Global church team to share creative nonviolence experience in Germany

By agency reporter
June 25, 2008

Witnesses for creative peacemaking from member churches of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Burundi, Brazil, Greece and the United States will travel to Germany, 27 June - 4 July, for an exchange of experiences in overcoming violence.

The visit is part of a "living letters" process whereby teams of people from different parts of the world offer personal and prcatical support and inspiration to one another.

The peace building efforts of churches in Germany are legion, say observers. They train youth in nonviolent ways to handle conflicts. They encourage Christians to welcome strangers and to get to know their neighbours of other faiths. They keep alive the memories of victims of war and persecution and work for reconciliation.

These and other activities will be in the spotlight during the WCC delegation's visit. The visitors, who like their hosts are engaged in the churches' Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV) in their part of the world (see list below), bring along prayers and greetings from their own churches.

While these encounters lend themselves to an exchange of good ideas and mutual encouragement, they are also intended to kick-start the reflection on the ecumenical declaration on just peace to be adopted at the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in 2011.

The Living Letters blog on the DOV website will provide with regular updates on the 27 June to 4 July visit of the ecumenical team. Two team members will share their impressions, personal reflections, observations, experiences and photos.

The visit is hosted by the German ecumenical organization ACK (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Christlicher Kirchen in Deutschland).

Highlights of the 8-day visit include:

Frankfurt am Main (27-28 June)
During an ecumenical prayer service for peace on Friday the Living Letters delegation will be welcomed to Germany by the choir of the Frankfurt's French Reformed congregation, the Mennonite and the Greek Orthodox pastors, the provost of the evangelical church district, the chairwoman of Pax Christi in the diocese Limburg and the pastor in charge of peace building for the Evangelical Church in Hessen and Nassau.

On Saturday, the delegation will learn about the work of the evangelical women's centre in Frankfurt on forced prostitution and domestic violence and join a prayer service entitled "Sister, carry on... Overcoming violence against women". An afternoon session organized by the ecumenical network EMS (Evangelisches Missionswerk in Südwestdeutschland) is dedicated to the development of a theology of peace.

Cologne (29-30 June)
At the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church, the Living Letters will meet members of the congregation for worship and a workshop on experiences of violence.

On Sunday afternoon, Christian, Jewish and Muslim representatives will share about their joint project " Do you know who I am?" that encourages people from different faith communities to learn more about their own and other religions and to live together peacefully.

Hanover (30 June - 1 July)
In Hanover, the delegation will take part in "Schritte gegen Tritte" ("steps against kicks"), a training programme that enables youth to deal with conflict without resorting to violence.

Meetings with church officials and students from the University of Hamburg will focus on the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation and the declaration on just peace. So will a joint press conference with Bishop Dr Margot Kässmann of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanover, and Dr Friedrich Weber, bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Brunswick and chair of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft Christlicher Kirchen, on Tuesday, 11 am, at the offices of the Evangelical Church in Germany.

Berlin (1 July - 2 July)
At the ministry of defence, the delegation accompanied by former WCC general secretary Dr Konrad Raiser will meet state secretary Christian Schmidt to discuss the changing engagement of the German military in the context of the international community's responsibility to protect endangered populations when their governments fail to do so - if necessary, by the use of force.

Besides meetings with the representatives of the churches to the Federal Republic of Germany and with the Berlin Council of Churches, the programme also features an encounter with young adults of the ecumenical network MEET (More Ecumenical Empowerment Together).

On the way to Dresden, the delegation will stop in Niedergoersdorf, Brandenburg to meet people living and working in a home for refugees.

Dresden (3-4 July)
Bishop Jochen Bohl of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Saxony will welcome the Living Letters team at the Frauenkirche in Dresden. The church was destroyed in the firebombing of Dresden during World War II and has been reconstructed and reconsecrated, in 2005, as a landmark symbol of peace and reconciliation.

Meetings in Dresden with church officials, as well as school classes, will focus on the problem of racism.

Members of the Living Letters team visiting the churches in Germany are: Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi, Province of the Anglican Church of Burundi; Ms Jannette Bächtold Ludwig, Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil, director of the National Council of Christian Churches of Brazil (CONIC), secretary of the New Decade of Women's Ecumenical Action; Ms Aikaterini Pekridou, theologian, Church of Greece (Orthodox); Mr Thomas Yonker, volunteer worker with youth and migrants, Disciples of Christ, USA; Mr Georges Lemopoulos, WCC deputy general secretary; and the Rev Sabine Udodesku, WCC programme executive for worship and spirituality.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.