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Church and Peace
International Office

22 June 1999

Dear friends,

Many of us were together three weeks ago at the Church and Peace 50 th anniversary celebration at Bienenberg. The weekend was an intense but enriching and meaningful few days, as the feedback we have received indicates. The war in Yugoslavia was a central theme during our times of fellowship, prayer and discussion. We are especially thankful for the opportunity we had to meet with staff members from the humanitarian agency "Bread of Life" in Belgrade.

The theology working group at the symposium formulated a declaration in response to the war in the Balkans. This declaration was read during the closing worship service and approved by the symposium participants.

We are enclosing a copy of the Declaration and ask you to distribute it as appropriate in your churches and communities. The Declaration is available in English, French and German.

The Declaration is not limited to the experience of the recent war in Yugoslavia. We are thankful that the war has officially ended and we can breathe a bit easier. However the cessation of fighting does not mean that there is peace. An extensive examination of what truth is and was in the events of the past few weeks is a decisive precondition for peace.

We hope and pray that all efforts at overcoming hate, enabling the return of refugees and for reconstruction and healing of the wounds caused by this war would bring the region closer to peace.

We are planning to publish shortly an initial pamphlet with documentation from the symposium together with a newsletter containing current information from the Church and Peace network. Unfortunately we were not able to adapt and prepare the press release from the dialogue forum in a timely fashion. We do plan, however, to make public in a different format the concerns addressed in the draft press release.

Warm greetings from the International Office.

Yours sincerely,

Christian Hohmann
General Secretary, Church and Peace

Bienenberg Declaration

We have gathered as Christians of many churches and communities 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 enriching, 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 disciplines 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 standing 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.

18 June 99