With a new song written specifically for the upcoming gathering, to a proclamation that Jamaica is the proper place for such a peace event, the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) was officially pre-launched at a ceremony in Kingston, Jamaica, on Tuesday 15 March.
The advance launch was organized by the Jamaican Council of Churches and the Caribbean Council of Churches, hosts of the IEPC.
It was attended by Jamaican church leaders and media, and aimed to call attention to the IEPC - which will be held on the Mona campus of the University of West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica from 17 to 25 May 2011.
In brief remarks to the group, Archbishop Donald Reece of the Roman Catholic Church, president of the Caribbean Conference of Churches, said why he believes that “Jamaica is the proper place to have this convocation.”
“We do have a setting where we can analyze the march from violence to that march toward peace,” he said, referring to a history of violence in Jamaica and the region that includes the sins of slavery and indentured servitude. “We are not called to experience war and hatred, but we are called to experience oneness and peace,” he declared.
In delivering the official launching address, Dr Mathews George Chunakara, director of the public witness programme of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and its Commission of the Churches in International Affairs, gave an overview of the WCC’s peace work over the decades and how the IEPC is rooted in the context of the Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV) which ended last year.
“So now we have reached the culmination of the DOV era,” he said, noting that delegates at the 9th Assembly of the WCC in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 2006 called for an international ecumenical peace convocation as the climax to the DOV to recognize the success and failures of the Decade.
While the IEPC will recognize the work done during the decade to overcome violence, it is also going to be an occasion for churches to “renew their commitment to nonviolence, peace and just peace,” he said.
In a videotaped message to the group, WCC general secretary Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit described the IEPC as a collaborative effort of the Jamaica Council of Churches and the Caribbean Conference of Churches as well as local churches and community groups.
He mentioned a variety of events taking place as part of the convocation, including the planting of peace trees, a peace Sunday and a peace concert in Kingston.
Chunakara added that not only churches in Jamaica would be celebrating 22 May, as Peace Sunday, but churches around the world also would join participants of the IEPC in prayers, special events and worship services including the use of a Caribbean prayer for peace which has been translated into more than 20 languages.
A highlight of the launch was the presentation of an IEPC theme song titled “Glory to God, Peace on Earth,” written by Jamaican musician Grub Cooper.
Speakers at the IEPC include Martin Luther King III. Jamaican government officials, including the governor general of Jamaica and the prime minister, are expected to attend the opening of the IEPC on the afternoon of Wednesday 18 May.
More than 1,000 people from around the world are expected to attend the week-long event.
Website of the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation: www.overcomingviolence.org
More information on World Sunday for Peace: www.overcomingviolence.org/sunday