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Subthemes - Report of Section II: "Spirit of truth - Set us free"


III Common themes

1.Human rights

The underlying theme of this section is expressed in the comprehensive deliberations that took place on human rights. Human rights, or the violation of them, is a fundamental element in each of the issues discussed in this section: the rights of women and children, the rights of minorities, peace with justice, economic justice and racism.

The advocacy of and struggle for human rights should be central in the churches. We urge that the defence and promotion of human rights be understood as central to the gospel, and their promotion a responsible and ethical engagement by Christians in social life.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the more recent declaration for the rights of the child provide us with instruments of appropriate vision. What is needed is to promote these instruments through human rights education and through campaigning for their ratification and implementation.

2.The role of he United Nations

During the last forty years the UN has played a very important role in understanding and promoting peace and justice alone, the nations of this world. It was created immediately after the end of the second world war and therefore it belongs to the group of institutions shaped in the context of a world order controlled by the super-powers of the liberal and the communist blocs. With recent events, this order came to an end. There is a concern about how far the UN's structures and style of operation reflect this change of situation. The Security Council is, indeed, one of these structures which should be revised in order to make it more democratic and open to the expectations of the less powerful nations. Furthermore, with the fading fortunes of the USSR as a superpower, it only leaves the USA and its allies to maintain a stranglehold on the UN. We therefore urge an international process to evaluate the role and effectiveness of the UN with a view to restructuring and reshaping it. We recognize that the UN and its agencies are valuable instruments for the maintenance of peac e and security as well as for interstate cooperation in world affairs. Nevertheless, its structures must reflect the present historical trends and its authority should reflect the concerns of all nations.

3.Dialogue, gospel and culture

Many Christians, especially in Africa and Asia, feel threatened by Islamization and the introduction of the Sharia law. The WCC must take this issue very seriously in its dialogue with people of other faith..

The prominence of Aboriginal issues at this assembly and the debate about syncretism have, as in Vancouver, drawing our attention to the relationship between gospel and cultures.

In Latin America the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the arrival of the conquistadores and the beginning of Christian mission in that part the world is also creating a debate about gospel and cultures. As the WCC reflects more and more the diversity and cultural riches of the ecumenical family, this issue has to receive prominence.

4. Community

The relationship between peoples is often distorted by ideologies, racism. enemy images, sexism, etc. Listening to the teachings of Jesus, Christians know that they have to overcome those barriers that also divide them. As a sharing and healing community, Christians must become a prophetic voice in a world that is torn apart.

5. Power

Powerful institutions claim to be engaged in rational activity, and this justification appeals to those whom the institutions benefit. But for those whom they oppress, the outcome is a chaos of irrationality. We need a greater understanding of the human effect of the exercise of secular power.

Power is not a limited commodity. Power must be redefined and shared in a new way. We understand power as an enabling force which will allow us to transform relationships so that domination can be overcome.

But the power of the Holy Spirit is a potent force. It enables us to shape life. Through the Spirit's power the churches are part of the positive force for good.

Michael Kinnamon (ed.):World Council of Churches. Signs of the Spirit. Official Report Seventh Assembly. Canberra, Australia, 7-20 February 1991; Geneva (WCC Publications) 1991, ISBN 2-8254-1000-4; Grand Rapids (Eerdmans) 1991, ISBN 0-8028-0628-7. pp. 92 - 93


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