Kingston Jamaica to host global churches' peace conference

By staff writers
February 16, 2008

Kingston, Jamaica, will be the host city for the World Council of Churches' International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in 2011, it has been announced - marking a decade of activity promoting practical responses to violence.

The convocation in 2011 will meet under the theme "Glory to God and peace on earth". It will be the culmination of the WCC's Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV), which has sought to network and bring attention to the peacemaking initiatives of its various member churches.

WCC Central Committee members reached consensus on Kingston as the venue during a session on Friday 15 February 2008. Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, was the other finalist.

The Rev Dr Fernando Enns, a German Mennonite and moderator of the Decade to Overcome Violence Reference Group, said he felt Kingston would be a good site for this major peace event. Mennonites are one of the historic peace churches.

"It has been with the DOV since the very beginning," said Dr Enns, noting that Kingston was one of seven cities in the Peace to the City campaign that preceded the DOV emphasis.

He also observed that there have not been major ecumenical gatherings in the Caribbean region. Planners estimate 2,000 or more people will participate.

A series of "expert consultations" on a variety of peace and reconciliation-related topics are taking place as momentum builds toward the convocation. Five took place in 2007, and eight more are planned for this year.

Dr Enns reflected on the theme during a Bible study Friday morning. Drawn from a familiar passage in Luke 2, "It's right at the centre of the Christmas story", Enns said. It connects peace with God and the earth in a spirit of expectation, he said, and it is set in the midst of incarnation—just as churches must become incarnations of peace in the world today.

Other speakers in the session shared a model of such incarnation: the WCC's "Living Letters" visits, in which ecumenical teams of international church representatives travel to areas of violence to express solidarity.

One group travelled to the United States last fall to dialogue about gun violence, and another group completed a visit to Kenya earlier this month. Kenyans, struggling with post-election violence, "wanted support and prayers", said Graham McGeoch, a Central Committee member from Scotland who was part of the group.

The Rev Dr Jayasiri Peiris, general secretary of the National Christian Council of Sri Lanka -another nation that received a "Living Letters" visit-said those efforts represent the church striving "to be the living body of Christ".

The International Ecumenical Peace Convocation hopes to share many such stories, Dr Enns said, while also honestly looking at where differences and suffering still exist. In addition, an Ecumenical Declaration on Just Peace is being drafted. It will be circulated among member churches, and a working draft will ultimately be taken to the convocation for action.

"The peace convocation should be a milestone in our ecumenical deliberations on peace and justice", Enns said. "It is not only preaching to the world, but reflecting on ourselves".

For more background information on the Decade to Overcome Violence:

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