“We have serious issues related to crime and violence in Jamaica,” Gary Harriott, general secretary of the Jamaica Council of Churches told journalists in Geneva attending a World Council of Churches meeting where plans for the event were presented today ( August 28.)
As chairperson of the local planning committee for the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation, Harriott cited drug- and gang-related activities among young people as particular problems in Jamaica. He said, “We believe the IEPC will help and inspire our people to peace and violence prevention.”
The peace convocation, scheduled for May 17-25, 2011 in Kingston, Jamaica, is being organized by the Geneva-based WCC and it envisages a gathering of 1,000
participants. The event is to mark the culmination of the WCC’s Decade to Overcome Violence, launched in Berlin in 2001 to highlight peace efforts by churches, ecumenical organizations, and civil society movements.
Anders Gadegaard, moderator of the WCC’s finance committee, said the budget for the peace gathering is 2.35 million Swiss francs (US$ 2.23 million), of which about one-third has already been pledged. He urged member churches to fund their own participants and subsidize attendees from partner churches.
“The ministry of reconciliation and healing is the original vocation of the Church,” Fernando Enns, a member of the Mennonite Church in Germany, told a meeting of the WCC’s main governing body, its central committee, when he outlined plans for the peace gathering.
The convocation will explore four sub-themes: peace in the community, peace with the earth, peace in the marketplace, and peace among the peoples.
Malawian Isabel Phiri, who is based in South Africa, said the peace in the community theme will focus heavily on domestic violence and violence against women and children, particularly sexual violence.
“We want to introduce methodologies and strategies to end sexual violence through biblical study, and to join with men in discovering positive masculinities to stop sexual violence and the spread of HIV/AIDS,” she said.
Speaking of peace with the earth, Aaro Rytkonen of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland stated that 18 wars have been fought in the past two decades over access to natural resources. He said there is “a clear link” between environmental degradation and violence and war.
Ofelia Ortega of Cuba, a WCC president from Latin America, the Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba, who said there “can be no peace in the marketplace unless there is justice in the marketplace” highlighted wide disparities in wealth and inequalities in trade and economic systems. “The presence of greed is a form of violence, like a virus,” she said.
Archbishop Bernard Ntahoturi of the Anglican Church of Burundi, speaking against the background of a long-running civil war in his country said signs of hope can be seen, “when people talk and listen with each other, when their cries are heard and their sufferings are felt, creating hope for a better life.”