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Basic Affirmations, Commitments, Recommendations and Future Perspectives - Recommendations

78. We commit ourselves anew to being the church, the body of Christ and the people of God. We ask our churches and all Christians in Europe, to work for justice, peace and the integrity of creation, as formulated in the following recommendations.

79. We consider it essential that the vital concerns for justice, peace and the integrity of creation should not be separated from the mission of the church to proclaim the Gospel. We therefore commit ourselves to the task of proclaiming to all people God's offer of new life in Christ.

80. We encourage the initiation of ecumenical "shalom-services". Women and men who engage in such service will learn to see their church as part of the servant people of God among all peoples. We therefore commit ourselves to spreading this active spirit of shalom.  

81. More specifically, we will place our efforts and will ask the others to situate their efforts within the framework provided by the CSCE-process, and within the framework of the United Nations at the global level.

82. The comprehensive approach of the CSCE framework relating together security, economic and ecological cooperation, human contacts and human rights, should be strengthened and expanded to include also the ecological dimension as well as the question of justice in the North-South relationship.  

83. The international framework of the United Nations should be made more effective. They have proven that they can be helpful in solving regional conflicts, in assisting the development efforts of many countries, in dealing with environmental problems. Therefore, there is a need for the governments of the world to increase their support of the United Nations and to translate this support into tangible form. The work of non-governmental organisations in the areas of peace, justice, international cooperation and the defence of human rights, as well as the protection of the environment should be supported and strengthened.

84. Justice

(a) There is an urgent need for a new international economic world order for the entire humanity, with special priority for the poor, the oppressed and the powerless. Every economic development has to be submitted to the criteria of social sustainability, international sustainability, sustainability for the environment and sustainability through generations. Such action should include the regulation of international trade relations, the lightening of the debt burden of the poor countries, development cooperation through organisations which enable people to invest for justice, such as the Ecumenical Development Cooperative Society (EDCS), as well as the restructuring of production and consumption which are increasingly being based upon the new technologies and introducing a dual society for the rich and the poor.

We should also remind our governments that it has been twenty years since United Nations members agreed to use 0,7% of their GNP for development purposes. Similar programmes, such as the Solidarity Funds of Europe, are also worthy of support.

(b) For the debt crisis, we recommend that the poorest developing countries be released from their debts, while effective measures are taken towards the alleviation of the debt of all indebted countries including those in Eastern Europe. Governments are in a position to cancel or re-schedule debts and to assist commercial banks and international institutions undertaking similar actions. Conditions should be created to prevent these countries from getting indebted again to the current extent (prevention of capital flight, revision of the international monetary system, changing the policies of the IMF, revision of the terms of trade, etc.) and to make sure that the funds released are being used for the benefit of the victims of poverty. In addition, we urge that the "Disarmament for Development" Funds (United Nations Conference, 1987) should be put into effect.  

(c) In order to overcome situations of injustice dealing with discrimination, racism, sexism, torture, disappearance and killing of people and other violations of human rights, including the right of peoples and nations to self-determination, we call for the full implementation of the international human rights agreements on civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, and of the instruments for their concrete application, including:

  • the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948)
  • the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the optional protocol thereto (1966)
  • the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966)
  • Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and the optional protocol thereto (1967) (1951)
  • International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965)
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979)
  • Declaration on the Rights of the Child (1959)
  • Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion or Belief (1981)
  • Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984)
  • European Convention on Human Rights (1950)
  • the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, (Helsinki, 1975) as well as the documents of the follow-up conferences of the CSCE, specially Madrid, 1983 to 1985 and Vienna, 1986 to 1989.

(d) We call for the establishment of the necessary mechanisms of control in case of non-application of these rights, so that individuals too can appeal to an international court of law, as is the case regarding the European Convention on Human Rights.

