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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, was adopted.

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 made new;
  • 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.

Rampant militarism

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:

  1. 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;
  2. counter the trend to characterize those of other nations and ideologies as the "enemy" through the promotion of hatred and prejudice;
  3. assist in demythologizing current doctrines of national security and elaborate new concepts of security based on justice and the rights of the peoples;
  4. grapple with the important theological issues posed by new developments related to war and peace and examine the challenges posed to traditional positions;
  5. pay serious attention to the rights of conscientious objectors;
  6. 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 their recommendations.

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:

  1. 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;
  2. 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;
  3. 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;
  4. 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;
  5. 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;
  6. all nations should agree to and ratify a comprehensive test ban treaty as a necessary step to stopping the further development of nuclear weapons technology;
  7. 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 creation.

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:

  1. 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;
  2. become a living witness to peace and justice through prayer, worship and concrete involvement;
  3. 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 us; and
  4. develop more innovative approaches to programmes of education for peace and justice.

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 effect.

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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