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“Theology and Peace” Pamphlet Series
Church & Peace brings together communities, churches and Christian peace organisations in Europe committed to living out the witness for peace and nonviolence of Jesus Christ as a faith community. The “Theology and Peace” pamphlet series, an initiative of Church & Peace in the United Kingdom and Ireland, is intended to explore different aspects of the theological basis for the Church’s witness for peace, justice and nonviolence.
Edited by the Church & Peace International Office
Printed by the Evangelisches Rentamt (Wetzlar, Germany)

Volume 1, Number 2 - August 1999

“love Truth and Peace” (Zechariah 8:19b)
Church & Peace 50th anniversary symposium

Challenge to live as peace churches
Seeking Truth and Peace in the Balkans
Sermon by Revd Dr. Keith Clements, CEC General Secretary

The horrific experiences of the Second World War brought representatives of the Historic Peace Churches and European mainline churches together in 1949 to examine how churches could prevent wars in the future rather than justifying them theologically. In the course of these discussions and the later Puidoux Conferences it became apparent that this question concerned not only the churches’ actions and peace ethics but much more fundamentally the Church’s structure and reason for being. What form must “Church” take in order for it to become a place of reconciliation and community, a place where the principle of active nonviolence is lived out as one of Jesus’ fundamental teachings and leads to service for peace and peacemaking action? Over the past 50 years an ecumenical network of Historic Peace Churches, main-line church congregations, Christian communities and peace service organizations has emerged from these discussions, a network that received the name “Church and Peace” in 1975.

During preparations for the anniversary symposium - held on May 28-30, 1999, at the Bienenberg near Basel - no one thought that Europe would experience another dreadful war before the end of this century. However, with the outbreak of war once again in the former Yugoslavia, our chosen title for the symposium - “love Truth and Peace” - (Zechariah 8:19b) became, sadly, even more relevant. You will see in the following documentation from the symposium that this war, the quest for truth and the question of our responsibility as Christians became the thematic foci of the weekend.

Ruth Winsemius’ article gives a good overview of the symposium in general. Directly following her article is a summary of key points from the dialogue forum concerning the war in Yugoslavia. Dr. Keith Clements’ sermon emphasizes what it means in concrete terms for the churches to realize their calling to love truth and their enemies during such a conflict. Drawing from his experiences during a recent visit to Belgrade, Clements, CEC General Secretary, refers to the need for a “costly ecumenism”. The first item in the pamphlet is the Bienenberg Declaration which was adopted by symposium participants during the worship service as an indication of their renewed commitment to the peace church mission, particularly in light of the recent conflict.

Christian Hohmann, General Secretary
August 1999

Bienenberg Declaration

From the Theology Working Group, adopted by symposium participants

We have gathered as Christians of many churches and commu-nities at the Bienenberg near Basel (Switzerland) from 28-30 May 1999 to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the Church and Peace movement.

We are meeting in a time of severe crises and wars in various parts of the world. We are shocked by the bombing of Yugoslavia by NATO and the expelling of many inhabitants of Kosovo by Yugoslavia.

As disciples of Jesus, we are learning what it means to live as peace churches. We have found this both challenging and enrich-ing, and we invite other Christians to share in this life and vision. In our experience, peace churches have five characteristics:

1. Proclamation of the gospel of peace.
We announce God’s good news of reconciliation and peace (2 Cor. 5:19) through Jesus Christ who is our peace (Eph. 2:14). We have received this freely, as God’s gift. We ourselves are needy people, and we offer this good news without condition to all needy people, including those who feel themselves marginalized and disadvantaged (Mark 2:17).

2. Love of all human beings - even the enemy
We have learned through Jesus Christ to love our enemies and to pray for them (Mt. 5:44), even when we are called to resist nonviolently their unjust actions. We were God’s enemies (Rom. 5:8) and remain complicit in a sinful world, but Christ has reconciled us to God and to one another, and has invited us to seek reconciliation with all people. We want to build bridges of understanding and peace to those whom we and our nations call enemies.

3. Rejection of violence
Therefore we are learning first to recognize and reject our own violence. We refuse to use violence personally or to justify the use of violence as an instrument of power whether on a family, societal, national or international level. We seek to learn and to practice the skills and discipline of nonviolent conflict transformation, and to train others in these.

4. Commitment to the victims of violence
We are determined to not close our eyes to the horrific sacrifices which violence requires. As Jesus in his time stood with the victims of oppression and violence, so we are committed to stand-ing with today’s victims. We seek to be reliable partners of the oppressed even in situations of great danger.

