Jamaican national leaders welcomed a global churches' delegation on Monday 16 May 2011, as the week-long International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) began unfolding in Kingston.
The delegation comprised leaders from the World Council of Churches (WCC), Caribbean Conference of Churches (CCC) and Jamaican Council of Churches (JCC) who attended a series of meetings with Jamaican authorities.
The Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, WCC General Secretary, briefed the Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding on the history of the WCC and the IEPC, a gathering of some 1,000 worldwide faith leaders and peace practitioners exploring the concept of just peace and recent advances in peacemaking practices.
Golding offered a warm welcome, expressing his wishes that the IEPC be “an inspired and inspiring event.” He emphasised the crucial role of both the church and state in the ethical development of societies worldwide today, especially in contexts – as in his own country – marked by crime and violence.
Sir Patrick Allen, Governor General of Jamaica, added his joy, on behalf of Jamaica and the entire Caribbean region, to be hosting such a significant event.
The IEPC's location in Jamaica is an intentional acknowledgement of the region's involvement in the Decade to Overcome Violence, explained CCC General Secretary Gerard Granado. Kingston was one of the focus capitals of the WCC’s “Peace to the City” campaign launched in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1997.
Before the delegation, Allen pointed out the fact that crime and violence are treated as the most important items on both government and church agendas in Jamaica today. Allen, an ordained pastor and former head of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Jamaica, recalled the “ultimate sources of peace offered by the gospel” that inspire Christians worldwide to commit to peace talks and processes worldwide. He affirmed that “there is nothing wrong in Jamaica today that cannot be fixed by what is right.”
His optimistic approach inspired a vice-moderator of the WCC Central Committee, the Rev Dr Margaretha Hendriks-Ririmasse, to call on churches to search for mutual collaboration between governments worldwide.
“People are losing faith in Christianity. We must rescue the interest of people in the gospel by showing how we can work together in this world,” she said.
Jamaican parliamentary opposition leader Portia Simpson-Miller – one of the country's most popular politicians – also received a visit from the ecumenical delegation and listened to a brief introduction on the goals of the IEPC.
Simpson-Miller, who was the first female prime minister of Jamaica, is also a member of the Council of Women World Leaders. She said that the churches play a “very crucial role” in the transformation of all forms of hostility witnessed in the country.
Reflecting on Simpson-Miller's thoughts, Metropolitan Prof. Dr Gennadios of Sassima (Limouris), the other vice-moderator of the WCC Central Committee, said that one of the goals of the IEPC is to have a concrete impact on Jamaica’s struggle to overcome violence.
The IEPC opens on Wednesday, 18 May and concludes on 25 May.
* IEPC resources page: www.protestantnews.eu/europe/8242
* All Ekklesia's material on IPEC: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/ipec
* An Ecumenical Call to Just Peace: www.overcomingviolence.org/en/resources-dov/wcc-resources/documents/decl...
Ekklesia will be running stories from journalist and regular contributor Stephen Brown in Jamaica, as well as official reports from the WCC and other commentary.