5.1 Statement on peace and justice
Mr William P. Thompson (Presbyterian, USA), Moderator of Policy Reference Committee
II, presented the draft statement entitled "Peace and justice". Supporting
presentations were made by Bishop Henry Okullu (Anglican, Kenya), Archbishop
Kirill (Orthodox, USSR) and Ms Aruna Gnanadason (Church of South India).
In an extended debate there were calls to strengthen the justice component of
the statement. Dr Avery Post (United Church of Christ, USA) wanted a sharper
note of prophetic urgency in the document, while Bishop John Habgood (Church
of England) and others argued for a more pragmatic, less "utopian"
emphasis. Greater specificity was needed, said some, about conditions of injustice
and what the churches could do about them.
A revised document was submitted to a subsequent session of the Assembly. Debating
it, Dr Gerhard Grohs (EKD, Federal Republic of Germany) asked for a stronger
statement advocating church support for the right of conscientious objection
to military service. Mr Thorsten Manson (Church of Sweden) and Bishop Victor
Premsagar (Church of South India) urged that the WCC seek to send a delegation
to the presidents of the USA and the USSR; they were advised to make the proposal
as a notice of motion, not by trying to amend the statement. Dr Alan Geyer (Methodist,
USA) proposed an amendment referring to the danger of nuclear proliferation
in the southern hemisphere. However, Mr Bena-Silu (Kimbanguist, Zaire) was uneasy
about the implication that nuclear weapons may be tolerable in the hands of
some nations but not in the hands of others. He and Dr Geyer were invited to
formulate an acceptable wording.
The statement, with several amendments accepted on behalf of the committee,
1. Humanity is now living in the dark shadow of an arms race more intense,
and of systems of injustice more widespread, more dangerous and more costly
than the world has ever known. Never before has the human race been as close
as it is now to total selfdestruction. Never before have so many lived in the
grip of deprivation and oppression.
2. Under that shadow we have gathered here at the Sixth Assembly of the World
Council of Churches (Vancouver, 1983) to proclaim our common faith in Jesus
Christ, the Life of the World, and to say to the world:
- fear not, for Christ has overcome the forces of evil; in him are all things
- fear not; for the love of God, rise up for justice and for peace;
- trust in the power of Christ who reigns over all; give witness to him in
word and in deed, regardless of the cost.
Growing threats to justice and peace
3. Still we are moved to repentance as we consider with alarm the rapidity
with which the threats to justice and survival have grown since we last met.
The frantic race towards nuclear conflagration has accelerated sharply. In an
incredibly short period of history, we have moved from the horrors of Hiroshima
and Nagasaki, and the threat that they might be repeated elsewhere, to the likelihood,
unless we act now, that life on the whole planet could be devastated. A moment
of madness, a miscalculated strategic adventure, a chance combination of computer
errors, a misperception of the other's intention, an honest mistake - any one
could now set off a nuclear holocaust.
4. As we have been reminded dramatically during this Assembly, nuclear weapons
claim victims even in the absence of war, through the lasting effects of nuclear
bombings, weapons testing and the dumping of nuclear wastes.
5. For many millions, however, the most immediate threat to survival is not
posed by nuclear weapons. Local, national and international conflicts rage around
the world. The intersection of East-West and North-South conflicts results in
massive injustice, systematic violation of human rights, oppression, homelessness,
starvation and death for masses of people. Millions have been rendered stateless,
expelled from their homes as refugees or exiles.
6. The World Council of Churches has consistently drawn the attention of the
churches to the economic threats to peace. Even without war, thousands perish
daily in nations both rich and poor because of hunger and starvation. Human
misery and suffering as a result of various forms of injustice have reached
levels unprecedented in modern times. There is a resurgence of racism, often
in itself a cause of war. Peoples continue to be driven, as a last resort, to
take up arms to defend themselves against systematic violence, or to claim their
rights to selfdetermination or independence.
7. While the equivalent of nearly two billion dollars (US) is being expended
globally each day for armaments, the world economy is engulfed in a prolonged
and deepening crisis which threatens every country and international security.