5. Community and solidarity
To realize this vision, we need each other, in our own congregations and communities, and in solidarity with other Christians around the world. Our citizenship is in ‘heaven’ (Phil. 3:20), and we are the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27). Therefore all ties to nationality, ethnicity and land - important though these are - have been relativized. We seek to be a social expression of God’s new world, alternative societies in whose climate justice, peace, mercy and truth will flourish. We invite others to share this vision with us and to discover its reality in their own congregations and communities.

Revision - 18 June 99

“To be a light for the people”
Ruth Winsemius

“I know who the truth is, but I don’t know what the truth is”
Serbian Jasmina Tosic’s lament resonated like a cantus firmus amidst the multitude of voices on the occasion of the Church and Peace fiftieth anniversary celebration the last weekend in May. Peace workers of different nationalities met at the Swiss conference center Bienenberg for a time of exchange and dialogue. Those who made the most lasting impression, though, were the participants from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia who traveled directly from Belgrade to report about “their” war, a war which perhaps no one had wanted.

Bewilderment, fear, disbelief and above all the anxious questions: what will happen next; how much more destruction will take place in our country; what will happen to our families, our people; will we even be alive tomorrow or the next day? Disbelieving astonishment over having escaped the war for a short period of time but yet having to return tomor-row - one could read these sentiments in the eyes of the participants from Yugoslavia, above all in the eyes of Jasmina, co-director of the Belgrade-based humanitarian agency Bread of Life. Bombs in Belgrade? NATO would never do such a thing. That’s what Jasmina thought even as the bombing began. She was in the middle of a telephone interview with an American [sic] about the situation in her country. Her brother roused her, took the telephone receiver from her and informed the person on the end, “The bombing has begun”. Then he hung up.

Church and Peace’s Origins
During the inter-generational interview sessions on Saturday morning, it became clear that even after 50 years Church and Peace sees itself more as a movement and a network of peace churches and peace groups within churches than as an organization. Interviewed by Anita Thomas of the Francophone Swiss Fellowship of Reconciliation, Wilfried Warneck, one of the founding generation, explained how Church and Peace came into being at the initiative of North Americans (particularly R. Zigler) and Britons at the end of the Second World War following a comparable movement in the United States influenced strongly by Harold Bender and others. By imitating the life of Jesus Christ the Kingdom of God will take shape. Jesus was concerned about the lost, the poor. These were the people whom he invited to his table. Jesus taught people to accept their enemies and to employ no violence, whether through military service or other structures. It is only in this way that “peace churches” come into being. Peace churches differ from other churches in that the peace church does not struggle primarily with the temptation of wanting to provide a basic religious structure for a society shaped by violence; rather the peace church sees itself much more as an alternative to this society. Church and Peace’s early years - the Puidoux Conferences - were a very powerful experience for the participants, many of whom had not heard much positive teaching in their seminaries about the Mennonites and the Quakers. According to Warneck, the ideas of the Historic Peace Churches did not fall on deaf ears, and a similar move-ment got off the ground in some of the mainline churches as well, a devel-opment which urgently required a network structure.

Thus participants at the 50th anniversary of Church and Peace repre-sented not only Mennonite Churches and Quaker Meetings but also ecumenical communities and organizations, Protestant churches, the Roman Catholic Church and even Eastern European Orthodox churches. Warneck remarked that he was very sorry that there are no Historic Peace Church congregations in Yugoslavia (happily there are volunteers from a Historic Peace Church background working in the area) for in his opinion, if there would have been such churches in Yugoslavia, then fewer people would have taken up arms, more people would have put the principle of “social defense” into practice and there would have been more resistance to military actions. In response to Thomas’ closing ques-tion, Warneck responded that what he wished for most would be “a permanent Puidoux conference or peace council in which all churches would take part”.

