From the Worldwide Faith News archives

World Council Asks Member Churches to Study Intervention

From news@ELCA.ORG
Date 12 Feb 2001 13:29:10


February 12, 2001


     POTSDAM, Germany (ELCA) -- The World Council of Churches (WCC)
asked its 342 member churches, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church
in America (ELCA), to study the ethical implications of international
intervention into situations where armed conflict threatens civilians.
The WCC central committee met Jan. 29-Feb. 6 near Berlin and forwarded
the report, "The Protection of Endangered Populations in Situations of
Armed Violence, Toward an Ecumenical Ethical Approach."
     The 158-member central committee is the WCC's chief governing
authority between assemblies.  The most recent assembly was in December
1998 in Harare, Zimbabwe.  The committee decided the next will be in
2006, but did not determine specific dates and a location for the
     The central committee asked member churches to study and reflect
on ways to protect civilian populations in situations involving armed
violence.  It asked for a report of the responses at a later date.
     Debate on the report continued over several days of the central
committee's meeting.  Its original title was "The Use of Armed Force in
Support of Humanitarian Purposes: An Ecumenical Ethical Approach."
     The report was meant to address the complicated issues of
international intervention in nations where armed conflict threatens
civilians.  Recent examples include such conflicts as in Bosnia, Rwanda
and Somalia.
     "It is understood efforts to overcome violence are done in a
violent world where populations are endangered even as these discussions
are going on," the introduction said. "The debate on the draft again
revealed clearly the different theological perspectives among member
churches with respect to violence and non-violence."
     Members of the central committee emphasized that their action on
the report was to commend it for study and not to adopt it as policy.
"This is not for adoption," said His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of
Cilicia, moderator of the WCC central committee.  "We receive this for a
long process of reflection."
     Eden Grace, Friends United Meeting, Religious Society of Friends,
United States, said she was grateful the concerns of the so-called peace
churches were heard.  While there is broad agreement among the churches
related to concern for civilians, she said, differences remain with
respect to the use of force.
     The Rev. Fernando Enns, Mennonite Church, Germany, a historic
"peace church," called the report a major challenge.  "If we don't
challenge each other on this, we lose the fellowship of the WCC," he
     "I hope the historic peace churches could recognize the desire for
all churches to be peace churches," responded the Rev. Trond Bakkevig,
Church of Norway.
     Jose Ramos-Horta, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and a cabinet member
for foreign affairs in the United Nations Transitional Administration in
East Timor, attended the WCC's launch of its Decade to Overcome
Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace (2001-2010).  He was
awarded the peace prize in 1996 for his efforts to seek a peaceful
solution in the conflict between Indonesia and East Timor.
     At a Feb. 4 news conference in Berlin, Ramos-Horta said armed
intervention to stop violence against innocent people should only be
used as a last resort, and must involve a multinational force under the
auspices of an organization such as the United Nations.
     Ramos-Horta said churches should advocate for efforts to solve
conflict peacefully, but, under certain circumstances, intervention may
be justified.  He cited recent cases of genocide that occurred in
Cambodia, Rwanda and Kosovo as examples.
     "In the case of Kosovo, what do you do?  Preach, pray and pray and
let the Kosovars die?  I supported intervention into Kosovo to stop the
genocide."  He said there was no alternative.
     "If a genocide happens again like in the 1970s in Cambodia, the
world must intervene to stop the genocide," said Ramos-Horta.  Force
must not be used unilaterally but should involve several nations, he
     The central committee forwarded the report to WCC member churches
with a four-page study guide, "Considerations and Criteria for
Discussions Related to the Protection of Endangered Populations in
Situations of Armed Violence," attached.
     The WCC is a fellowship of 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
     ELCA members Kathy J. Magnus, Prospect Heights, Ill., and Arthur
Norman, Houston, serve on the WCC's central committee.  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 at the Potsdam meeting.

[ * 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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