International Ecumenical Peace Convocation addresses issues of nonviolence and the environment

May 23, 2011

Kingston, Jamaica, 23 May (ENInews)--As the International Ecumenical Peace
Convocation (IEPC) in Kingston, Jamaica, enters its seventh day, attendees
discussed topics such as helping communities resolve conflict through peaceful
means and how churches can positively respond to the challenge of climate change
and environmental destruction.

The IEPC website refers to the conference as both a "harvest festival,"
celebrating the achievements of its Decade to Overcome Violence initiative, and
a call for individuals and churches to renew their commitment to nonviolence,
peace and justice. The event, taking place from May 17-25, is being hosted by
the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Caribbean Conference of Churches (CCC),
and the Jamaican Council of Churches (JCC). A number of news releases have
provided updates about events at the convocation.

Margareta Ingelstam, coordinator of Just Peace, a group of Swedish churches,
shared her experience organizing the Ecumenical Monitoring Program in South
Africa. She believes peace monitoring teams should arrive in local areas before
conflict erupts into violence. "Most conflicts have to be taken care of early
before they become violent," said Ingelstam. "Education should be the most
important part of bringing peace to a community."

"To be involved in conflict resolution from a faith perspective, churches should
carefully consider whether or not a community has already been manipulated by a
damaging theology," said Rev. Sofia Camnerin, a member of Just Peace and the WCC
Central Committee. Some theological interpretations are dangerous to victims of
violence, especially children, according to Camnerin.

More than 40 panels at the conference are focusing on "peace with creation." In
one, a short video was shown about the impact a missionary society in Germany
had on a small village in West Papua, Indonesia. A shipment of solar-powered
lamps from Germany provided electricity where it was previously
unavailable--improving the lives of both the village and the broader province,
creating awareness about the need to care for creation, and setting a new
environmental standard.

The issue of climate change is also being addressed in developed countries. In
Germany, the Green Cock program, named for the animal that traditionally sits
atop weather vanes, helps churches set goals for saving energy and reducing
their ecological footprint. The Green Cock label has already been applied to
more than 25 percent of the churches in Westphalia, including several Protestant
and Roman Catholic dioceses.

Rev. Jochen Motte, executive secretary for justice, peace, and integrity of
creation at United Evangelical Ministry (UEM), says he believes environmental
issues should be the "main focus of the ecumenical movement now, just like the
issue of violence was a priority over the last decade."

For Archbishop Valentine Mokiwa, president of the All Africa Conference of
Churches, poverty is a crucial issue. He expressed surprise that a mining
compound in Tanzania has houses with private swimming pools, while just outside
the walls there is abject poverty. "You visit healthcare clinics and there's no
medication. People are dying." Ideally, the church should help protect people
from economic exploitation, he said, but it may well play into the massive
socioeconomic inequalities that plague Tanzania and many other countries.

"Within the church, all hands are not clean," said Rev. Roderick Hewitt, a
minister of the United Church in Jamaica and the Cayman Islands. Churches cannot
begin to forge justice in an inhumane marketplace until they get out of that
marketplace themselves, he said.

Rev. Emmanuel Clapsis, an Orthodox theologian from the U.S., continued this line
of thought. "We are searching for a new economic system that distributes our
resources in a more equitable manner. Otherwise, there will be more misery for
the majority."