Enemies become friends
But how can all the theories be put into practice? Exactly this question was the focus of the second interview session, again between younger and older generations, specifically Pascal Gentner, son of former EIRENE volunteers and a former volunteer himself in the United States, and Dr. Hildegard Goss-Mayr, who together with her husband Jean Goss trav-eled throughout the world and called people to nonviolence and reconciliation in places where these words had seemed obsolete. [1]

From her own experience Goss-Mayr knows that one must first be trans-formed on a personal level. It is also important to observe “signs of the time”, for example to analyze how dictatorial systems develop in order to gain insights about negative aspects of one’s own behavior. In Goss-Mayr’s opinion nonviolence has proved itself in the past 50 years as the decisive instrument for fighting injustice. There is no lack of evidence to support this view: the “Iron Curtain” has fallen [through nonviolence actions] and nonviolence has also worked in South Africa and the Philippines. “We begin at the root, with the people. We make it clear to the revolutionary forces that solidarity is necessary. Nonviolence is a force of reconciliation and forgiveness.” It is not sufficient simply to fight against injustice; one must demonstrate alternatives in order to change structures gradually and build up partnership-minded relationships between opposing groups. Goss-Mayr made a plea for competent peace workers in war-torn areas and in other places in order to prevent the use of violence. “Spirituality and practical involvement cannot be separated,” said Goss-Mayr, though her and her husband’s peacemaking efforts were not always successful. “When you have done everything that you can possibly do, then you must leave the rest to God.”

Seeking truth in the Balkans
Church and Peace organized a dialogue forum dealing with the topic of seeking truth in the recent war in the Balkans. The podium speakers re-presented a variety of groups: Hansulrich Gerber, Mennonite Central Committee (MCC); Ulrich Duchrow, Kairos Europe; Karel Eilers, Pax Christi International; Marie-Pierre Bovy, Communauté de l’Arche; Janko Jekic, Baptist, Bread of Life; and Gyula Simonyi, Hungarian Catholic Bokor Movement. Moderators were Cor Keijzer, Dutch Reformed Church, and Christian Hohmann, Church and Peace. Although other areas of crisis in the world were not forgotten and were remembered in prayer during the weekend, the nearby war in the former Yugoslavia was the main topic of discussion for the forum. How do we assess the conflict in the Balkans and what can we do? Will we be able to formulate a state-ment for distribution to our governments, our churches and our commu-nities? The moderators asked these questions at the beginning of the forum.

Marie-Pierre Bovy reported about a fast which her community organized for three weeks in mid-May to June 3 with structured times of prayer in the morning and evening. This action had political as well as spiritual goals. In a press release the community expressed their regret that there was not stronger support for the Kosovar Albanian opposition leader Rugova. A situation has developed which will remain problematic for a long period of time.

Janko Jekic spoke about the founding of Bread of Life. It all began in 1992 with the support of ten women. Bread of Life has supported 5000 families in one way or another over the past 3 years. Following the outbreak of war in Kosovo, Bread of Life volunteers transported humanitarian aid under high risk conditions to the region for distribution to both Serbs and Albanians. However with the escalation of the NATO bombing, all contact has been severed. Supplies have gotten scarcer; the bombs have fallen on food packaging plants and pharmaceutical factories as well as military targets. As in any war it is very difficult to learn the truth. Jekic noted the baffling differences in the various news reports, for example when he compared news from CNN or German broadcasts with that from Serbian sources.

Gyula Simonyi is a member of the Catholic peace movement Bokor, which has been in existence for 50 years and works on a long-term basis. Many of its members have done time in prison. [2] The Bokor movement formulates concepts for a peacemaker training program and uses methods such as its own Website to disseminate the movement’s ideas.

Karel Eilers explained how Pax Christi came into being as a lay move-ment within the Roman Catholic Church following the Second World War with the goal of promoting reconciliation between Germans and French, an idea that was unheard of so closely following the war. Since then Pax Christi branches have developed in Latin America, Africa and Asia as well as in Europe. The German section of Pax Christi is currently active in working for a ceasefire in order to enable negotiations since the “air strikes only serve to intensify the hate”.

Kairos Europe analyses the economic relationships between countries in the North and in the South, in the East and in the West, and investigates the causes of the emergence of violence. Ulrich Duchrow is convinced that economic motives underlying the air strikes played a decisive role in Yugoslavia. Kairos Europe is also working on alternative suggestions for preserving the integrity of creation. The now well-known European Kairos Document has been translated into 11 languages.

It is probably safe to assume that the most people know of the relief organization MCC. It cannot be emphasized enough that the success of MCC’s work is determined by its intensive partnerships with local groups on-location. The symposium was also an occasion to make contacts which will be very useful for this work in the future. Hansulrich Gerber stated that during the bombing MCC withdrew its workers from Serbia but continues to work together with Bread of Life.

The role of NATO
There were many reactions and reports from the floor. Albanian refugees from Kosovo were certainly not forgotten; one person present remarked that she “had eaten their bread and drunk their tears”. She asked the peace groups to make contact with Albanian organizations in other coun-tries. “We must try to prevent in Montenegro and Macedonia what has taken place in Kosovo.”

