From the Worldwide Faith News archives

U.S. Lutherans Join Launch of 'Decade to Overcome Violence'

From news@ELCA.ORG
Date 07 Feb 2001 14:41:15


February 7, 2001


     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
(ELCA) was involved Feb. 4 in the international launch of the World
Council of Churches (WCC) Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking
Peace and Reconciliation (2001-2010) in Germany.  ELCA members worshiped
at Berlin's Memorial Church and walked in a candlelight procession from
the Berlin House of World Cultures to the Brandenburg Gate.
     The WCC central committee, meeting Jan. 29-Feb. 6 in Potsdam,
Germany, celebrated the start of the decade with a pledge "to work
together to end violence and build lasting peace with justice."  The
ELCA is a member of the WCC.
     ELCA members Kathy J. Magnus, Elmwood Park, Ill., and Arthur
Norman, Houston, serve on the WCC's 158-member governing body.  The Rev.
Daniel F. Martensen, director, ELCA Department for Ecumenical Affairs,
is a consultant to the committee.  Deaconess E. Louise Williams,
executive director, Lutheran Deaconess Association, Valparaiso, Ind.,
was an invited guest.
     The day began with an all-night vigil at the Kaiser Wilhelm Church
in Berlin.  It commemorated children who died as a result of violence.
Christians around the world provided the names of children known to them
who have been victims of violence in their communities, their countries
or regions, or in other parts of the world.
     The Sunday morning worship service, "Messengers of Peace," was
broadcast throughout Germany.  The Memorial Church was heavily damaged
by Allied bombing during World War II and is preserved in its disfigured
state as a memorial to peace and reconciliation.
     Afternoon events at Berlin's House of World Cultures included
speeches and dramatic and musical presentations.  "Peace to the City"
was a "sound commentary" of voice, piano, violin and cello accompanied
by dance.  A Wozoni group from Welkom townships in South Africa
performed a dramatic sketch on economic justice.
     Nobel Peace laureate Jose Ramos-Horta admitted the goals of the
Decade to Overcome Violence may be a dream but went on to say that some
dreams have become reality.  One dream was the unification of Germany
through the peaceful takedown of the Berlin Wall, he said.
     Ramos-Horta said he was "overwhelmed" watching representatives of
North and South Korea march together under one flag at the 2000 Summer
Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia.
     "It's possible, 10 years from now, we will have overcome
violence," Ramos-Horta said, adding it will take the efforts of many
groups, including the WCC and its related organizations, non-governmental 
organizations and student organizations.
     Ramos-Horta, a Roman Catholic layman, was awarded the Nobel Peace
Prize in 1996 for his efforts to bring about an end to the conflict
between Indonesia and East Timor.
     Dr. Janice Love, Columbia, S.C., a member of The United Methodist
Church, presented the WCC's message on the Decade.  The message called
the 20th century "one of the most violent in human history" and issued
"an urgent call" to member churches to "be and build communities of
peace in diversity, founded on truth."  It urged churches to repent of
their complicity in violence, work together for peace and act in
solidarity with those who struggle for peace and justice.
     Events at the House of World Cultures concluded with a "peace
march" to the Brandenburg Gate.
     Each marcher carried a small votive candle inside a red, green or
yellow cup -- the colors of the Decade to Overcome Violence.  The
marchers assembled on the western side of the gate and placed their
glowing candles on large boards at their feet.  The candlelight took the
shape of the red heart and green and yellow globe of the Decade logo.
     The Brandenburg Gate stands at the site of the former Berlin Wall,
a symbol of violence that divided the city.  The Gate was also the site
of chilling confrontations between Soviet and American tanks in 1961
before the Wall was built.
     "This gate has already witnessed many processions of protest with
torches and candles," WCC General Secretary Konrad Raiser, a pastor of
the Evangelical Church in Germany, told the marchers.  "The Brandenburg
Gate itself is a symbol that stands for many things -- lust for power
and violent division, reunification and reconciliation."
     Although the aims of the Decade are lofty, Raiser said it is not
being launched out of starry-eyed idealism.  "Violence has become all-
pervasive, and not just in wars and military conflicts," he said.  "It
is spreading like an infectious disease in the streets of our cities, in
homes and schools, on public transport and in sports stadiums."
     "All of us carry the seeds of this evil within us," said Raiser.
"For us the Decade journey must start with repentance for the violence
that Christians and churches have tolerated or even justified.  We are
not yet the credible messengers of nonviolence that the gospel calls us
to be."
     Raiser paid homage to martyred peacemakers.  "Here in this place
we remember the way traveled by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who would have been
95 years old today.  We think of Oscar Romero, Martin Luther King and
Mahatma Gandhi," he said.
     "'Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a crowd of
witnesses ... let us run with perseverance the race that is set before
us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith," Raiser
cited the Christian Bible.
     In 1998, at the request of Nobel Peace Prize laureates, the United
Nations General Assembly voted unanimously to proclaim 2001-2010 as the
"International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the
Children of the World."
     The 1999 ELCA Churchwide Assembly supported that action with a
resolution urging ELCA congregations, "church-related schools,
institutions and agencies to teach, practice and model nonviolence --
both for their own members and in service to their communities -- making
use of available resources on nonviolence."
     The resolution encouraged the church "to address the growing
threats to the safety and peace of people everywhere (e.g., war, civil
strife, school and community violence)."
     The World Council of Churches (WCC) is a fellowship of 342 member
churches in more than 100 countries on all continents from virtually all
Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church
but works cooperatively with the WCC.  WCC staff is based in Geneva,
-- -- --
     Documents and background on the ELCA's involvement in the Decade
to Overcome Violence are available at
on the Web.
     The World Council of Churches maintains information about the
Decade at on its Web site.

[*Philip E. Jenks is communications officer for the U.S. Office of the
World Council of Churches, New York.]

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or NEWS@ELCA.ORG

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