Monday, 26 October 2009

Violence and health

Together with more than 20 other colleagues we began our WCC meetings week with a visit to the World Health Organization which is almost next door to the ecumenical centre in Geneva. We had four fascinating presentations linking some of the WHO's work to areas of the programmatic work on Health and Healing and also on HIV on the WCC's agenda. I certainly learnt a great deal, including that the issue of "spiritual" health has been tabled for inclusion in the WHO's declaration on health but doesn't ever seem to ever quite yet make it into the organization's declaration about health. It was both heartening and depressing to hear workers in that much bigger international bureaucracy talk about the challenges of their campaigning work, decision-making procedures and actually having some impact.
The final presentation of the morning was quite a revelation to me. The Decade to Overcome Violence team at the WCC has been working with the WHO's Global Campaign for Violence Prevention. Listening to the global statistics about violent death I was very struck by suicide causing more deaths worldwide than war in the most recent figures available. One death every forty seconds. I wondered how much of my time I spend in praying for peace and overcoming war and how much I spend in praying for those suffering from depression, unhappiness and daily anguish. The fireworks and pornography of violence attract so much of our attention, our theological reflection, our prayers- and yet this "attraction" also distracts our attention from the at least equally important spiritual and theological issue of combatting misery, unhappiness and meaningless. Of course it shouldn't be "either / or" but "both /and". I left the WHO with alot to think about.
The powerful poster here is one of a series from the campaign called "explaining away violence" - you can look at the others and download them by clicking on the link.