Ionel Popescu, Rumanian Orthodox priest and director of the Orthodox seminary in Caransebes near the Serbian border, remarked on the extent to which NATO is playing with fire. “Romania and Serbia have never fought each other. NATO is now flying over Romania on its way to Serbia. Many Rumanians believe that NATO is making a mistake with the bombing. When Bill Clinton was in Romania, Romania wanted to become a member of NATO. Now there are demonstrations against NATO. The offensive is also an ecological tragedy. All along the border nature is suffering; the plants look unhealthy and people do not feel well. Rumanians would like to help the people in Serbia.” Clemens Ronnefeldt pointed out that NATO has moved from being a neutral mediator to an active party in the conflict. The new NATO doctrine supports this shift.

A light for others
Throughout the discussion the other participants from Bread of Life simply listened and observed. In the evening it was their turn to report and answer questions. Janko Jekic related that Mennonites and other groups have offered their help from the beginning of the crisis. Alex Schaub, Bread of Life volunteer, reported about 240 Protestant Kosovo Albanians who have disappeared. Forty of them have turned up in recent-ly in Macedonia; there is no trace of the others.

Dr. Keith Clements, General Secretary of the Conference of European Churches, had returned that Saturday from Belgrade. As a part of a three-person delegation he spoke with President Milosovic and the Russian negotiator Tschernomyrdin. At the same time as part of a diplomatic initiative a small team traveled to Vienna and Moscow “to keep dialogue going and strengthen relationships on both sides”. Jasmina Tosic explained the role of Bread of Life, located in Belgrade: “We try to be a light for people. Proverbs 31:8 states that we should open our mouths for those who have no voice. We help people who were victimized by those who wished to dominate. We give the hungry something to eat. I have helped persons from other regions and listened to their stories. But now I must also support my own family. My mother is sick, my father cannot bear all the injustice that is taking place. My brother may be drafted into the army when the mobilization begins... And Albanians are being driven out of their homes, this is horrible. I don’t know what I ought to say about the future. What I’d like most is for the NATO bombing to stop immediately.”

The gesture of Marie-Noëlle von der Recke, Church and Peace Chairperson, during the worship service on Sunday was both moving and expressive: silently she laid a silk scarf around the shoulders of each Bread of Life representative. As a comfort, as a sign of empathy, as a remembrance of a symposium that testified to the fact that peace cannot be won with violence.

Ruth Winsemius is a journalist for the Dutch Mennonite weekly ADS. Her article was translated into German by Christina Stobbe.
Translation from the German: Terri Miller

[1] See additional material in German: Wie Feinde Freunde werden. Mein Leben mit Jean Goss für Gewaltlosigkeit, Gerechtigkeit und Versöhnung (Pax Christi-Meinhardt, 1996) by Hildegard Goss-Mayr.

[2] For conscientious objection to military service - Trans. note

Dialogue Forum statement

Church and Peace organized a dialogue forum entitled “Joint Responsibility in a Changing Europe - How do we respond to war, genocide and expulsion in the Balkans?” in the after-noon of 29 May 1999 during the anniversary symposium. Ruth Winsemius reported about this dialogue forum in her article.

In order to make the results of this dialogue forum known, moderators Cor Keijzer and Christian Hohmann prepared a press release that was well-received by the majority of the approximately 80 persons present. Owing to a necessary revision process, it was not possible to publicize the document in a timely fashion directly following the symposium. Following is a summary of the key points of the dialogue forum discussion.

(1) Many of our countries of origin are currently in a war situation. Without a formal declaration of war, NATO forces have launched an offensive in Kosovo in a crisis situation intensified by repeated atrocities and ethnic cleansing, an offensive that has served to escalate the ethnic cleansing and genocide already occurring.

We, as persons who for the most part come from countries belonging to NATO, share responsibility for this development.
As Christians we cannot justify any form of war. Therefore we do not want to play down the seriousness of the NATO military offensive by calling it a “humanitarian intervention”. Now more than ever we are called to proclaim the Gospel.

The first aspect of this Good News is a clear rejection of war and all that leads to war: injustice, expulsion, discrimination against ethnic minorities and genocide. At the same time we are called to promote all initiatives that lead to peace. This includes supporting the many peace groups and reconciliation initiatives which have worked for years for understanding and reconstruction in the former Yugoslavia and other crisis areas.

