Monday, 23 May 2011

Where next for peace? How do we take the #IEPC forwards

The Peace Convocation here in Jamaica will draw to a close tomorrow and already people are beginning to think about what they will take back with them and how this experience can help motivate and drive forwards the peace work in our churches and well beyond our church landscapes.

Dr B has written a commentary piece for which he begins by saying:

The International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Jamaica symbolizes the emergence of a remarkable consensus among Christian churches on issues of war, peace and justice. Yet the task facing the ecumenical movement in the 21st century is now to work for a consensus on justice and peace that transcends cultural and religious boundaries.

The WCC's general secretary Olav Fykse Tveit is also setting out the way forwards more in terms of the Christian values of justice and peace being the core and truly fundamental values of Christian faith:

“I hope that from here we will have an understanding that we have some Christian values together that can be described in terms of justice and peace, and that these values unite us.”
Many churches are interested in clarifying the concept of how we as churches are peacemakers. I hope that we all can take back a renewed understanding of how the call to work for peace and justice is a Christian calling. This is actually what Christ has called us to do – to be peacemakers.”
The IEPC has been about gathering new ideas and a new sense of hope that is strong enough to help participants realize it is possible to make justice and peace a reality, not just a dream and a wish.

One of the things that I observe here is that the peace-making churches and groups undertake is on the one hand very grassroots based and orientated towards deep reconciliation between former enemies. As soon as we start working for peace we begin to see the inter-relatedness of all things, even local work for peace has to be global in its consciousness. Perhaps it is this renewed global consciousness and local rootedness which is in some ways renewing peace movements across the world.
On the other hand, though, at an international gathering there are also expectations and questions to the institutions, to the churches, the United Nations and the World Council of Churches itself. In the age of post modernity we often hear that this is not the time of institutions. Yet I sense a new breeze blowing, coming in part from the grassroots, from the way international institutions are using local information networks, twitter and crowd-sourcing information. This by-passes the national level sometimes and shows how the local and the global can mutually inspire and inform one another. The challenge then for any institution is how to be at the same time strong and organised but also open to the breath and energy coming from the grassroots. Bureaucracy meeting activism is always a bit of a challenge. However, here at the IEPC it does seem to be working rather well.

Stephen puts this rather differently and sets out the challenge for the WCC particularly in taking peace and justice issues forwards:
It is no longer enough to forge and to promote a consensus on justice and peace within Christian churches. Nor can issues of interfaith dialogue and cooperation be matters only for a few specialists, important as such expertise is. Neither is it question of simply seeking areas of common ground on which members of various faiths can already agree. Taking seriously the search for “just peace” in the 21st century means promoting authentic dialogue, one that may be marked as much by debate and disagreement as was the emergence of the ecumenical convergence seen now in Jamaica. In this process, alongside others, the World Council of Churches has a major role to play.

Meanwhile, at the back of the plenary tent in Jamaica there is a piece of net which people are encouraged to weave threads and fabrics through - weaving peace with justice. It will be taken back to Britain as a tapestry of our commitment and involvement. I've heard it said that the age of post-modernity will be followed and has to be followed by the age of creativity. As Margot Kässmann says in her opening essay in Ecumenical Review, peacemaking needs creativity. So perhaps each of us brought both our set ideas and stories to Jamaica, now the creative challenge is to take away some of our own story woven together with the story of many others. In the age of Twitter and Facebook perhaps this is easier than ever before as our walls are ways of weaving other people's stories into our own and ours into theirs.
So let's get weaving our take home souvenirs.

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