Christian leaders from four continents gathered in Atlanta, Georgia, to present themselves as “living letters” to the US conference of the World Council of Churches (WCC), on October 5-6, 2004. During their short presentations, the international leaders expressed solidarity with the US churches and reminded each other of the numerous challenges to peace that lay before the ecumenical community.
"We give thanks to God for the courage of you who have struggled to witness to truth, justice and peace in a time when fear, insecurity and manipulated patriotism have paralyzed so many," said Dr Marion Best.
Best, a representative from the United Church of Canada, is one of the two vice moderators of the WCC central committee.
There is a “cost born by church leaders, religious organizations and individuals in the US who have challenged the abuse of power and unilateralism" said Best as she addressed the crowd of U.S. leaders.
“We together have a task to tell the truth in love and refuse to have domination, injustice and hatred justified in God's name,” said Best on behalf of the Canadian churches.
Best concluded her “living letter” statement by reminding the US “brothers and sisters that the struggles for global justice and peace go far beyond partisan politics or the policies of any specific administration is the very self-identity of the US".
Meanwhile, Dr Maake Masango, WCC executive committee member from the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa, told US churches to vote in the upcoming election, so as to maintain the “Jesus” in them.
"Don't let them take Jesus out of you,” said as he recalled the message given to him by his father. “elect well".
From the West Bank came Mr Zoughbi Zoughbi, director of the WI'AM Palestinian Conflict Resolution Centre in Bethlehem, West Bank. On behalf of his group, Zoughbi thanked the Presbyterian Church USA for its recent decision to divest from companies operating in Israel, and said he hoped other churches within the WCC would do the same.
"Choosing neutrality in a situation of injustice and oppression is to choose the side of the oppressor," he said Zoubhbi, quoting the Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Representing Indonesia was Dr Judo Poerwowidagdo, director of the Centre for Empowering Reconciliation and Peace in Jakarta. Poerwowidagdo said that the theme of the conference, “The Power and Promise of Peace,” reflects situation faced by his nation – the country with the largest Muslim population in the world.
“Terrorism cannot be fought with another terrorism,” said Poerwowidagdo. “achieving the promise of peace requires the ability to accept others as children of God".
Meanwhile, Ms. Tale Hugnes from the Norwegian youth movement Changemaker applauded the peacemakers in the US, and declared that she would leave the US with "more hope and enthusiasm" than when she arrived, because she had met "Americans working for peace".
"You are not alone, lots of people around the world are working for the same goals,” said Hugnes.
Ms Renemsongla Ozkum, from the Baptist Church of India, however, challenged the churches with a higher standard of peacemaking.
“Violence is the fruit of insecurity,” she said. "Simply talking abut peace is not enough," she said.
Others in the “living letters” group were Ms Rosalyn Laylo from the United Methodist Church of the Philippines, and Ms Hermina Damons, a South African participating in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI). They were all welcomed by Rev. Elizabeth Clement, director of the Faith and the City Leadership Institute in Atlanta.