(e) Racism is a fundamental violation of human dignity and human rights. It is, moreover, a sin according to our Christian tradition. Nevertheless, racism and ethnic discrimination occur in many places, including our countries in Europe. Sometimes it becomes institutionalised, as is the case with the immigration laws of certain European countries and other policies and practice in different parts of Europe. Sometimes, as well as being institutionalised, it takes on extreme proportions. This is the case with apartheid in South Africa. We consider all forms of racism to be inacceptable. Apartheid, as a system is incapable of being reformed and should be abolished. We ask churches, congregations, and individual Christians to commit themselves actively to the 'minimum programme of action' of diplomatic and economic measures (such as a coal embargo, no new loans, and a ban on direct air links), as was urged by the South African Council of Churches and the Southern African Catholic Bishops' Conference during the visit of their delegation to Europe in May 1988.

 A worldwide emphasis should be placed on the population problem.Since overpopulation is largely a consequence of economic poverty, an appropriate population policy must concentrate principally on overall economic and social development.  It must never dismiss human dignity and reverence for life as a first criterion.

(g) We urge that the support of life be recognised as supreme criterion in structuring the social order. This applies in particular to the protection of unborn life and of children.

(h) As a further application of this, specifically we call for a concept of work, where women and men share in all activities, and in which each has his or her rightful share, without exploiting the workers, nor the weakest in our societies, such as young women with children, the elderly, refugees and migrants. Such action could entail job sharing, while at the same time there should be a guaranteed minimum income for all members of society whether employed or unemployed. This also includes measures which enable persons to work while caring for a family. The care for children, for elderly and disabled people, should be acknowledged as an important and indeed meaningful occupation, worthy of the recognition of society.

(i) Discrimination against women, for instance in wages and employment opportunities, should be abolished. They should be protected from violence, and women in problematic situations, such as single mothers and violated women, should receive adequate protection.

(j) We ask our churches to decisively improve the involvement of women in decision-making processes and in church life in general, to see that they are equally represented in Church bodies and theological faculties, to begin a profound dialogue with feminist theology, to acknowledge and support women's ecumenical engagement.

(k) While we recognise that there is an idealization of youth in our societies, we believe that the reality of life for many young people is characterized by underestimation of their ability and creativity; lack of a meaningful role in society; and the deprivation of a vision of the future. Young people suffer from unemployment; poverty; homelessness; enforced military service with no possibility for conscientious objections in some countries. They also suffer from alcoholism and drug abuse. We ask our churches to recognise that many young people feel unable to take a full part in the life and witness of their churches. One reason for this is that young people are underrepresented in decision-making bodies of the churches. We believe that better co-operation between the churches and youth organisations would be an important step in ameliorating the situation.

(l) We ask the churches to recognize that refugees and migrant workers leave their countries of origin inside and outside Europe, either because their economic situation is hopeless or because they are victims of political, social or religious oppression. We call for the abolition of all restrictions against these people. We call upon all European Christians to receive and accept them as brothers and sisters, and to work for changes in the legislation and in public opinion and behaviour to allow their situation to improve.

We also want to call attention to the millions of refugees and displaced persons in other continents. They are victims of economic, political, social, environmental changes and violent situations. European churches and Christians should do everything within their power to take away the root causes of their plight, and to render immediate assistance.

(m) We call, more specifically, upon the churches, the Christians and the leaders of the EEC-countries to ensure that the implementation of the Single European Act in 1992/1993 will not lead to a levelling down of social provisions and ecological standards. We also urge them to ensure that the European Community will become more aware of the fact that it does not cover the whole of Europe and that this should also be reflected in its name. The European Community should continue to reach out across its borders to the rest of Europe and the world.

(n) 1992 will moreover mark the 500th anniversary of the beginning of a period of European expansion to the detriment of other peoples. This calls us to work for a just and peaceful relationship both between the countries within Europe and between Europe and the other parts of the world in particular the Middle East for which Europe bears much historic responsibility. We urge our churches to support the struggle of the people in Latin America, Africa and Asia for social justice, human dignity and the preservation of their environment.

