when the prophesy of Micah will come true, when "they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks, nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more."

The cross of Christ is the refuge of all who are afflicted and hurting,
the source of reconciliation
and the place where we are bound together in peace.
The power of the cross will set limits to violence and transform it.
In a moment we will join in an ancient prayer of the Ethiopian-Orthodox tradition.
When we add our voice to the voices of all Christians 
of every time and place in the world-wide ecumenical movement 
we set our feet on the way of the cross, and we pray for the strength to walk on it.


Affirmation *

The cross is the way of the lost.
The cross is the staff of the lame.

The cross is the guide of the blind.
The cross is the strength of the weak.

The cross is the hope of the hopeless.The cross is the freedom of the slaves.

The cross is the water of the seeds.
The cross is the consolation of the bonded labourers.

The cross is the source of those who seek water.
The cross is the cloth of the naked.

The cross is the healing of the broken.
The cross is the peace of the church.

(St. Yared, Ethiopia)

* The text of the Affirmation is taken from the Prayer Handbook 1989/90, Methodist Church in Great Britain and the General Committee of the Methodist Church in Ireland (General Purposed Committee), Methodist Publishing House, 20 Ivatt Way, Peterborough PE3 7PG, U.K.

(Some people might be invited to offer their affirmations and hopes to build a culture of peace.)

Hymn "Soki toko", Congo

Friends of Christ, you are invited to make your own commitment to reconciliation. What are the next steps to which God calls you to make peace? While we sing, you may come forward and gather around the cross or the icon of St. Stephen to express your commitment either silently or aloud. According to your tradition you may want to touch the cross or venerate the icon of St. Stephen. You will then receive a Liberian cross, a bullet that has been transformed into the shape of a cross, a vehicle of violence remade into a sign of salvation. Let this cross travel with you as a reminder of God’s claim upon you during this decade.

We hear St. Paul. "If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new. All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ." God has entrusted to us the message of reconciliation.

(In other churches people are invited to bring forward a candle and put the candles together in the shape of a cross.

Hymn "Jesus Christ is Waiting"