The European ecumenical network Church and Peace will explore the Church's calling to be "Repairers of the Breach and Restorers of the streets to dwell in" (Isaiah 58:12) at an international conference in Elspeet, the Netherlands, on 27-29 April 2001.
Representatives from churches, intentional communities and peace and service organizations in Western and Eastern Europe will address the topic of overcoming violence in contexts of inter-religious and inter-ethnic conflict. The gathering will reflect on the experiences of churches and Christian peace groups in the conflicts in the Balkans over the past decade with the intent of formulating concrete proposals for Christian peacemaking in the region and in other areas of conflict. Further, the conference is to function as a forum for exchanging experiences and promoting networking between Christians committed to living as communities of peace. The meeting is planned as a contribution to the Decade to Overcome Violence of the World Council of Churches (WCC) to be launched in early 2001.
The conference will begin with a discussion with German Mennonite theologian Fernando Enns, WCC Central Committee member and driving force behind the decla-ration of the Decade to Overcome Violence at the WCC Assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe, in 1998. The Saturday morning program will feature a dialogue between Baptist pastor Aleksandar Birvis, former lecturer at the Orthodox seminary in Belgrade and founder of the Yugoslav Association for Religious Freedom, and German Protestant Anthea Bethge, nonviolent conflict resolution educator, on the role churches have played in the conflicts in the Balkans and the ways they can contribute to long-term peacebuilding and healing of wounds in the region.
In the afternoon participants will have the opportunity to examine different facets of the conference theme in working groups on topics such as mediation and violence prevention; unmasking the use of depleted uranium weapons and small arms; and a proposal from the German and Austrian Quaker Peace Committee for a peace church contribution to the Decade to Overcome Violence. A dialogue forum with speakers from the former Yugoslavia, Germany, Northern Ireland and Rwanda will explore points of intersection in diverse situations of inter-religious and inter-ethnic conflict.
The conference will close on Sunday with an ecumenical worship service. Dutch Mennonite pastor Janna Postma will speak on Isaiah 58, the biblical theme for the gather-ing.
A seminar with participants from the Balkans region and members of the Church and Peace network will precede the conference. The goal of the seminar is to offer an opportunity for people who have been involved in giving witness to the peace of the Gospel in the war-torn Balkans region to evaluate together the learnings of the past decade and to share this with fellow peacemakers from the Church and Peace network.
Registration forms for the conference can be obtained at the Church & Peace International Office (address on page 2).
Building sound foundations and making friends
Have you ever left home for a short trip and returned the next day tired but feeling certain that you'd made one hundred new friends?
I've had two opportunities during the past several months to have such an experience: first, a visit to the Colmar (France) Mennonite Church to talk about Church and Peace's work, and secondly, a visit to the Protestant community "Christusbruderschaft" in Selbitz, Germany, following their invitation to participate together with my husband in their community's seminar on Gospel nonviolence. In the brand new chapel in Colmar, I saw many well-known faces and discovered a crowd of new ones, particularly youth and young adults. In Selbitz, I discovered very real and down-to-earth people behind the sisters' coverings and the brothers' dark-colored clothing, people whom I knew only from photos. If I try to put into words why I feel certain I have so many new friends after such a short visit, several images come to mind, sound material which could be used to construct a house that becomes a home, or sturdy buildings...as well as close friend-ships: a community or congregation where there is prayer and singing, where the Word of God is studied, where people joyfully share a meal together...but also places where refugees find refuge and support, where people take seriously the challenge to Christians to work at resolving conflicts without resorting to violence.
Two communities with profoundly different stories and confessional origins but which are closely akin to each other through their commitment to Jesus Christ and his teachings... It is this very encouraging realization that gives birth to the feeling of having received the invaluable gift of having made more than one hundred new friends in less than twenty-four hours.
This double issue of the newsletter is rich in such examples, stones with which to construct a house, to reinforce buildings: stories of reconciliation and friendships made at the Church and Peace Francophone regional conference in Grandchamp, further study at Bienenberg of John Howard Yoder's contribution to a theology of peace, nonviolent protest by Quakers and members of the Arche Community at the Eurosatory arms fair, reflections on community life following a stay at the St. Antoine Arche community, attempts at dialogue with soldiers and military chaplaincy during the Church and Peace Germanic regional conference....
The WCC has launched a Decade to Overcome Violence. We at Church and Peace are delighted about this initiative and wish, as a network, to make a contribution in various ways: a proposal from Germanic Quakers, a meeting with peacemakers from all parts of the former Yugoslavia and, in particular, an international conference which will attempt to respond to the challenge of "overcoming violence in the context of inter-religious and inter-ethnic conflict". These meetings will address the people of God's vocation to "repair the breach and restore streets to dwell in", or, in other words, to learn to build sound foundations and strong dwellings in a world that is falling apart - and I know from experience that each one of us will return home tired, but feeling certain, and pleasantly surprised, that he or she now has dozens of new friends.
