Leading Ecumenicals from around the world have asked for forgiveness for Christianity’s history of being complicit in violence, injustice, racism and discrimination.
At the conclusion of the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) nearly 1,000 delegates pledged to work closer with other faiths to establish peace in global communities.
Delegates expressed their regret at the complicity of Christians in violence: “We realise that Christians have often been complicit in systems of violence, injustice, militarism, racism, casteism, intolerance and discrimination,” they said. “We ask God to forgive us our sins, and to transform us as agents of righteousness and advocates of just peace.”
The weeklong meeting in Kingston, Jamaica, was organised by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and included reflections on the peace initiatives carried out during its Decade to Overcome Violence, which concluded last year.
In a statement released by the delegates, they wrote: “Our engagements have inspired us in showing that overcoming violence is possible. The Decade to Overcome Violence has generated many beautiful examples of Christians who have made a difference.”
They categorically rejected war in favour of a just peace, which they described as the “establishment of peace with justice through a common response to God’s calling”.
They called upon governments and other groups to stop using religion as a pretext for the justification of violence.
The group said they were “unified” in their aspiration to see war made illegal and for total nuclear disarmament. It was a “scandal”, they continued, that the money spent by governments on military budgets and the arms trade is not being used to eradicate global poverty and fund “an ecologically and socially responsible reorientation of the world economy”.
They urged governments to take immediate action to redirect their financial resources to “programmes that foster life rather than death”.
“History, especially in the witness of the historic peace churches, reminds us of the fact that violence is contrary to the will of God and can never resolve conflicts,” they said. “It is for this reason that we are moving beyond the doctrine of just war towards a commitment to just peace.
“It requires moving from exclusive concepts of national security to safety for all. This includes a day-to-day responsibility to prevent, that is, to avoid violence at its root.”
Moderator of the preparatory committee for the IEPC, Professor Dr Fernando Enns, challenged delegates to continue working for peace: “Our journey must continue,” he said. “You and I, we shall hold each other accountable. The Church is either accepting the call to just peace or it is not the church at all.”