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Ecumenical gathering in Jamaica focuses on promoting peace

KINGSTON, Jamaica (ENI) Some 1,000 worldwide faith leaders and
peace practitioners are exploring the concept of "just peace" and recent
advances in peacemaking practices at a weeklong International Ecumenical
Peace Convocation (IEPC) in Kingston.

The World Council of Churches (WCC) is sponsoring the convocation, whose
theme is “Glory to God and Peace on Earth.” It marks the culmination of the
Decade to Overcome Violence that the council initiated in 2001. Participants
represent WCC member constituencies, and ecumenical and civil society
networks working on peace and justice issues.

“The IEPC comes at a time when the world is experiencing significant
political paradigm shifts, and much of this is coming with violence and
conflict,” said the WCC general secretary, the Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit.
“This event brings the peace movements and church leaders together and
offers space and time to explore the role of the church and religion as
peacemaker. We will ask one another what it means to follow Christ today and
tomorrow.”

“But peace is not just about ending conflicts,” Tveit said. “It is also
about seeking justice and building sustainable conditions for peace. We find
the need for just peace in the economy, peace among peoples and cultures,
and peace within communities and with the earth.”

The convocation’s main goal is to contribute to efforts to create a culture
of just peace and to facilitate new networks focusing on peace in
communities and the world, according to the WCC. Bible studies, plenary
sessions, workshops and seminars will address peace in the community, peace
with the earth, peace in the marketplace and peace among the peoples.
The convocation will include a May 20 peace concert featuring Jamaican acts
including one of the country’s top bands, Fab Five. Band member Grub Cooper
penned a newly recorded song about peace, “Glory to God and Peace on Earth,”
specifically for the IEPC.

On May 22, churches worldwide are invited to celebrate a World Sunday for

Peace.

Convocation speakers will include Martin Luther King III, German Lutheran
pastor Dr. Margot Kassmann, Tveit, the Rev. Dr. Paul Gardner of Jamaica,
Ernestina Lopez Bac of Guatemala, Metropolitan Dr. Hilarion of Volokolamsk
of the Russian Orthodox Church and Canon Paul Oestreicher of New Zealand.

Also during the convocation, Pax Christi International will lead workshops
on reconciliation and restorative justice; peace spirituality and theology;
religion and violent extremism; and, together with the International Peace
Bureau, military spending versus development aid.

The IEPC concludes May 25.

On May 16, Jamaican national leaders welcomed a delegation of leaders from
the WCC and from the Jamaican and Caribbean councils of churches, which are
hosting the convocation. Expressing his wishes that the IEPC be “an inspired
and inspiring event,” Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding emphasized the
crucial role of both the church and state in the ethical development of
societies worldwide today, especially in contexts – as in his own country –
marked by crime and violence.

The delegation also visited Jamaican parliamentary opposition leader Portia
Simpson-Miller and the Supreme Court of Jamaica. Tveit led a prayer for
child victims of violence during a short visit to a monument in downtown
Kingston erected in their memory.

One of the convocation’s goals is to have a concrete impact on Jamaica’s
struggle to overcome violence, said Metropolitan Prof. Dr Gennadios of
Sassima (Limouris), vice-moderator of the WCC Central Committee.

The convocation’s location in Jamaica intentionally acknowledges the
region’s involvement in the Decade to Overcome Violence, said the Caribbean
Council of Churches general secretary, Gerard Granado. Kingston was one of
the focus capitals of the WCC’s “Peace to the City” campaign launched in
Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1997.

The Rev. Dr. Margaretha Hendriks-Ririmasse, also a vice-moderator of the
central committee, called on churches to search for mutual collaboration
among governments worldwide.

“People are losing faith in Christianity,” she said. “We must rescue the
interest of people in the gospel by showing how we can work together in this
world.”

Throughout the week, a team of young people from the World Student Christian
Federation will create daily video interviews with Christian peacemakers at
the convocation, which will be posted at www.IEPCstories.com.

“The questions young people ask are different and offer a new perspective,”
said Mark Beach, WCC director of communications. “We believe the audience
they reach will be their peers, who have a great interest in the role of the
church in peacemaking. Peace and justice is not only about today but the
future as well.”

Founded in 1948, the Geneva-headquartered WCC brings together 349
Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560
million Christians in more than 110 countries and works cooperatively with
the Roman Catholic Church.

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