Marie-Noëlle von der Recke
Church and Power
Church and Peace Francophone regional conference
A Church and Peace meeting is like the seldom visible sprouting of an intricate root system whose labours under the earth go undetected most of the time...
This year's francophone regional conference took place on 27-29 October 2000 at the Grandchamp Community (Switzerland) in a setting - Switzerland as a model of multinational co-existence, and the community of Grandchamp where some 40 religious sisters have practiced ecumenism for 40 years - conducive to closer exploration of the chosen topic Power, Nation, Church.
The theme Power, Nation, Church promised an ambitious program for the weekend, aprogram where it was clear from the beginning that only individual aspects of the general subject area could be examined.
The program was centered around three questions related to the theme:
As is often the case, asking questions is easier than answering them. For the meeting in Grandchamp it would be more appropriate to speak of the manner in which one could approach the subject at hand. Here one could observe two approaches to the conference theme: that of academic analysis and that of sharing personal experiences.
In the academic portion Antoine Nouis, pastor in the Reformed Church in Paris, spoke from a biblical perspective with the axis of time and space as his central motif, time being the dimension of God and space that of humanity. With this framework, the God of time is contrasted with the gods of space. God is understood first and foremost as a liberator (Egypt, Babel) who also allocates space (the Promised Land), and then secondly as the creator of the world. The historical development from a tribe to the Jewish nation moves more and more into the dimension of place and space and culminates in the gigantic business of the temple with all its rules and regulations. Jesus condemns this erroneous development and brusquely calls the temple into question. This "space" is finally lost in the year 70 A.D. It is Paul who is the first to once again proclaim the universality of God transcending national borders.
In a fast-paced overview of Western history, Christian Renoux, Catholic and professor of history at the University of Orléans, tracked the course of the unhappy marriage of "Church and power". Jesus, who held Galilean citizenship, as a victim of religious power. The cult of the emperor in conflict with Judaism and, later on, Christianity. The borrowing of the young church from the vocabulary of politics (for example, "ecclesia" originally meant "political gathering"). Intolerance becomes more violent after 325 A.D. with the first "heretic", a Spaniard, burned at the stake in 385 A.D. St. Martin cuts down sacred trees. Augustine introduces the idea that the Roman Empire be defended with violence if necessary. Carl the Great forcefully converts the Saxons and unites Europe using violence. History's revenge: The Saxon Luther ends this union of violence. The "cleriocracy" of the Middle Ages, Byzantine Cesaropapism: the alliance - and occasionally identification - of the reformed churches with the State. The law concerning the separation of Church and State passed in 1905 in France as a chance for inter-religious dialogue. The chance for modern Europe and globalization to reconcile opposing elements: unity while respecting diversity; the local and global levels; understanding Christian citizenship as global citizenship. Or in the words of Antoine Nouis: "space can reconcile itself with time".
Using the approach of recounting personal experiences related to the topic, several participants directly affected by questions of church, nation and power shared their life stories, adding an emotionally touching note to the informative reflections.
In her resume of the discussion during the weekend, Marie-Noëlle von der Recke emphasized that the "path of healing" lies first and foremost in the behavior of individuals, in listening to each other, in face-to-face encoun-ters and in respect for others.
In the closing worship service, François Caudwell, pastor of Les Bulles Mennonite Church (Switzerland), used the image of power as a "hereditary disease of the Church". But must Christians live with this chronic affliction? One would have wished for more clarity on this question. But perhaps this question will be addressed in another time and place in the extensive root system of Church and Peace...
Soldiers, military chaplains and pacifists together around a table
Have you ever eaten breakfast with a general and a military bishop?
I had the opportunity to do so at a conference on October 20-22, 2000 in Hülsa, Germany, entitled "The possibilities and limits of military and civilian conflict resolution - ensuring peace through a partnership of dissimilar parties?". The German-language conference was organized jointly by Church and Peace and the military chaplaincy of the main Protestant church in Germany.
45 participants from the military and the Church and Peace network sought dialogue under the sensitive moder-ation of pastor Christian Hohmann and military deacon Peter Michaelis. The NATO military operation against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in March 1999 was the backdrop for the conference.
Unanswered questions concerning the Kosovo conflict
In his opening presentation on what politics and the military can do for peace, military bishop Dr. Hartmut Löwe raised several questions. Was the NATO military operation in Kosovo necessary? The goal of peaceful co-existence of the different ethnic groups is an even more distant possibility than ever before. The word "reconciliation" triggers only scorn and mockery. In the end was there a choice between the plague and cholera? Were there political failings? What would have had to take place politically and with the military to avoid the catastrophe? Answers to these questions were modest. Besides the failure of political negotiation, Yugoslavia's historical and cultural background was, on the whole, not given the consideration that the situation required.
