From the Worldwide Faith News archives

WCC Central Committee Speaks out on Nuclear Testing,

Date 04 May 1996 20:53:44


95345  WCC Central Committee Speaks out on Nuclear Testing, 
          Status of Jerusalem, War in Former Yugoslavia 
                      by Jerry L. Van Marter 
GENEVA--The World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee has condemned 
continuing nuclear weapons testing by France and the People's Republic of 
China.  The group immediately backed up its action Sept. 20 by scheduling a 
march the next day from Geneva's Ecumenical Center to the nearby offices of 
the United Nations to present its antitesting resolution to U.N. officials. 
     In other "public issues" actions, the Central Committee endorsed a 
"special judicial and political statute for Jerusalem which reflects the 
universal importance and religious significance of the city" and appealed 
to church, military, government and international participants in the 
former Yugoslavia "to spare no effort to stop the fighting, to bring an end 
to this war, and to work together for reconciliation to heal the deep 
wounds of history and of this present conflict, and to transform the 
climate of hatred and violence" in the region. 
     After the vote on nuclear testing, the Central Committee heard from 
Jacques Ihorai, president of the Evangelical Church of French Polynesia, 
who stopped in Geneva on his way to Paris, where he was to meet with French 
president Jacques Chirac Sept. 20.  The WCC march was scheduled to coincide 
with that meeting.  
     Ihorai described Polynesians as "very sad" to see the resumption of 
French nuclear testing in the South Pacific.  He called nuclear weapons 
testing "an international issue" and thanked the Central Committee for its 
     Chirac has been quoted widely as defending his decision to resume the 
testing by saying, "Tahiti is France."  Ihorai denounced such claims. 
"Statements like that are statements of violence against us and we cannot 
accept them." 
     Speaking of violent demonstrations that have wracked Tahiti since the 
tests began earlier in the month, Ihorai said, "You can rebuild buildings 
that have been burned down, but you cannot repair the hearts that have been 
broken by the resumption of testing in our home." 
     In its statement on the status of Jerusalem, the Central Committee 
reiterated previous statements dating back to 1974.  It reaffirmed its 1975 
position that Jerusalem is a holy city for Christians, Jews and Muslims and 
renewed its call for "the creation of conditions that will ensure that 
Jerusalem is a city open to the adherents of all three religions, where 
they can meet and live together." 
     Because Jerusalem is a city of universal significance, the statement 
declared, "the international community ought to be engaged in the stability 
and permanance" of Jerusalem as "an open city."  It criticized Israel "for 
its systematic policies of confiscation of buildings and land, destruction 
of buildings, establishment of new Jewish settlements in the area ... and 
for constraints on the freedom of Arab Christian and Muslim and indigenous 
Christian movement within and access to Jerusalem and the Holy Places. ..." 
     The statement concluded by asking all WCC member churches "to be 
constant in prayer and in acts of solidarity with the Christian communities 
in Jerusalem in order to ensure a continuing vital Christian presence in 
the Holy City and to strengthen the historical role of these communities 
and their leaders in promoting open communication, dialogue and cooperation 
among all communities in the Holy City." 
     The Central Committee's statement on the former Yugoslavia called 
political and military leaders in the region to task for their 
"reprehensible escalation of the cycle of violence which inflicts terrible 
suffering on civilian populations. ..." 
     It also criticized some church leaders (unnamed) who threaten not just 
the peace in the area but the international ecumenical movement.  "The 
narrowly nationalistic tone and content of positions taken by some church 
leaders have increased tensions between the communities and given rise to 
controversy in the wider ecumenical fellowship," the statement said. 
     Questions raised by the controversy include, according to the 
statement, "What does mutual accountability require in such a situation? 
What is the role of confession,  repentance and  forgiveness in ecumenical 
relations?  What balance is to be struck between the duty of churches to 
challenge one another with regard to what the gospel requires and our 
mutual responsibility for one another in the ecumenical fellowship?" 
     The statement praised many faith groups in the former Yugoslavia "who 
keep alive the hope for peace and reconciliation" and said all churches 
have a role to play in promoting peace in the region. Actions all 
Christians can take include: 
       denouncing "unequivocally" the "inhumane practice" of ethnic 
       working to stem injustice and violence in their own societies 
       pressuring governments and private dealers to halt the international 
arms trade 
       continuing to provide humanitarian assistance to war victims 
       promoting reconstruction of ravaged cities once the war has ended. 

For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
  phone 502-569-5504            fax 502-569-8073  
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