(2) In a war it is crucial is to see and report the truth. Above all this concerns news reports which all sides are quick to manipulate in times of war to serve their own interests. Therefore we, as Christian peace groups, strive to establish truth, for this is the first form of de-escalation and the first step on the path to peace.

Our efforts as members and friends of Church and Peace consist of helping with the establishment of truth by giving all those affected by war an opportunity to speak.
This includes an analysis of the current situation by independent persons such as OSCE observers or members of independent peace initiatives in order to recognize the truth and complexity of the overall situation. Our avenue to this establishment of truth is God’s reconciling action as witnessed to in the Gospel.
There is no reconciliation without the establishment of truth, as is illus-trated by the example of South Africa and the efforts of the South African Truth Commission.
We regret that current news reports are so one-sided: it is not true that in the current situation there is only the choice between calling for a continuation of the bombing or being passive observers.
In addition news reports create the impression that Kosovo is the only place where genocide and expulsion are happening. The news reports largely ignore similar hot spots such as Kurdistan, Sudan, Central Africa, Angola and Indonesia and many other places.

(3) We call upon politicians to increase support for peace initiatives working at de-escalating and resolving ethnic conflicts.
We demand a greater readiness to make financial resources available for the development and strengthening of civilian conflict resolution. The willingness to spend money on bombs is much greater in comparison with the readiness to make available adequate financial resources for the necessary reconstruction following the end of a war and for the people affected by the fighting and expulsion.
We demand recognition of the conscientious objectors and deserters who refused to obey the commands of an inhumane government. We call for asylum and temporary protected status for these persons in the countries of NATO.

Translation: Terri Miller

“Therefore, love Truth and Peace”
Revd Keith Clements
Sermon during closing worship service of Church & Peace’s 50th anniversary symposium

Fifty years is a long time, but some of us here, at any rate, can just re-member 1949. I was a small boy then. I have to confess that I don’t recall the founding of Church and Peace (nor that of NATO for that matter!) impacting on my infant mind. But something else did. That year for summer holidays my parents took me and my brothers from our home in the north of England, to my grandmother’s house in London. One evening, the older members of the family started talking about the war which had ended four years earlier: the bombing of London, the houses in that very street which had been destroyed, the nearby buildings that had burned for days, the fear that came every time darkness fell. I went to bed that night rather frightened. A few days later I asked my father a question that had been haunting me, “Daddy, how long does a war last?” I had expected him to say something like “three weeks”, which to me at that time seemed long enough for anything. I just could not believe it when he said, “Well, this one lasted about six years.” That, I suppose, was one moment when I learnt more of the truth about the world I’d been born into.

Just five weeks ago I stood in the centre of Belgrade after dark and watched the anti-aircraft shells winding up into the night sky and heard the sounds of missiles exploding and by daylight saw bombed bridges and gutted buildings and palls of smoke from burning oil-refineries. In a way I felt just like the small boy again. Could this sort of thing really be happening in the heart of Europe, today? The sort of thing my parents and grandmother talked about and that the war books and films of my youth had entertained me with? Not to mention the horrendous stories being told by the refugees streaming out of Kosovo. Part of me said this was unreal. Another part of me said, “Yes, this is really what the world is like”. I felt similarly when we were there again this last week in order to meet President Milosevic.

Truth and peace. So often we feel driven to set truth and peace over against each other. How do we face the fact of what the world is like, and still believe in peace as the way the world should be? That is the chal-lenge facing a body like Church and Peace, especially on its 50th birthday. It is, I hope, the challenge which all the churches themselves feel faced by, especially the churches of Europe at the present time. Realities versus ideals; grim experiences versus visions; the kingdoms of this world on the one hand and the kingdom of God on the other - it seems we are endlessly caught in this dilemma. We can escape from it of course, in either of two ways. One way is to take the side of what appears to be reality: the world is a bad place, at most we can make the best of a bad job, choose the lesser of two evils, reluctantly go to war if we can find enough reasons to call it “just”. Another way is to stay with our ideals, our hopes and our visions of peace in a cosy safe-haven of dreams but evading the hard contact with the world as it is and blaming the world for not following us and so ending up in the mess in which it finds itself.

The Christian church however can’t take either way out if it is to be true to its central tenets of belief. Ours is an incarnational faith. The word became flesh. God’s own self became part of the stuff of this world which God’s own self created, in order to bring it to true life. As Ireneaus in the second century put it, “He became what we are, in order that we might become what he is”. If we are to talk about truths, this truth is the bedrock truth for us as Christians. The poet T.S. Eliot spoke well when he wrote that “human kind/Cannot bear very much reality”. But if the incarnation is for us the fundamental truth, then we should not flinch from facing even the ugliest truths about our world.