The role of the military chaplaincy was also questioned. Was not theological resistance called for concerning a military mission that was questionable from a human rights standpoint? Löwe responded that the military chaplaincy was to be on the side of the soldiers. "Political reason is also an expression of realistic theology."
"I'm the last person to believe that conflicts can be resolved via military means"
Brigadier general Dr. Klaus Wittmann spoke from a military standpoint on the possibilities and limitations of ensuring peace. Dr. Wittmann confessed at the beginning of his presentation that he is "the last person to believe that conflicts can be resolved via military means". He then eloquently informed the participants about the new NATO structures, the security network and NATO's tasks in light of modern society's vulnerability. According to Wittmann crisis and conflict management requires a military framework supporting it. NATO's security politics are due not only to military but also economic and social factors. NATO exists to ensure a global free market and access to resources worldwide.
For humanitarian and military reasons Wittmann felt that NATO's military operation in March 1999 was necessary: "We waited far too long to stop Milosevic!"
What should we learn from the catastrophe in Kosovo?
At the conclusion of his presentation Wittmann called for a culture of conflict prevention, without competition between military and civilian conflict resolution. As German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer has stated: "Civilian conflict management must take precedent over a military attack".
Clemens Ronnefeldt, Peace Concerns Secretary of Fellowship of Reconciliation/Germany, spoke from a civilian conflict resolution standpoint on the possibilities and limits of ensuring peace. He informed participants about conflict resolution efforts before the war by groups such as the OSCE mission, the St. Egidio Community and the Balkan Peace Team, among others. He called for the formation of and support for peace and human rights groups.
Ronnefeldt criticized the NATO military operation in Serbia, following primarily brigadier general Heinz Loquai's analysis of the aims of the Kosovo war: the Kosovo war was a test run for the new NATO strategy; it served to act upon NATO's claims to world leadership; it was a disciplinary act against "alien element" Serbia; it was a testing grounds for the United States Air Force without the need to employ ground troops; and NATO didn't want to be seen as a paper tiger.
What does civilian-military cooperation look like?
Colonel Peter Kratschmer, German army director of civilian-military cooperation in Kosovo, responded to the question of the kind of civilian-military cooperation taking place following the Kosovo war and the work that peace service volunteers are engaged in onlocation. Certainly the German army's central task is to guarantee military security, with the goal of sustainable and long-term stability. The army's mission is made difficult through the Serbian and Roma minority population situation. Under the auspices of KFOR, the German army is involved in delivering humanitarian aid and supports other governmental and nongovernmental organizations.
Civilian conflict resolution and peace work in Bosnia
Birgit Felleisen, Quaker Peace and Service volunteer, reported about civilian service for peace in Bosnia where she works with women's groups and supports local partners. Felleisen, as a Quaker, has been shown much trust. This trust is a prerequisite for effective work in conflict situations. Regarding cooperation with the military, Felleisen remarked, "Peace service agencies and the military must recognize each other's strengths and weaknesses and limit themselves to that which they can truly accomplish".
Nenad Vukosavljevic, peace worker in Sarajevo, has been active in nonviolent conflict resolution since 1997. His lifestory - a Serb, a conscientious objector, a refugee, etc. - testifies to his eventful past. His opinion of the military was critical. His experience has been that the military can change the balance of power but cannot bring about a fundamental resolution of the conflict. The pro-tection of human rights cannot come at the expense of others' human rights. The military is performing its task well if it protects democracy. He emphasized that conflict can only be resolved without violence. He feels a demilitarization of society is crucial.
In the closing discussion round the discrepancy in the financial resources of the military and peace services was pointed out by both sides. Wittmann concluded with the remark that civilian peace services should be developed further. NATO would withdraw from Yugoslavia if more civilian conflict management were possible.
Truth-finding is always a difficult process. Conflicting opinions added zest to the weekend encounter. The peace church voice did not have it easy making itself heard throughout the conference. The discussion between military and civilian partners is to be continued in a working group.
Hülsa Conference - Remarks and Impressions
Ernst von der Recke
In his presentation, colonel Peter Kratschmer spoke of entering an Orthodox church in Kosovo and seeing how an artistic fresco had been cut out of the wall with an ax. This image has stuck in my mind since the conference. It is an image that represents the challenges of the difficult situation in the region. I ask myself, what form must the new image take that would allow Albanians as well as Serbs, Roma and citizens of NATO countries to regain dignity and respect for humanity?
