St Francis of Assisi's prayer, 'Make me a channel of your peace', was the theme for a celebration of common commitment to overcome violence at a gathering of Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican and Protestant church representatives on 17 February 2007 in Wittenberg, Germany.
Sharing of experiences, reflection and common prayer welcomed this year's focus on Europe from the global ecumenical initiative 'Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV) - Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace, 2001-2010'.
The annual foci of preceding years were Palestine/Israel, Sudan, the United States, Asia and Latin America.
The Rev Dr Geiko M?ºller-Fahrenholz explained that the theme of the European focus is taken from a famous Christian prayer that stands in opposition to a world-weary "realism that no longer perceives it is being used to allow the continuation of violence everywhere".
Too often "we live as though the peace of the Lord is far from us. This is why we pray, 'Lord, make me a channel of your peace'," M?ºller-Fahrenholz said. He serves the World Council of Churches (WCC) as coordinator of the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation being planned for 2011 to mark the end of the Decade to Overcome Violence.
Nine key issues to be addressed by European churches and others during this year are human trafficking, youth, migration, militarization, domestic and interpersonal violence, human security, the environment, violence in the church and a theology of a just peace.
The launch of the 2007 Decade to Overcome Violence focus took place as part of a four-day ecumenical encounter to prepare for the Third European Ecumenical Assembly (EEA3) to be held on 4-9 September 2007 in Sibiu, Romania.
The Rev Dr Fernando Enns, a German Mennonite who serves on the World Council of Churches' central committee, noted that the DOV leadership designated 2007 as the year of Europe with the Sibiu assembly in mind. EEA3 is being organized jointly by the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and the Roman Catholic bishops' conference of Europe (CCEE).
Ivo Marcovic, a Franciscan from Bosnia, told the story of the Pontanima ("bridge of souls") choir that brings together singers from each of the Abrahamic religions to perform "the music of their enemies" in nationalistic strongholds of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia. The mayor of Sarajevo has called the choir "the most beautiful jewel of reconciliation".
The evening culminated in a service of common prayer at the Wittenberg church where Martin Luther regularly preached, led by Brother Alois of the Taiz?© ecumenical community in France.
The Decade to Overcome Violence was originally launched six years ago, at a February 2001 worship service in the war-damaged Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church of Berlin. The Decade is a global movement that strives to strengthen existing efforts and networks for overcoming violence, as well as inspire the creation of new ones.
The priority of overcoming violence and building cultures of peace was called for by the 1998 WCC Assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe. Dr Enns and other peace church activists (Mennonites, Quakers, and Bretheren in Christ) were among those who mobilised for the DOV theme on the conference floor.
* For further information on the Decade to Overcome Violence, go to: overcomingviolence.org
* Details of the Third European Ecumenical Assembly (EEA3): www.eea3.org