The spectre of trade warfare, competitive devaluation and financial collapse
is omnipresent. This crisis has contributed to even greater injustice for the
developing countries, denying millions the basic necessities of life. The failure
of UNCTAD VI has dashed hopes for meaningful North-South dialogue. While many
factors are involved, the link between the arms race and economic development,
the effects of rising defence budgets and accelerated reliance on arms production
in the industrialized nations, and the ensuing strain on the international system
as a whole pose special threats to peace and justice.
No peace without justice
8. The peoples of the world stand in need of peace and justice. Peace is not
just the absence of war. Peace cannot be built on foundations of injustice.
Peace requires a new international order based on justice for and within all
the nations, and respect for the God-given humanity and dignity of every person.
Peace is, as the Prophet Isaiah has taught us, the effect of righteousness.
9. The churches today are called to confess anew their faith, and to repent
for the times when Christians have remained silent in the face of injustice
or threats to peace. The biblical vision of peace with justice for all, of wholeness,
of security for all God's people is not one of several options for the followers
of Christ. It is an imperative in our time.
10. The ecumenical approach to peace and justice is based on the belief that
without justice for all everywhere we shall never have peace anywhere. From
its inception, peace with justice has been a central concern of the ecumenical
movement. The World Council of Churches was conceived amid the rumblings of
looming world wars. Ever since it was formed it has condemned war, and engaged
almost constantly in efforts to prevent war, to aid the victims of war and to
keep war from breaking out anew. It has exposed the injustices that lead to
conflict, affirmed its solidarity with groups and movements struggling for justice
and peace, and sought to establish channels of communication leading to the
peaceful resolution of conflicts. It has repeatedly called the attention of
the churches and through them the governments and the general public to the
threats to peace, the threats to survival, and the deepening crisis.
But we face an even more critical situation now. More than ever before it is
imperative that Christians and churches join their struggles for peace and justice.
11. Through the Council's work on militarism since the Fifth Assembly (Nairobi,
1975), we have come to understand more fully the dire consequences for justice
of the increasing reliance of the nations on armed force as the cornerstone
of their foreign - and often domestic - policies. Priorities have been dangerously
distorted. Attention has been drawn away from the fundamental rights and needs
of poor nations and of the poor within the rich nations. The number of military
regimes has grown, contributing further to a largely male-dominated process
of global militarization. justice is often sacrificed on the altar of narrowly
perceived national security interests. Racial, ethnic, cultural, religious and
ideological conflicts are exacerbated, corruption is rife, a spirit of fear
and suspicion is fostered through the increasing portrayal of others as the
enemy: all this further contributes to disunity, human suffering and increased
threats to peace.
12. We strongly reiterate the Central Committee's appeals to the churches to:
- hallenge military and militaristic policies that lead to disastrous distortions
of foreign policy, sapping the capacity of the nations of the world to deal
with pressing economic and social problems which have become a paramount political
issue of our times;
- counter the trend to characterize those of other nations and ideologies
as the "enemy" through the promotion of hatred and prejudice;
- assist in demythologizing current doctrines of national security and elaborate
new concepts of security based on justice and the rights of the peoples;
- grapple with the important theological issues posed by new developments
related to war and peace and examine the challenges posed to traditional positions;
- pay serious attention to the rights of conscientious objectors;
- continue ... to call attention to the root causes of war, mainly to economic
injustice, oppression and exploitation and to the consequences of increasing
tension including further restrictions on human rights.
Justice and security
13. The blatant misuse of the concept of national security to justify repression,
foreign intervention and spiralling arms budgets is of profound concern. No
nation can pretend to be secure so long as others' legitimate rights to sovereignty
and security are neglected or denied. Security can therefore be achieved only
as a common enterprise of nations but security is also inseparable from justice.
A concept of "common security" of nations must be reinforced by a
concept of "people's security". True security for the people demands
respect for human rights, including the right to self-determination, as well
as social and economic justice for all within every nation, and a political
framework that would ensure it.
Peaceful resolution of conflicts
14. In this connection the growing refusal of many governments to use the opportunities
afforded by the United Nations to preserve international peace and security
and for the peaceful resolution of conflicts, or to heed its resolutions, is
deeply troubling. We call upon the governments to reaffirm their commitment
to the United Nations Charter, to submit interstate conflicts to the Security
Council at an early stage when resolution may still be possible short of the
use of massive armed force, and to cooperate with it in the pursuit of peaceful
solutions. We draw special attention to the United Nations International Year
of Peace (1986) and the World Disarmament Campaign, urging the churches to use
them as important opportunities for the strengthening of international security
and the promotion of disarmament, peace and justice.