As far as emotions go, this meeting was booked to capacity. The conference organizers wanted to plumb the depths of the possibilities of "coalitions for peace". But deep divides quickly became evident, for example in the perceptions of the political factors that led to the decision to launch the air offensive against Yugoslavia. With his research and analysis of the war for Kosovo, Clemens Ronnefeldt reminded his counterpart Brigadier General Dr. Wittmann of the darker side of the conflict. In such a situation, to think of coalitions to "ensure peace" was simply too much to ask.
In the joint sermon during the worship service on Sunday by Christian Garve, Director of Ecumenical Services, and military deacon Horst Scheffler, the phrase "Cain-in-me wants to hit out!" surfaced repeatedly. This phrase mirrored something of the emotional state in which the participants found themselves. But with homiletic as well as pastoral skill, progress was made in defining areas of intersection and possibilities of shared responsibility - for example Quaker Peace and Service volunteer Birgit Felleisen reported that the presence of SFOR troops allows her to make contacts outside of Sarajevo, and Deacon Scheffler raised the question of whether there could be exchange between soldiers and persons being educated as professional peace workers so that soldiers could also receive training in nonviolent conflict resolution.
Forming coalitions for peace was a distant possibility last October. There was consensus that there cannot be military conflict resolution but that civilians are needed. However, due to the different viewpoints, the question of when and how a society and persons traumatized by terror and war can be ready to reconstruct relationships and political systems was scarcely addressed. Since the conference further analysis of the causes of the war has been pursued in depth, even within NATO circles (In late autumn 2000 a general report from NATO's parliamentary meeting admitted for the first time the West's failure in the Kosovo conflict.)
It is under these new conditions that the contours of the new image in which reconciliation in Europe could occur become somewhat clearer. Based on the Christ hymn in Philippians 2, I can imagine that all who in spirit, logic and deed have participated and continue to participate in violence will have to bow their knee before the victims of this conflict, a conflict escalated through the use of military force. The challenges for people who have recognized that Cain is also worthy of protection lie in the practice of "positive energy". For members of the Church and Peace network, this challenge presents itself concretely once more in our witness to people in conflict and enmity, as well as to their instruments of power - including the State and the military - that their task lies in serving Christ and not themselves.
The disruptive riff-raff at the gates
An earlier issue of the newsletter carried an announce-ment about the Eurosatory, the large international weapons fair, to be held in Paris. About twenty members of the Community of the Ark as well as some British groups - primarily Quakers - assembled for an anti-Eurosatory demonstration organized by CANVA, the Ark's nonviolence action coordination group. Ark member Theo Döllgast reports here about their ex-perience and impressions.
The action had two parts. The first was an "anti-fair" with stands, workshops, lectures, press conferences and such. Judging solely by the number of visitors, it was a flop, but for us it was a time of inner preparation, getting to know each other, encouragement. No one will ever know where the seed of the thousands of fliers distributed on the sidewalk will land and bear fruit, or how the thirty people present for dissident physicist Lalande's lecture on the superweapon megajoule will pass on this information to others.
The second part of the action was our presence at the fair grounds Le Bourget. Inside 80 exhibitors with their high-tech goods; from outside 5000 civilian and military visitors daily. A festive atmosphere in the business and production ranks, a bit of anxiety among us in the face of such state and economic power and such self-evidence in dealing with the terrifying without misgivings.
The first morning of the fair the "anarchists" ruled the scene in front of the entrance gate. Their style is attack: drums, pipes, chanting choirs - a blanket of noise as a method of combat. The demonstrators surround the arriving visitors, dancing in circles around them and approaching them with Judas-like friendliness, and then scream insults such as "murderer" directly in their faces. The victims keep their cool amazingly well, proceed briskly, preserving their dignity in their own fashion, through the barrage to the wall of policeman standing like deliverers at the end of the course. Both sides play the game with great skill. But "violence" is the game being played: violence is present, it seems to me, not in force but rather in shaming, in the refusal to respect one's opponent.
We nonviolent demonstrators divided into groups of 4 or 2 and took up posts at the different entrances with our posters and banners. We aren't there en masse but rather as individuals; we are wearing name tags.
Our most successful contacts happen in the evening when the visitors leave the weapons display. Perhaps opponents of war are a glimpse of light after a day of looking ahead to the next war. The sedans stop and willingly accept our fliers. We receive cautious but clearly sympathetic messages from a busload of young soldiers. A pale Belgian businessman gives his entrance ticket to Ark member Jean-Marie Mercy - he has converted, wants to change his life... Words of encouragement come from passers-by as well, not just the participants, as though we stand here on behalf of many others. The effect of our actions is apparently greater, though certainly different, than we had planned.
CANVA is planning further anti-arms trade actions at the "small arms" fair Milipol in Paris in November 2001 and at Eurosatory once again in the year 2002.
