From the Worldwide Faith News archives

WCC in Porto Alegre: "Struggling against intolerance is a form of resistance"

From "WCC Media" <>
Date Wed, 29 Jan 2003 10:13:00 +0100

World Council of Churches
Press Release 03-05
For Immediate Use
29 January 2003

WCC in Porto Alegre: "Struggling against intolerance is a form of resistance"

Struggling against intolerance is a vital way of resisting the free market
model of globalization, according to Genevihve Jacques, director of
Programmes for the World Council of Churches (WCC). Speaking at the third
World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Jacques suggested that the
struggle against intolerance is directed against dogmatic claims that the
free market model is the only option; it responds to a situation of
existential crisis produced by the culture of violence and its deadly fruits.

Jacques was speaking at an official Forum programme panel discussion entitled
"Fighting against intolerance. Addressing an audience of 600 just a few
metres from the River Jacum, Jacques suggested that globalization's "illusion
of universality" seriously threatens the "universality of human rights".

The harmful consequences of globalization - inequality, uncertainty and
social fragmentation - constitute a "culture of violence" that crushes
cultural diversity, she said. People and communities react by seeking new
references that will allow them to strengthen their identities. Asserting
these references as absolute values leads to the development of intolerance,
thus threatening the universality of human rights.

Jacques challenged her audience to "go further than tolerance" to strive for
a "pluralist vision of coexistence and solidarity" that affirms "the dignity
of difference". In this context, religions have a lot to contribute, she
said, as they are among the "most powerful responses to the question of
identity". Affirming religious identity can make a positive contribution to
coexistence; fanaticism threatens it, however.

 "Pluralism" is necessary, Jacques said. But pluralism involves "seeking a
meeting of diversely committed people" rather than covering up differences.
To succeed in this, we must create "opportunities for dialogue and mutual
trust". Initiatives like the WCC's "Decade to Overcome Violence" (2001-2010)
are significant in this context. The Decade provides opportunities to
criticise religious legitimisation of violence, and also for self-criticism
by those who have "ambiguous attitudes and exclusivist claims".

The Decade calls on churches to create a "life-promoting dialogue" between
different religions, to promote mutual understanding and to combine efforts
in a common struggle for justice and human rights. Likewise, it invites them
"to read the signs of the times", reject the "spirit, logic and practice" of
violence, initiate practical action from the perspective of the victims of
the culture of violence and, finally, promote networks for exchange and

For Jacques, the World Social Forum provides a special opportunity to "seek a
meeting of diversely committed people". Here, among so much diversity, we can
enjoy the richness of being able to share experiences and dreams, broaden our
horizons, combine efforts and promote strategies, in the knowledge that tens
of thousands of participants fervently believe that "a different world is
possible", she concluded.

The text of Genevihve Jacques' speech can be found on 

The WCC delegation is participating at the World Social Forum within the
framework of an Ecumenical Caucus set up by the WCC, the Lutheran World
Federation, the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, the Latin American Council of
Churches and an ecumenical coalition of Brazilian churches and related

Delegation members are leading a series of workshops showing links between
Christian spirituality and examples of resistance against the unjust world
order by churches and social and ecumenical organizations.

* * * *

Further details of how the WCC is participating in the World Social Forum,
including descriptions of the workshops and the text of the presentations,
can be found at: (English) (Espaqol) (Deutsch) (Frangais)

* * * *

For further information, please contact the Media Relations Office,  tel: +41
(0)22 791 64 21 / (41 22) 791 61 53


The World Council of Churches (WCC) is a fellowship of churches, now 342, in
more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian
traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works
cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which
meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in
1948 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary
Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.

World Council of Churches
Media Relations Office
Tel: (41 22) 791 6153 / 791 6421
Fax: (41 22) 798 1346

PO Box 2100
1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland

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