In everything from the persecuted churches to the world economy, faith-based advocates from a diverse mix of organizations gathered for a four day conference in Arlington, Virginia on March 5-8. Target issues also included the war in Iraq, nuclear weapons, humanitarian concerns in various regions, and also US policies on several countries like North Korea.
The annual conference is also known as the Ecumenical Advocacy Days for Global peace with justice. “I will feed them Justice” was the theme taken from the book of Ezekiel. Unusally known for taking hold of world issues, this year’s conference was different.
Around 600 participants gathered this year including many senior ecumenical leaders. Opening the conference was Rev. Samuel Kobia, an executive at the worldwide ecumenical group World Council of Church (WCC). “Work for peace is with justice is exhausting work,” he said, “Spiritual ground is needed to keep us moving.”
Emphasizing on the need for spiritual guidance in the daily work to see the “big picture” of history, Kobia pointed to examples from government institutions relying on churches for spiritual guidance. In this way, the church can do many things in guiding the governing leadership of the world.
One key subject throughout the conference was the war in Iraq. Churches can have a great impact on many of these key world issues. James E. Winkler, senior executive of the Board of Church and Society urged on saying, “We have a message of love to feed them with justice.”
Other top executives from worldwide ecumenical groups and denominations spoke up about issues in and around them. In persecuted regions such as Sudan and Palestine, Rev. Andudu Elnail, Anglican bishop from Sudan, and Michael Tarazi, legal adviser to the Palestinian Liberation Organization, addressed political and humanitarian concerns in their regions.
In all, it was a very successful even with many historical and world issues coming up. Speaking together on the big international issues, 350 attendants even gathered to hold lobbying meetings on Capitol Hill on the last day of the conference. They raised issues such as US foreign policies in Colombia, Middle East, North Korea, and Africa.
Anna Rhee, the conference's program coordinator, said that this year’s ecumenical advocacy gathering in Washington is focusing on international issues for the first time.