A summer at the Arche community
Paolo & Sonia Vitali
Remaining faithful to the Word: sometimes it seems as though this often happens only in our distraction and absentmindedness. Faithfulness is a talent that does not come from ourselves, a gift that we lose along the way, submerged as we are in our frequent unfaithfulness. If we look back at the road traveled, we succeed in perceiving faint traces of a kept promise, and our heart swells with recognition; it wants to sing.
Such are the feelings I have when I think of that which we have experienced as a family during the five years since Sonia and I were married. In the church we read what Isaiah's message in chapter 58 concerning the fast which the Lord prefers: "Is not this what I require of you as a fast: to loose the fetters of injustice, to untie the knots of the yoke, to snap every yoke, and set free those who have been crushed?" These are strong words, which demand a commitment, in the face of which we can only confess our humble attempts at living as disciples of Christ, at seeking God's will. Words like stars which give guidance in the night. Words which seem possible to truly live out in certain situations, not simply to listen to or read. For example, in the Community of the Ark (Communauté de l'Arche) at St. Antoine (France) where we had the opportunity (gift) to spend our vacation this past summer.
But what is it really that attracted us to this small village close to the Vercours mountains where we were once before for the Church and Peace annual general meeting in March 1998? Something more than the splendid countryside or the medieval abbey and village of St. Antoine. Perhaps it was above all the history of a community that seeks to promote the choice of nonviolence that Gandhi espoused.
During our two week stay we were able to meet some of the approximately 40 people - single, couples, families - who are part of this community. The community of St. Antoine, which is a part of the movement founded by Lanzo del Vasto, has developed a vocation of hospitality which translates into organizing training and further education courses, giving seminars and hosting work camps or persons for stays of varying periods of time.
What was the most striking for us? What are the principle points, as we understood them, of this nonviolent order?
We, a young family with two small children (Giacomo 4, Bruno 1), were offered this opportunity to experience holistic growth. For a certain amount of time now, one of our points of "ideological" reference has been the late Alex Langer, former member of the European parliament and founder of the Green Party in Italy. His philosophy could be summed up in two provocative questions.
The first would read something like this: "Would you really know how to live as you claim we should?" In other words, is coherence still a virtue that can be practiced? To what extent? The Community of the Ark can be considered an attempt to respond to this question or at least as an effort to keep it alive.
The second and decisive question is "how can the concept of an ecologically sustainable civilization be made attractive to society today?". Up until now we have acted according to the teaching of the Olympic slogan "citius, altius, fortius" (faster, higher, stronger) which represents better than any other synthesis the quintessence of the spirit of our civilization. An end times mentality and competition no longer just flavor an athletic competition but rather have become a normal everyday reality that has spread throughout all of society. We need an alternative ideology to take root, that of "lentius, profundius, suavius" (slower, more profoundly, more gently). We need to seek a new feeling of well-being in this philosophy, for no other remedy, no matter how rational, will be sheltered from the being which insists upon hostility, evasion of problems or simple indifferent. For this reason ecological politics can only be successfully implemented if they are based on new (or very old) cultural and civic convictions, developed, of course, in part outside the political realm and anchored in religion, ethics, sociology, esthetics, tradition....
I don't know if Langer was familiar with the Community of the Ark and if so, how many of them, but it is true that in his ideas, in this desire to slow down, to live more profoundly, to find a sustainable center of life - in the true sense of the term - for our civilization, one can find many of the ideas and wishes of the members of the Community of the Ark.
Several years ago Sylvie asked us to write an article for the Church and Peace newsletter. Up until now we have declined the invitation because our participation in the network has been mostly on a personal (family) level and because we did not feel we had a significant or noteworthy experience to contribute. This article, then, is first and foremost a sign of recognition of Church and Peace and the openness it has represented in the path our lives have taken. This article is also an opportunity for us to verbalize some of the thoughts that have ripened over the summer and that are leading us to a process of decision, of considering moving to the St. Antoine Community of the Ark for a period of at least a year. It is not an easy decision - to leave behind one's friends, family, work, country, language - but it's also an enthusiastic decision. We are preparing for it "slowly".
The wisdom of the cross
The second Bienenberg Theological Seminary symposium on 8-10 September 2000 centered around John Howard Yoder - the man and the theologian - and his vision for church life. Bernhard Ott, Bienenberg Director of Studies, opened the symposium on Friday evening with a short introduction to the topic. He named three areas as focal points for the weekend: church and mission; vision and reality; and courageous modesty or bold humility.
Life and theology
Ott's introduction was followed by a series of presentations about the theologian J.H. Yoder, whose life was marked by untiring work. Mark Thiessen-Nation from the London Mennonite Centre gave a brief biography. Hanspeter Jecker spoke about Yoder's contribution to Anabaptist history research and gave an overview of the theologian's ex-tensive writings on this topic. Neal Blough, professor of church history at the Vaux de Seine theological seminary, examined Yoder's understanding of church history in his theology.