Nuclear weapons and disarmament
15. It is now a full decade since there has been any substantial, subsequently
ratified measure of arms control. Since our last Assembly, global military expenditures
have tripled. This past year has marked a new peak of confrontation between
NATO and the Warsaw Treaty Organization. There is the real prospect, if the
current negotiations in Geneva between the USA and the USSR fail to prevent
it, that the world stockpile of nuclear weapons may increase dramatically in
the next decade. The growing sophistication, accuracy and mobility of new generations
of weapons now ready for deployment or currently being designed make them more
dangerous and destabilizing than ever before. The failure of arms control among
nuclear-weapon states has made the non-proliferation treaty, in practice, an
instrument of invidious discrimination, incited the spread of nuclear weapons,
and compounded the prospects for nuclear war in several areas of regional tension
in the Southern hemisphere. Until the super-powers move decisively towards nuclear
disarmament, efforts to contain nuclear proliferation are bound to fall.
16. We call upon the churches, especially those in Europe, both East and West,
and in North America, to redouble their efforts to convince their governments
to reach a negotiated settlement and to turn away now, before it is too late
from plans to deploy additional or new nuclear weapons in Europe, and to begin
immediately to reduce and then eliminate altogether present nuclear forces.
17. We urge the churches as well to intensify their efforts to stop the rapidly
growing deployment of nuclear weapons and support systems in the Indian and
Pacific Oceans, and to press their governments to withdraw from or refuse to
base or service ships or airplanes bearing nuclear weapons in those regions.
18. The risk of nuclear war is compounded by the rapidly escalating reliance
on conventional weapons. Stockpiles of non-nuclear weapons of mass destruction
and indiscriminate effect are growing almost uncontrolled. The volume of highly
profitable trade in conventional weapons has nearly doubled in the past five
years, a very large part of it in the direction of the developing nations and
regions where armed conflict already defies containment. The destructive power
of these weapons steadily increases, blurring the distinction between conventional
and nuclear warfare; and many nuclear disarmament strategies call for major
increases in conventional arms production and deployment.
19. Since the Nairobi Assembly, a number of consultations and conferences have
been held by the WCC, providing churches with opportunities to deepen their
understanding of these issues. From them have come valuable reports and recommendations
to the churches for concrete action. The most recent was the Public Hearing
on Nuclear Weapons and Disarmament (Amsterdam, 1981). The published report contains
careful, thoroughgoing analyses and spells out urgent tasks for the churches.
We urge the churches once again to study attentively these reports and to pursue
20. The Central Committee urged the churches to pay special attention to and
take clear positions on a number of points developed in the report of the Amsterdam
Hearing. We reiterate that appeal with respect to the following:
- a nuclear war can under no circumstances, in no region and by no social
system, be just or justifiable, given the fact that the magnitude of devastation
caused by it will be far out of proportion to any conceivable benefit or advantage
to be derived from it;
- nuclear war is unlikely to remain limited, and therefore any contemplation
of "limited" use of nuclear weapons should be discouraged as dangerous
from the outset;
- all nations now possessing nuclear weapons or capable of doing so in the
foreseeable future should unequivocally renounce policies of "first use",
as an immediate step towards building confidence;
- the concept of deterrence, the credibility of which depends on the possible
use of nuclear weapons, is to be rejected as morally unacceptable and as incapable
of safeguarding peace and security in the long-term;
- the production and deployment of nuclear weapons as well as their use constitute
a crime against humanity, and therefore there should be a complete halt in
the production of nuclear weapons and in weapons research and development
in all nations, to be expeditiously enforced through a treaty; such a position
supports the struggle to cause one's own nation to commit itself never to
own or use nuclear weapons, despite the period of nuclear vulnerability, and
to encourage and stand in solidarity with Christians and others who refuse
to cooperate with or accept employment in any pr 'acts related to nuclear
weapons and nuclear warfare;
- all nations should agree to and ratify a comprehensive test ban treaty
as a necessary step to stopping the further development of nuclear weapons
- all means leading to disarmament, both nuclear and conventional, should
be welcomed as complementary and mutually reinforcing: multilateral conferences
leading to effective decisions, bilateral negotiations pursued with daring
and determination and unilateral initiatives leading to the relaxation of
tensions and building of mutual confidence among nations and peoples.
