From the Worldwide Faith News archives

German Bishop Calls for Global Disarmament

From "Frank Imhoff" <>
Date Wed, 05 Feb 2003 10:52:21 -0600

More Involvement of Churches in World Social Forum Urged

PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil/GENEVA, 5 February 2003 (LWI) - "When US
President Bush says that Iraq must disarm, I agree. But I would go
a lot further than that: in fact the world must disarm, including
the United States," insisted Bishop Margot Kaessmann during
testimony at the World Social Forum. Kaessmann, bishop of the
Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanover (ELCH), was addressing the
WSF held in Porto Alegre, January 23-28. She also spoke about what
it means to be a church today in Germany, about her struggle
against violence, and about how, at the age of 16 years, she
discovered Martin Luther King and realized that faith and
political activism can walk hand in hand.

One of the reasons why the world needs more events such as the one
in Porto Alegre is that the developed countries have lost the idea
of change, and their population is living out pure individualism.
"Sometimes I feel that these people, in my country, have lost the
hope that another world is possible," she said. Listening to the
many voices at the WSF, Kaessmann said she had again noticed how
little the industrialized countries knew about other parts of the

"As the Lutheran church in Germany's rural north, we seek to be
part of the body of Christ in our spiritual life, and at the same
time to bear witness to the fact that each and every human being
has fundamental rights and is created in the image of God," she
said. One of our forms of witness is that refugees are not
beggars; they are messengers of the current state of the world.
This message is often not well received. "My experience repeatedly
shows that people from the richer countries try to forget that
injustice exists, try to ignore the fact that many people live in
absolute poverty."

She reminded listeners that a pair of sports shoes sold in Germany
for USD 100 is produced in Asia by a woman who earns USD 0.70 per
hour, while the soccer star who does the advertising for that same
shoe earns USD 1 million. "Unjust structures are all around us,
lots of people can't cope with that, and retreat into a virtual
world," Kaessmann said.

In an interview for Lutheran World Information (LWI) at the WSF,
Bishop Kaessmann said the event had brought together people of
great vision. "Here, I saw hope and an engaged civil society," she
said, labeling what she had witnessed as "a global network." I am
very impressed by the hospitality, and especially by the
participation of the local Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brazil,
she said. She stressed her conviction that churches must
participate. "The involvement was larger this year, but it should
be greater still."

Bishop Kaessmann, one of two keynote speakers who will speak at
the LWF Tenth Assembly to be held 21-31 July in Winnipeg, Canada,
said like the WSF, the Assembly will bring together people from
many parts of the world, but they will have a common ground in
their faith and the Lutheran Confession.

The world is in desperate need of healing, she said, the theme
chosen for the Assembly "For the Healing of the World" is most
appropriate. "I witnessed this need for healing in every workshop
and activity I took part in, and in the people I spoke to here in
Porto Alegre."

Bishop Kaessmann heads the 3.3-million-member ELCH, the largest
Protestant church in Germany where there are 13.6 million
Lutherans. She has held her present position since 1999, and is
the second of three women bishops elected in the country.

(Reported by Susanne Buchweitz)

(The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the
Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund (Sweden), the LWF now
has 136 member churches in 76 countries representing over 61.7
million of the 65.4 million Lutherans worldwide. The LWF acts on
behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such as
ecumenical relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human
rights, communication, and the various aspects of mission and
development work. Its secretariat is located in Geneva,

[Lutheran World Information (LWI) is LWF's information
service.Unless specifically noted, material presented does not
represent positions or opinions of the LWF or of its various
units. Where the dateline of an article contains the notation
(LWI), the material may be freely reproduced with acknowledgment.]

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English Editor: Pauline Mumia
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