“Love truth and peace.” We can take it then, that truth and peace need not be set over against each other. Truth is a precondition for peace. South Africa has been setting us a great example here through its Truth and Reconciliation Commission chaired by Archbishop Tutu. Truth-telling is a part of the peace process. Only if there is truth-telling about the past can there be real hope for peace in the future. Only if the wounds and sores are exposed can there be healing, only if the sins are confessed can there be forgiveness and reconciliation. It's easy to say this. Actually to carry it out can be painful and costly - and it takes time.

I was last in South Africa three years ago, attending the International Bonhoeffer Congress in Cape Town. Just as many in the struggle against apartheid had found great inspiration and insight in the witness of Dietrich Bonhoeffer against Nazism, so many in South Africa continue to find him pertinent in the new situation where people are struggling towards reconciliation, a reconciliation which has got to be based on truth, which includes the confession of guilt. In the course of these meet-ings I got to know two people who were discovering the real depth and cost of facing the truth. One was a young black Lutheran pastor. When he was a boy, his family had been among those ethnically cleansed from the Transvaal and dumped in the so-called homeland of Bophutatswana in unbelievably wretched conditions. The other was a white Afrikaner of about the same age, from the Transvaal, from a very privileged back-ground. He was well on the way towards escaping from his cloistered upbringing within the Dutch Reformed Church. He told me that his eyes were first opened to the reality of what was happening in his country when as an ordainand hoping to become a minister in the Dutch Reformed Church he was told he could not be ordained unless he had first done his military service. So here were two young men, both well-educated, both of goodwill, showing that they had a common theological interest through attending this Congress. You might expect them to have had an instant rapport.

They did not, however. In turn, they each told me about their conver- sation with the other. How fraught and heated it became on both sides. The black Lutheran had wanted to know how could any white person not have known what had been happening to his people? Did your parents not know? Did they want to know? On the white Dutch Reformed side there was hurt that no explanations, no apologies seemed to suffice. Anger bred frustration in return. But they stuck it out. They left the Congress on the way to becoming friends, yet realising they each still had a lot to learn about each other and agreed to meet up in the coming days. Truth-telling and truth-learning is costly. And takes time.

We can come nearer home to make the same point. When three of us went from Geneva to Belgrade five weeks ago, a main purpose of our visit was to meet with the leaders of the churches there, especially the Serbian Orthodox Church, to exchange our perceptions and understand-ings about the conflict, and especially about what was happening in Kosovo itself. It was an exercise at ecumenical dialogue. If, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer taught us, there is such a thing as cheap grace, there is also such a thing as cheap ecumenism, which costs us nothing. Allegations have been made especially in western circles about the position of the Serbian Orthodox Church in particular. It is then tempting to take either of two approaches. One is to fire off criticisms, rather like cruise missiles, from a safe distance. The other is to cosy up to the church in question and saying in effect, “All is well, we’re all good Christians really”. Neither way costs us anything. They are forms of cheap ecumenism. It is far harder actually to meet in personal, honest encounter and to risk challeng-ing the church with what you see as the truth and to risk being chal- lenged by the other in return. That is costly ecumenism. And I for one hope that CEC will always be identified with that costly form.

This is why we must hear precisely what our text says: “love Truth and Peace”; not just seek them or work for them or try to establish them but actually to love them. When the Hebrew Bible was translated into Greek, in the version we know as the Septuagint, for “love” the translators used here the Greek word which later became the word for “love” in the Christian scriptures: agape, the love with that special quality of self-giving for the good of the other. Not the love which sim-ply finds the other attrac-tive or ap-pealing, but the love which is pre-pared to spend itself whatever the cost for the good of the other. The love which above all is seen in the life and death of Jesus. Love Truth and Peace in this way, love both of them this way. We can go further. The love of Jesus is a love which totally identifies itself with the other: he bore our infirmities and carried our sicknesses, he was numbered with the transgressors. Or as the Apostle Paul put it, he who knew no sin was made to be sin for our sakes (2 Corinthians 5:21). Agape love is love which fuses itself with the other and becomes indistinguishable from the other. We are to risk becoming truth and peace ourselves, even if it means sitting down and talking with in-dicted war criminals. There is no way to truth and peace other than by the passionate commitment which “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” and leads to the cross.
In the summer of 1999 we in Europe find ourselves in a situation of failure. The desperate refugees camps in Albania and Macedonia, the destruction in Serbia, are witnesses to that failure. Efforts to impose will by force and domination, whether by the Milosevic regime or by NATO, have ended in a pit of death and anarchy. The wounds go very deep and will take many years to heal. But it is not enough for us as Christians and peace activists to point the finger at the world and say: “We told you so. You should have listened to us. You should have followed our way.”. For what has our way been? What did we expect the world to do when faced with churches which in both east and west all too often exist as national entities and indeed are often nationalistic? And, dare I say it, is it not slightly strange that if we are really lovers of peace there should be so many different peace groups in Europe, Christian or otherwise? Should there not be peace between the peace movements of Europe?