Church as a welcoming "contrast society"
A highlight of the symposium was without a doubt the presentation "The church of the cross - Yoder's ecclesiology as a model of being church in a pluralist society" on Saturday morning by Matthias Zeindler, pastor of the Erlach Reformed Church. First Erlach pointed to the current religious diversity where each person throws together his or her own "patch-work-religion" from the most disparate offerings. No one denomination can any longer claim to possess Truth. Instead Christian community must form a sort of welcoming contrast society - as a "particularity in the midst of particularities".
In the afternoon Mark Thiessen-Nation spoke on the topic "Beyond visible signs and human wisdom: Proclaiming the crucified Christ - Yoder's contribution to peace ethics". Christians are not to demand signs or strive for wisdom as the world does but rather to proclaim Christ, the crucified Christ (1 Cor. 1:8-25).
Following an introduction by Fernando Enns, Director of Studies at the Heidelberg Ecumenical Institute, the scheduled round table discussion on the topic "Yoder's impulses in the area of ecumenical tensions" metamorphosed into discussion in small groups focusing on questions posed by Enns.
A treasure for the heart
The symposium ended on Sunday with a worship service. "We have this treasure in earthly vessels" was the theme of the service led by Heike Geist, teacher at the Bienenberg Educational Center. Fellow teacher Helmut Doerksen preached on 2 Cor. 4. God's victorious power and our weakness are at the center of the Gospel and God's path with Jesus is also God's path with his disciples. As fragile vessels we carry God's treasure within us, which makes us infinitely valuable! Our fragility is no reason for shame or disgrace. Our weakness is a part of God's wisdom so that his power will be visible, visible in a way that goes against the current trend to be a "power church" rather than a servant church.
Restorative justice moves to Russia
After seven decades of socialism that guaranteed employ-ment and housing, Russia's economy is in a state of collapse. Unemployment, homelessness, alcoholism and drug use have all risen sharply. A growing number of children are neglected and abandoned. Russian communities find themselves ill-prepared to deal with the situation. The field of social work as known in the West is only just being established, and Russia has no separate juvenile justice system.
Criminal convictions of 16- and 17-year-olds are at a higher percentage than any other age group, according to Russian court statistics. More than half the juveniles sent to prison have been convicted of theft, not violent crime.
"Partnership for Restorative Justice in Russia" is a joint effort of the Public Center for Legal and Judicial Reform (PCLJR) in Moscow, the Conflict Transformation Program of Eastern Mennonite University (EMU), and Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). The project brings together judges, prosecutors, police officers, civic organizations, religious leaders and educators to introduce the philosophy and practice of restorative justice, and to start programs of victim-offender reconciliation in targeted Russian cities.
"By working together in their communities, [these groups and individuals] can help restore the social fabric torn by particular crimes," says Steve Hochstetler Shirk, MCC country co-representative in the Former Soviet Union.
In August 2000, EMU Professor Howard Zehr led an introductory seminar in the city of Dzerzhinsk, just west of Nizhnyi Novgorod. Rustem Maksudov of PCLJR reported that a key result was "a request from law-enforcement agencies to train police inspectors in techniques of reconciliation."
Educational materials and re-sources are also being produced, including a Russian-language social work textbook for restorative justice programs and an Internet library of restorative justice materials in Russian and other languages.
Funding for "Partnership for Restorative Justice in Russia" is provided through an agreement with the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX) of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Public Center for Legal and Judicial Reform (PCLJR) and MCC. EMU's expenses are covered by MCC.
MCC News Service,
September 8, 2000
Church and Peace represented at Halo meeting in Hungary
The annual meeting of Halo, a network of Catholic groups from Hungarian-language areas in Eastern Europe, took place in a hilltop monastery and Catholic education center in the Hungarian village of Pannonhalma on 2629 October 2000.
The more than three hundred participants came from throughout the region and from various Catholic branches and movements including groups such as Church and Peace member the Bocs Foundation, a peace, nonviolence, and ecology concerns organization of the Bokor base community. East Europe regional coordinators Gyula and Kati Simonyi represented Church and Peace. The program for the weekend included lectures, work in small groups, mass, planning meetings by country, activities in the evening, vigils in the church and dancing. Lectures and workshops focused on three topics: Education, the Culture of Communication and Community. Panel discussions followed most of the presentations. Here lay persons as well as priests were invited to share their experiences and opinions.
Several high-profile guests, including the Archbishop of Vienna and the Vatican's ambassador to Hungary attended the gathering at the invitation of Pannonhalma's bishop, Asztrik Varszegi. Varszegi, a progressive member of the Hungarian bishops' council, extended the invitations in an effort to gain acceptance for Halo in the Hungarian Catholic hierarchy.
