From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
WCC Central Committee Speaks out on Nuclear Testing,
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
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
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
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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