85. We urgently appeal to all Christians of Europe to contribute actively to the solutions of these problems within their churches and within their societies. Our lifestyle should take into account the needs of the poor and the marginalised of our own society as well as of the Two Thirds world. Each of us too is contributing to the causes of injustice. Our involvement for changing structures of injustices will only be credible if we, as individuals, take seriously our personal responsibilities in the matter.  

86. Peace

(a) Since European churches are convinced that war is against the will of God, everything should be done to develop further the international mechanisms of peaceful resolution of conflict between nations, through international agreements, recognition of international courts of law, etc. These efforts should be geared towards overcoming the institution of war. The promotion of peace must take priority over the prevention of war.

(b) We call upon the USSR, the USA as well as the countries of Europe, to honour already existing treaties, to continue their negotiations for disarmament, to take steps in conventional disarmament, to reach an agreement on a comprehensive test ban for nuclear weapons, and to refrain from any military use of space and of the Antarctic. We welcome agreements such as the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Non-Proliferation Treaty and call for their full implementation.  

(c) We call upon all countries and governments in Europe to join forces and work together towards the goal, that the development, production, deployment, possession and use of weapons of mass destruction, whether nuclear, biological or chemical, be condemned by international law and thus be brought to an end; moreover that in this way the system of nuclear deterrence be overcome and be replaced by a different, less dangerous system of security. We strongly support the efforts of the United Nations and other international institutions towards global and regional security.

(d) Today security can no longer be safeguarded on a national level alone. Rather the preservation of peace requires structures of co-operative security. All countries in Europe should strive to co-operate in developing and implementing purely defensive structures of security. In this way the danger of misuse of nationalistic feelings which cause and foster tension and conflicts within each country and in relationships with other countries could be lessened.

(e) Those who serve in the armed forces with the aim of protecting the rights and freedoms of their peoples should exercise their office in the service of world peace. At the same time the rights to conscientious objection to military service as a part of freedom of religion, conscience and thought has to be recognized by all governments by creating the possibility of appropriate alternative civilian service. Churches and congregations have the task to advise those who are called up for military service in their decision of conscience and to offer pastoral guidance to them, while respecting the decision of the individual.

(f) The international arms trade and the export of weapons and weapons technology to zones of conflicts and tension should be stopped. In all the other instances, they should be subjected to the strictest rules and regulations. Policies have to be worked out for the conversion of arms industries to civil production.

(g) We welcome explicitly the Concluding Document of the Vienna Review Conference of CSCE from January 1989 and stress its meaning for the ongoing and deepening process of detente in Europe and between the USSR and the USA. Important results on the realisation of human rights, religious freedom and human contacts have been reached. We also recognize that Europe has failed to uphold the right of those nations and peoples within states to self-determination and to foster their own cultures, traditions and languages. We agree that human rights have to be realised in their globality and reciprocity, as political, civil, social, economic and cultural rights. We commit ourselves to use these rights and to observe their realisation in our respective countries. We are convinced that human contacts at all levels of society between the countries of Europe should take place. The time has come that the borders in Europe especially between East and West should progressively lose their separating character. We encourage the churches to make use of the existing possibilities, especially in establishing partnerships between parishes.

(h) If we look at the whole world we see with great suffering the continuation of some situations of conflict and tension. We think in particular of the Middle East and the Mediterranean, the Palestinian question, the situations in Lebanon and Cyprus. We ask that every effort be made to overcome these conflicts and to solve these questions with respect to the legitimate demands of all. Efforts should be made to unblock these situations so that peoples be free to make their political choices and that the peaceful co-existence between women and men from different religions and origins be re-established and can be a sign of hope and peace for all.

We urgently appeal to all Christians in Europe to assist their churches and their governments in solving these issues.

(i) At all levels, both in the churches and in society, peace education, geared towards the peaceful resolution of conflicts, has to be developed and encouraged. At all times non-violent alternatives have to be a priority in conflict resolution. Nonviolence should be seen as an active, dynamic and constructive force, grounded in absolute respect for the human person.