21. In addition, we urge the churches to press their governments to abstain
from any further research, production or deployment of weapons in space; and
to prohibit the development and production of all weapons of mass destruction
or indiscriminate effect, including chemical and biological means.
Challenge to the churches
22. In our efforts since the last Assembly to accomplish the purpose of the
World Council of Churches "to express the common concern of the churches
in the service of human need, the breaking down of barriers between people,
and the promotion of one human family injustice and peace", we have been
encouraged and strengthened by the movement of the Holy Spirit among us, leading
the churches to undertake new initiatives. In this process of conversion the
insights and the leadership of women and youth have often been decisive. But
our common faith and the times now demand much more of us as stewards of God's
23. Christians cannot view the dangers of this moment as inherent in the nature
of things. Nor can we give ourselves over to despair. As believers in the one
Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, we are stewards of God's
hope for the future of creation. We know God's love and confess a Lord of history
in whom we have the promise of the fullness of life. God's mercy is everlasting,
and the Holy Spirit is moving among us, kindling the love which drives out fear,
renewing our vision of peace, stirring our imaginations, leading us through
the wilderness, freeing us and uniting us. The peoples of the world are coming
to their feet in growing numbers, demanding justice, crying out for peace. These
are present signs of hope.
24. We have recognized that our approaches to justice and peace often differ,
as do the starting points for discussion among the churches, due to the wide
diversity of our histories, traditions and the contexts in which we live and
witness. We call upon the churches now to:
- intensify their efforts to develop a common witness in a divided world,
confronting with renewed vigour the threats to peace and survival and engaging
in struggles for justice and human dignity;
- become a living witness to peace and justice through prayer, worship and
- take steps towards unity through providing more frequent opportunities
for sharing in and among the churches in order to learn more about and understand
better each other's perspectives, defying every attempt to divide or separate
- develop more innovative approaches to programmes of education for peace
25. According to the 1980 Geneva Convention, the use of certain weapons of
indiscriminate effect is forbidden under international law. We believe nuclear
weapons must be considered within that category. We join in the conviction expressed
by. the Panel of the WCC Public Hearing on Nuclear Weapons and Disarmament after
it had examined the testimony of a broad range of expert witnesses:
"We believe that the time has come when the churches must unequivocally
declare that the production and deployment as well as the use of nuclear weapons
are a crime against humanity and that such activities must be condemned on ethical
and theological grounds. The nuclear weapons issue is, in its import and threat
to humanity, a question of Christian discipline and faithfulness to the Gospel.
We recognize that nuclear weapons will not disappear because of such an affirmation
by the churches. But it will involve the churches and their members in a fundamental
examination of their own implicit or explicit support of policies which, implicitly
or explicitly, are based on the possession and use of these weapons."
We urge the churches to press their governments, especially in those countries
which have nuclear weapons capabilities, to elaborate and ratify an international
legal instrument which would outlaw, as a crime against humanity the possession
as well as the use of nuclear arms. We ask the churches as well to urge their
governments to acknowledge the right of conscientious objection to military
service and to provide opportunities for non-violent alternative service.
26. On the same basis, and in the spirit of the Fifth Assembly's appeal to the
churches "to emphasize their readiness to live without the protection of
armaments", we believe that Christians should give witness to their unwillingness
to participate in any conflict involving weapons of mass destruction or indiscriminate
27. It is with a deep sense of pastoral responsibility that we make these affirmations.
To live up to them will be no simple matter for any Christian or church, but
we recognize that the consequences of taking such positions will be far more
serious for some than for others. We state these convictions not as a condemnation
or in judgement of others, but confessing our own weakness, calling on the churches
and Christians to support one another in love as in these ways they seek together
to be faithful to our common calling to proclaim and serve our one Lord, Jesus
Christ, the Prince of Peace, the Life of the World.
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