From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
WCC launches 'Decade to Overcome Violence'
08 Feb 2001 13:52:45
Feb. 8, 2001 News media contact: Linda Bloom·(212) 870-3803·New York
NOTE: This may be used as a sidebar to UMNS story #063.
By United Methodist News Service
An all-night vigil to remember child victims of violence preceded a Feb. 4
public kickoff in Berlin of the World Council of Churches' (WCC) Decade to
Overcome Violence. The vigil was planned by German churches.
For Jan Love, a United Methodist laywoman serving as the decade's
chairwoman, the launch highlight was testimony delivered during an
ecumenical worship service in Kaiser Wilhem Memorial Church, which was
mostly destroyed by Allied bombs during World War II and then rebuilt.
A man from Rwanda talked about a childhood friend approaching him during the
genocide there and telling him that he had to kill the man's father or be
killed himself. After the father was killed, the speaker never attempted to
reconcile with the friend, who later committed suicide. He wondered, during
the service, what he could have done to at least prevent the suicide.
A mother from Croatia who spends a great deal of time doing conflict
resolution, both as a middle-school teacher and peace educator, described
how stress caused her to yell at her own children. A woman from Canada
discussed the historic sins of the churches there in dealing with aboriginal
At the service's conclusion, each participant received a cross made from
spent bullets or rocket shells by George Togba of Liberia. Togba, who had
joined rebel forces during Liberia's civil war to save his family, is now a
Christian peace activist.
Conceived at the 1988 WCC's eighth assembly in Zimbabwe, the Decade to
Overcome Violence, known as DOV, is a response to a call for peace for
future generations. A message issued by the WCC for the launch noted the
hope for the new century: "We come together from the four corners of the
earth aware of the urgent need to overcome violence that pervades our lives,
our communities, our world and the whole created order. We launch this
decade in response to a deep yearning among our peoples to build lasting
peace grounded in justice."
The decade coincides with a United Nations proclamation of 2001-2010 as the
"International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the
Children of the World."
After an afternoon program of music, dance, speeches and interviews at
Berlin's House of World Cultures, the entire WCC Central Committee, along
with several hundred local citizens, participated in a candlelight march
through the snow to the Brandenburg Gate, site of the former Berlin Wall.
The group continued through the gate "and stood in the place where people
had died trying to reach freedom," Love said.
Briefly addressing the crowd, the Rev. Konrad Raiser, the WCC's chief
executive, paid homage to martyred peacemakers, including Dietrich
Bonhoeffer, who would have been 95 years old on the day of the launch.
Beate Kraus, a United Methodist seminary student from Germany and central
committee member, said the candlelight procession took her back to November
of 1989. "I experienced those days of peaceful revolution as a 17-year-old
youth in the former German Democratic Republic," she recalled. "This
experience, that a violent structure can be removed by prayer, candles and
nonviolent resistance, influenced my life in a deep way.
"So, I hope, the DOV will become successful by God's grace, our prayer and
our actions," she added.
Exactly how the decade will be carried out depends upon the involvement and
initiatives of the churches, but Love said she is excited about the
opportunities for creative approaches to ending violence.
During Lent this year, U.S. member churches are inviting all Christians to
participate in a "Lenten Fast From Violence." As part of the fast, they are
asked to refrain from violence, including ways in which violence is
indirectly consumed or supported; donate to efforts that address the causes
and consequences of violence and that support peace and reconciliation; and
pray daily the prayer of St. Francis, "Lord, make me an instrument of your
Besides the international launch in Berlin, regional events are planned in
Africa, Europe, Latin America, North America and the Pacific. The North
American event will take place during the April 23-24 annual meeting of the
WCC's U.S. Conference.
More information on DOV can be found at the WCC's Web site, www.wcc-coe.org.
# # #
United Methodist News Service
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