(j) We ask all Christians in Europe to renounce the use of violence in their everyday life, in their family, in school, at work, specially the glorification of violence in the mass media. As Christians we have a special responsibility for the education of our children. They can mirror the vision of a peaceful and just world as long as they know themselves to be loved unconditionally by adults. The adults living and acting today are the hurt children of yesterday - the hurt children of today are the adults of tomorrow. The children are our future and hope.

The rights and wishes of parents concerning the education of their children should be respected. In particular the religious beliefs of children should be fully respected. In addition, parents should have a right to oppose military or pre-military education. Children should not suffer any disadvantage from non-participation in such lessons. The rights of children should be recognized and defended by all.

87. Environment

(a) All technological development has to be assessed according to the above mentioned criteria of sustainability (see para.84(a)). This entails a complete reversal of the concept of sustained economic growth as well as in the use of natural resources.

(b) The wasteful use of energy in the industrialised countries has reached such gigantic proportions that there is an urgent need for a drastic reduction in their use. Some churches have committed themselves to work for a significant reduction in the use of energy. We appeal to all the European churches and Christians to do the same within the limit of their possibilities and untiringly to challenge decision-makers in political, technological and business life to more efficient policies for saving energy.

(c) We are referring in particular to fossil fuels, a reduction of the use of which can be achieved through effective energy-saving techniques and through the development of renewable energy supplies (sun, water, wind). The necessary financial resources could be collected by appropriate taxation. Nuclear power should not be the basis of future energy supply because of its social, technical, ecological and military risks. Safety requirements in nuclear power plants should be to the highest international standards.

(d) According to the Brundtland Report the technical possibility exists of reducing per capita energy consumption in industrialized countries by 50% and increasing the per capita energy consumption in the Third World countries by 30% (on the basis of predictable increases in population). In so doing the total world energy consumption would only be increased insignificantly. This is the only worldwide energy perspective which combines the preservation of creation with justice. This approach should be considered seriously by Christians in the industrialized countries, particularly as the Brundtland report has increased substantially public awareness of ecological issues and is well regarded in the scientific community.

(e) Special measures have urgently to be taken in order to protect the ozone layer, to counteract the greenhouse effect, preserve what is left of the rain forest, and to prevent the spread of desertification.

(f) There is an urgent need for an international and controllable regulation on waste disposal, particularly for nuclear and other dangerous waste. On no account should European countries dump their waste at the expense of other countries, in their seas or international waters. Special attention in this matter is deserved by the question of nuclear waste disposal (e.g. in the Pacific).

(g) International agreements on border-crossing emissions in order to prevent the further pollution of water, air and soil, and to undo the damage already done, are an urgent priority for all European countries.

(h) Strict legislation and controls for genetic research and genetic engineering and professional codes of conduct are needed. There is equally an urgent need for the churches to continue to reflect on the latest developments in the field of bio-technics in order to provide ethical guidelines for these issues about the implications of the value of life, not only of the human person, but of all living creatures and of nature itself.

(i) Urgent measures have to be taken to preserve the variety of species and variety of genetic riches within the species. The churches can be instrumental in making this problem known. The United Nations World Charter for Nature of 1982 is a first step.

The next step could be an international Species Convention such as the International Union of Nature and Natural Resources has proposed. Financial agreements should be reached which ensure that the countries, particularly in the poor world, receive an equitable share of the benefits and earnings derived from the development of these species.

For us as Christians, the variety of species in itself shows the generosity of God the Creator.

(j) Dialogue with scientists on ecological issues and study of such resources as the Brundtland Report are commended.
We ask all Christians of Europe to help and support their churches and their governments in realising these measures. We ask all of them to adopt a lifestyle which is as little damaging as possible for the environment. This will mean a reduction in the use of energy, the use of public transportation and to limit waste. Municipalities can introduce an "ecological book-keeping". We have to learn that our happiness and health are less dependent on material goods than on the gifts of nature and our fellow creatures, on human relations and on our relationship with God.  


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