“Love Truth and Peace.” These prophetic words are spoken to a people still living with failure. It is the time just over five centuries before Jesus when the exiles have returned to Jerusalem from their 70-year captivity in Babylon. They have returned to the beloved city of their parents and grandparents. It still lies in ruins, a bleak testimony to the orgy of destruc-tion which swept over it from Babylon. A slow beginning has been made on rebuilding the walls and laying the foundation of the temple where Solomon’s magnificent edifice once stood. But while physically back in Jerusalem, many of the people are mentally and emotionally still in exile, still regarding themselves as the defeated people and moreover the guilty people. It is in this setting that Zechariah prophesies.

They are a people who know all too well the contrast between great visions and ideals on the one hand and cruel realities on the other. They have brought back with them the writings of the great prophets who preached before and during the exile. There is Isaiah’s great vision: “Behold, the mountain of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains and shall be raised above the hills and many peoples shall come and say, ‘Come let us go up to the mountain of the house of the Lord’ ... He shall judge between the peoples ... they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks ... nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more”. And the people roll up the scroll and look at Mount Zion which still looks a very modest hump, still covered with weeds and nettles. Or there’s the magnificent sermon by the prophet we call Second Isaiah who preached during the exile about a new exodus, a return across a miraculously transformed desert where every valley would be lifted up and every mountain and hill brought low and the glory of the Lord be revealed to all humankind. And the people hear this read and see the straggling new returnees collapsing tired and disillusioned among the ruins. Or there’s that marvelous picture drawn by Ezekiel of the lifegiving waters gushing out from the new temple, flowing out westward re-vivifying all creation even the Dead Sea and the desert. And all there is to see is the muddy trench left by the workmen who’ve gone home because there’s no more pay (reminiscent of Harare for some of us!). And all around, far from being peace, there are the hostile neighbours who don’t want to see a single stone replaced on the city walls. Still time for swords as well as ploughshares.

The truth seems unlovable, the peace unobtainable. Zechariah’s signi-ficance lies in the way he faces this situation. He believes in what the recent prophets have said about a new age of peace and glory for Jerusalem and the world. But he also knew the hard realities facing the people. And the vision he is given is of a project which is both true to that hope and realisable by the people actually there now. That is why in saying “Love truth and peace”, he is pertinent to our situation also.

Behind Zechariah’s words and the long discourse which they sum up, there are two insights which we can take to heart today. I will call them Liturgy and Locality.

Liturgy! It sounds like an unlikely topic for peace activists! And the study of liturgy even more so. A Roman Catholic bishop shared a joke with me: “What’s the difference between a liturgiologist and a terrorist? Answer - You can argue with a terrorist.”. But we shouldn’t be too surprised that Zechariah had a liturgical interest - if not a priest himself, he came from priestly circles and was very concerned for the rebuilding of the temple. And one of the things we are always in danger of forgetting in the modern west is how important liturgy and ritual are. They are the symbolic means by which we express and reinforce what we feel is really important in life. Anyway, it appears that Zechariah was approached by a group of people who wanted to know whether they should still be keeping the feast of the fifth month of every year, a time of mourning and abstinence. Now that was very significant, for the fast of the fifth month was in commemoration of the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem and had been kept by pious Jews throughout the exile. After their return some were evidently still keeping it. Zechariah’s reply is first of all to ask them a question in return: For whose benefit were you really keeping this fast all these years? For God’s or for your own sake, just as you ate and drank for your own sake? And he reminds them of what the former prophets had said was true obedience to God: “Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the orphan, the alien or the poor and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.”. It was because they had not done these things that disaster had befallen the former generations. So that must be the priority again now.