About ten members of the Bokor Movement participated, some of whom were invited as panel discussion participants or workshop leaders. Many were disappointed, however, by the continued exclusion of Bokor leader Gyorgy Bulanyi from official Halo events. Unfortunately, despite Bokor involvement in the organization of the meeting and the Halo membership of some Bokor groups, Bulanyi was not allowed to participate in the meeting, even three years after his reinstatement as a priest. Kati Simonyi commented on the frustration some people feel at this ostracism, noting that Bulanyi's "loyalty to the Catholic Church and his commitment to the Hungarian language and nation make him fit perfectly into Halo's spirituality and atmosphere".
Church and Peace East Europe coordinator Gyula Simonyi took advantage of the meeting to publicize the recently-published Hungarian Peace Diary. He also attended the separated country meetings to speak about the diary and Church & Peace, and to plan peace education training sessions.
A peace church contribution to the Decade to Overcome Violence
The Peace Committee of German Yearly Meeting of Quakers believes that the Ecumenical Decade to Overcome Violence is a unique opportunity to win the churches over to a peace church position. The historic peace churches and peace church oriented communities and groups, ie. the churches, congregations, communities and groups in the Church and Peace network, will have a particularly impor-tant role to play.
In a resolution to be considered at German Yearly Meeting in November 2000 the Peace Committee proposes "that German Yearly Meeting give active support to the Ecumenical Decade to Overcome Violence, which has been called by the World Council of Churches (WCC) for the years 2001 to 2010. The aim is to initiate a consultation process to take place over the next few years and culminate in a declaration by an ecumenical peace church assembly. The declaration would take the form of an appeal to all the churches."
The Peace Committee advocates:
The Peace Committee envisages an ecumenical assembly taking place towards the end of the Decade and agreeing a common declaration along these lines. This will only be possible after a long process of dialogue has taken place and churches have gained experience and insights in the field of peacemaking. The churches need to discover through experience that:
The Peace Committee envisages a step-by-step process of consultation, involving the formulation and revision of a document. Models for such a process include:
1. the South African Kairos Document;
2. the pastoral letter of the US-American Catholic bishops on the nuclear arms race (The Challenge of Peace);
3. the Ecumenical Assembly in the GDR - "Dresden-Magdeburg-Dresden").
These declarations were the result of lengthy processes of consultation, formulation and reformulation, with participation by a broad cross-section of church membership.
The following steps are suggested:
Spring 2001 -
At the Church and Peace conference in the Netherlands a working group works out a plan for the process and a working party is appointed to draft a peace church declaration.
The declaration should include both theological foundations and - built upon these - practical recommendations regarding policies for overcoming violence. The members of the working party should be appointed with this in mind.
Before 31 March 2002 -
The draft peace church declaration is published and distributed as widely as possible within the Church and Peace network and beyond - with a request for responses to be sent back by 30 June 2003.
July to December 2003 -
The working party revises the peace church declaration on the basis of the responses received.
Spring 2004 -
The peace church declaration is agreed at a peace church assembly. This declaration should serve as an input into an ecumenical process, which should result in a declaration by an ecumenical assembly in 2010.
The Decade to Overcome Violence presents the historic peace churches and peace church oriented communities and groups with both a challenge and an opportunity. Can we use this opportunity so that the worldwide Church becomes a force for peace in spite of confessional differences?
The member churches and organisations of Church and Peace and other interested groups within the Church and Peace network are invited to:
NEWS FROM THE NETWORK
During the past twenty years the Threshold has supported a broad range of activities including assistance and incentive programs for the unemployed; research concerning conversion of military training sites; the peace worker training organization "Ecumenical Service in the Conciliar Process"; capacity building training for nongovernmental organizations (NGOs); and publications - such as two book series, the former Transcontinental Peace Newsletter and the current Grassroots Good News - dealing with peace and military conversion issues.
One of the Threshold's main emphases has been the support of peace work in Eastern Slavonia, a region which was particularly hard hit by the war between Croatia and Serbia. The foundation contributed to a network of NGOs in Eastern Slavonia active in refugee work, re-construction and reconciliation. In Bosnia the Threshold made it possible for refugees to return to intact houses. Since 1998 the foundation has supported local partners in Shkoder in Northern Albania.
At the end of April 2000 founders Ruth-Christa and Dirk Heinrichs retired from active membership on the Threshold's executive board. Grassroots Good News would like to thank them for their dedicated and extensive work for the Threshold.