The fast of the fifth month is to be kept, says Zechariah - kept but transformed. It is to be no longer a commemoration of destruction but a celebration of the new be-ginning which God is making with his people. Likewise the fast of the fourth and the seventh and the tenth month too, they shall be “seasons of joy and gladness, and cheerful festivals for the house of Judah; therefore love truth and justice”. God is doing his new thing: being generous in his provision. He is sowing peace, the rain will fall, the wine will flourish, the ground will yield a rich harvest. The people’s part will be to love truth and peace in their dealings with one another.

Liturgy is about how we incarnate in drama and symbol our transformation by grace: the transformation from defeat to victory, from bondage to freedom, from guilt to forgiveness, from conflict to reconciliation, from death to life. Liturgy should give us an anticipation of the end. The Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, is a foretaste of the great feast when people shall come from east and west, north and south, and sit down together in the kingdom of God. But a liturgy which only gives us a forward glance to the end, without helping us to cope with our present struggles and sicknesses, plays false both to our real condition and the way in which grace works. A true liturgy for peace needs to enable us to express the truth of our present conflicts, the hurt and anger and the bitter desire for vengeance, as in the Psalms; these have to be brought out into the open and offered to God, who knows how to deal with them all. Zechariah does not disparage the keeping of the fast as such. It was good and healthy that mourning was observed for the destroyed temple and city all those years of exile. There is a time for mourning. Precisely because it has been gone through, there can now be a time for celebration: Therefore love truth and peace. To work on liturgies for truth and peace is a task for the churches today.

But now, locality.
It is a beautiful and very human picture Zechariah paints of the new Jerusalem: a city where the streets are full of old people sitting with their walking sticks and children playing. A community of shared abundance and security, where people speak the truth to one another in their court cases at the city gate and reach judgments that make for peace. It is very practical and down-to-earth. But we might think, isn’t this a rather narrow and parochial picture? What has happened to that great prophet-ic, universal vision of peace over all the earth, of the wolf lying down with the lamb, of the earth being filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea? In fact, Zechariah has kept that vision. All he has done is glimpsed a way it can begin to be realised. Jerusalem, he is saying, while only one place on the earth, can be such a marvel that people from every other nation will want to come and see it for them-selves and worship God there. Jerusalem becomes a particular place with a universal significance. In this way, Zechariah brings together the grand vision and the reality of the world. He doesn’t have a grand strategy to impose on the entire world. He has a picture of his own community, which can then attract the rest of the world. A light to enlighten the gentiles.

One of the most inspiring places I’ve ever visited, towards the end of Lebanon’s tragic civil war, was the community of Chouifat in Beirut. A big apartment block, it stood right on the so-called green line between the eastern and the western sectors of that bitterly divided city. The people refused either to flee from the shelling and the rockets or to allow their building to be taken over as fortifications by either side. They said, “You are not going to move us, you are not going to divide us, we are staying together”. And they stayed. With the help of the Middle East Council of Churches they got a new water supply, they maintained a clinic, they developed their own income generating industries, they ensured that space was kept open for a children’s playground, free of both rubbish and landmines. That for me is a parable for our times.

“love Truth and Peace.” Today we feel strongly the need to try to apply these words on the global level. And indeed we have many tasks to do at the global and international level, and many questions to ask in relation to the Kosovo crisis: about the role of the United Nations, about the real intentions of NATO, about the role of the weapons industry, about the whole global economic order. But might it not be also that now is the time to attend much more closely than we ever have done before to the practice of truth and peace at the local level? It is one thing to say how ethnic differences have been exploited by unscrupulous politicians. But why were local communities so susceptible to such exploitation? Are not the real questions about peace for the future, the questions about how local communities can be so empowered and enabled to stand up to and resist those who would divide them and exploit them in their abuse of power? How can we enable and empower local communities to stay together, to become economically and culturally resistant to outside manipulation and exploitation? From Kosovo to Northern Ireland? From Rwanda to Sri Lanka? It is in the love of truth and peace in the local community that universal vision engages with contemporary reality.

Truth and peace do belong together, when they are really loved, loved with the passion of the Spirit, God’s own love. If it was T.S.Eliot who said that humankind cannot bear very much reality, it was also T.S. Eliot who in the same cycle of poems gives us the picture of the transforming love of Pentecost:
The dove descending breaks the air
With flame of incandescent terror
Of which the tongues declare
The one discharge from sin and error.
The only hope, or else despair
Lies in the choice of pyre or pyre -
To be redeemed from fire by fire.

There, love Truth and Peace.

June 1999

Dr. Keith Clements is General Secretary of the Conference of European Churches.