In June 2000 the Threshold moved to a new office in Bremen. The foundation's address is: The Threshold Foundation, Hohenlohestrasse 7, D-28209 Bremen, Germany; Tel: +49 421 3032 -577, Fax: -464; Email: [email protected]; Website: www.dieschwelle.de (Grassroots Good News, August 2000)
The focus of the weekend conference was the fundamental principles for peace work. Participants reviewed DMFK's work in the past and shared their own ideas about peace in daily life. Some key insights:
A vision grew out of this last thought, a vision of shalom becoming recognizable in all areas of church life. In order to work concretely at realizing this vision, it was suggested to strengthen contacts between DMFK and churches in all of Germany through the use of a "church resource packet" and visits to individual congregations. This resource packet will be put together by Easter 2001 by the DMFK board and other interested members. In summer 2001 preparatory meetings will be held and invitations sent out. The visitation process is to start in autumn 2001 and continue for one year. Around Easter 2002 the project will be reviewed and an evaluation will follow at the conclusion of the process in autumn of the same year.
"The meeting of the IFOR Council 2000 was productive and uplifting, although held at a time of great crisis for the organization," wrote participant Liliane Baxter from IFOR's USA branch. "Despite the complexity of issues, personalities and cultures, those assembled were able to hammer out decisions and recommendations that seem to me to be both prudent and hopeful."
The IFOR Council met during one of the most difficult moments in the fel-lowship's 80+ year history. Though IFOR's work had expanded in the past years through programs such as Nonviolence Education and Training, Youth Empowerment and Culture of Nonviolence, funds to support these programs have not materialized. Thus the Council was forced to make the difficult decision to suspend these programs until sufficient resources can be found. The Women's Peacemaking Program will continue its work from the international office, reaching out to IFOR members and others interested in IFOR's unique inter-religious approach to nonviolence. (from Reconciliation International)
Editor Gyula Simonyi, other Church and Peace East European regional staff and members of the Bokor Movement shared responsibility for designing, translating, advertising, publishing, and mailing the 2001 diary. Franciscans in Novi Sad (Yugoslavia), Deva (Romania) and Vinogradov (Ukraine) as-sisted in distributing the diary among the minority Hungarian population in these countries.
The Hungarian-language publication, which had an initial print run of 2000 copies, is based loosely on the well-known Housmans peace diary format. According to Simonyi, the producers of the Hungarian diary expanded upon this idea, creating a mini "peace movement encyclopedia" with over one thousand entries.
In addition to an annual planner and a calendar of justice, peace and integrity of creation events, the diary contains information and addresses for a variety of peacemaking organizations and movements in Eastern Europe and other areas of the world. It includes entries on the Mennonites, Anabaptists committed to nonviolence, and the Church & Peace network as well as material about the Early Church, conscientious objectors, the Bokor Movement, Mennonite Central Committee, and the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.
The diary also promotes a peaceable, sustainable lifestyle and has space for charting one's use of time and money and for planning time with family and friends or in physi-cal movement, song, dance, meditation, writing and appreciating nature.
To order a copy of the diary or to send information from the peace movement for the 2002 diary, contact Gyula Simonyi at [email protected]
Decade to Overcome Violence
International DOV launch
More than a thousand people were expected to meet in Berlin, Germany, on Sunday, 4 February 2001, for the official launch of the Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV). A worship service at the Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche was to pave the way for a public event at the House of World Cultures, followed by a candlelight march to the Brandenburg Gate.
The DOV stems out of the WCC's passionate engagement with the issues of justice, peace and integrity of creation, while relentlessly exploring the purpose of Christian unity in a broken world. The Decade is a call to the churches and ecumenical partners to overcome all forms of violence. Its success will depend upon the activities initiated during this period and the visibility of these efforts. A "Foyer Festival" during the launch is a first step in promoting this visibility. A number of organizations, groups and projects, including Church and Peace, - all working in the broad sphere of "overcoming violence" - were to present their initiatives.
Announcing...The Peace Papers
A collection of writings from the Northern Friends Peace Board which seeks to deepen the understanding of the Peace Testimony in today's world. The Peace Papers covers a wide range of concerns and issues, through the experience of different authors. The Peace Papers aim to assist in discerning how to give ex-pression to one's Peace Testimony by providing a resource for spiritual reflection and signposts for action. The Papers highlight ways in which contributions can be made to promoting a culture of peace: active peacemaking, working on the roots of violence and challenging militarism. 11.40 L To order: NFPB, Victoria Hall, Knowsley Street, Bolton BL1 2AS, UK; Tel: +44 (0)1204 382330, Email: [email protected] (The Peace Board, October 2000)
A Matter of Life and Death - Biblical Reflections on Britain's Arms Trade
Includes chapters on the British Arms Trade, Idolatry and the Arms Trade, the Arms Trade and the Powers, and Liberation from the Arms Trade. To quote Bernadette Meadan, writer and journalist, "Nobody who reads this could be left in any doubt that opposing the arms trade is not an optional extra, but an essential, intrinsic part of being a Christian." 3.50 L To order: Pax Christi, St Joseph's, Watford Way, Hendon, London NW4 4TY, UK.