XLVI Meeting, Kitwe, Zambia, 24-30 June 1995
Report of the Board for International Affairs (CCIA) to the Unit III Committee of the Central Committee.
The Board for International Affairs met for the first time in the history of the CCIA in Africa between 24-30 June 1994, at the Mindolo Ecumenical Institute in Kitwe, Zambia. The site was chosen in light of the Unit III and WCC concern to develop a comprehensive approach to African concerns, and the desire of the CCIA to meet in a context which would provide an atmosphere conducive to program planning in the areas of human rights, global governance and the Program to Overcome Violence.
During the period of the meeting, the Board took advantage of frequent opportunities to meet with the Mindolo staff, the community, and local clergy and lay leaders from around Africa attending courses at the Centre.
The first part of the meeting was devoted to an extensive review of political developments in the various regions of the world, taking advantage of the presence of representatives of the several Regional Ecumenical Organizations who were invited to attend as consultants to the Board. This exchange of information laid the groundwork for a global analysis of trends and the churches' response.
Three working groups were formed to review Unit III programs located in the CCIA: the global review of ecumenical human rights policy and practice; global governance - with particular reference to plans for the World Social Summit; and the Program to Overcome Violence. The final reports of the three groups were approved by the Board and are contained in the minutes of the meeting which are available to the Commission.
The preliminary work on the World Social Summit was subsequently shared with the ECOS team, with which CCIA cooperated in planning the WCC presence at the Preparatory Committees for the Copenhagen gathering, and at the Summit itself. Subsequently, a planning group was formed comprised of members of both the CCIA Board and of the ECOS Working Group, which met well ahead of the Summit to refine plans for participation.
The report on the Program to Overcome Violence was also shared with the Unit and with the WCC Executive Committee, which welcomed it as a basis for the further development of this Council-wide program located in Unit III. It has since been published in a compendium of basic documents related to the Program, entitled Programme to Overcome Violence: An Introduction, which is also available to the Commission.
The human rights global review provided an opportunity for shaping this program in consultation with the REOs in order to remain responsive to regional concerns, and for development of plans for cross-regional exchanges. Specific plans were made there for regional consultations in Latin America, Asia/Pacific and Europe which have been accomplished since the meeting.
In response to a request from the All Africa Conference of Churches’ representative present at the previous meeting of CCIA, it was decided to hold a consultation on Ethnic Conflicts in Africa Today and the Churches' Response in conjunction with the meeting of the Board. Within Unit III it was agreed that it would be appropriate for this consultation to be jointly prepared with PCR. This was done, and the PCR Working Group decided to hold the meeting of its Working Group in Lusaka at the same time as the Board on International Affairs, affording an opportunity for a joint meeting of the two groups for purposes of Unit program coordination and integration.
The Consultation itself provided helpful insights on the issues as seen from an African perspective, and has contributed to thinking towards the later, larger meeting on ethnicity convened in Sri Lanka by Unit III in cooperation with the Lutheran World Federation and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.
This second meeting of the Board on International Affairs, in no small part due to its location in the midst of a vital African community of church-persons, helped to form a close-knit ecumenical community of persons from around the world committed to serve the Council, its Units and its constituent churches “as a source of information and guidance in their approach to international problems, as a medium of counsel and action and as an organ in formulating the Christian mind on world issues and bringing that mind effectively to bear upon such issues.”
The Board accepted the invitation extended on behalf of the National Council of Churches in Korea to hold its next meeting in Seoul in January 1996, in the context of the Jubilee Year for Korean Reunification, and in preparation for the Jubilee Assembly of the WCC in Harare. The Korean churches have given a commitment to cover all local costs of that meeting.
XLVII Meeting of the CCIA, Seoul, Korea, 15-21 July 1996
Report of the Board for International Affairs to the Unit III Committee of the Central Committee.
International Affairs and the
Common Understanding and Vision of the World Council of Churches
To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA), the Board on International Affairs used the occasion of its meeting in Seoul, Korea to review and assess the contribution of CCIA to the World Council of Churches since the Canberra Assembly and to reflect on the historical origins of international affairs in the ecumenical movement.
Through a consultation on the contemporary relevance of the theme of the 1937 Oxford Conference on Church, Community and State, the Board undertook to identify the present challenges facing the Church and the State, as well as the special gifts and responsibilities of the World Council of Churches and the CCIA in addressing those challenges.
As in 1937, the world today faces severe political, economic and social crises as well as deep divisions within and among churches. While many of the effects are similar, the roots of the crises in international affairs have changed, and become more complex. The contemporary process of economic, cultural and social globalization fragments community at all levels. It affects every nation, state and community, including the Church, as well as the relations between them.
States face new internal and international conflicts that arise from a complex combination of economic, social, cultural and religious tensions. National communities grow more sharply divided along lines of race, class and gender.
The Oxford Conference gave impetus to ecumenical efforts to create new international institutions capable of building international peace and a just, stable international order. The United Nations and its family of organizations, only a dream in 1937, has been established, but has been unable fully to realize its objectives. In some areas it has become an instrument of globalization and contrary to the aims of the Charter it has sometimes become a tool of the forces of domination and oppression.
Similar realities are reflected in the life of the churches. Oxford called for the creation of a World Council of Churches "to facilitate corporate action by the Churches" and "to promote the growth of ecumenical consciousness in the Churches." Its objectives, too, have yet to be fully realized. In many countries historic religious conflicts and new religious movements have exacerbated national, ethnic and other divisions.
There is a widespread tendency of churches in most parts of the world to turn inward to pressing internal church concerns and crises within their own nations. New religious movements have arisen which seek to address world problems, but often have narrow nationalistic, political and cultural biases. Many traditional religions, too, have lost sight of their universality.
As a result of this combination of factors, the present situation can be described as a global moral and spiritual crisis. In our view, therefore, the global witness of the ecumenical community through the World Council of Churches remains crucial for the shaping of a just, peaceful future for humankind.
Acknowledging the fundamental connection of Christians, and indeed of all peoples, the ecumenical community must sustain and improve its capacity for collective discernment that incorporates both social and political analysis and reflection on the action of God in history for peace with justice and care for creation. To do so, the ecumenical movement must involve more intentionally those directly engaged with global issues in the process of analysis. This process of discernment through faith makes possible a responsible, consistent, coherent, informed and authoritative common witness in public policy as a stimulus to action and means of action. The churches, states, communities and international institutions all stand to benefit if our ecumenical work meets the standards we have set for ourselves in the World Council of Churches.
The World Council of Churches, through the CCIA, should be the responsible voice of the ecumenical community in, and provide churches with opportunities for consistent relationships with, international institutions such as the United Nations in order to help make those institutions more responsive to the needs and aspirations of the world's peoples.
The Board on International Affairs believes that the CCIA continues to be the appropriate instrument for this process of discernment. The CCIA, acting as a reservoir of the churches' memory on international affairs, can help the churches understand and share information on the issues and express solidarity with others caught up in conflict and violence. This work is critical to the churches' pursuit of unity in mission, service to refugees and uprooted peoples, the effective provision of humanitarian assistance in situations of complex emergencies, and concerted international action for justice, peace and the integrity of creation.
For this to be accomplished, there is an indispensable need for an effective international affairs staff team which can continually monitor and analyze the connections between international economic, political, social and human rights trends.
This faith-based approach to ecumenical responsibility in international affairs is articulated succinctly in the "Aims" of the Board on International Affairs contained in the WCC By-Laws. The Board believes that the document being developed on the Common Understanding and Vision of the World Council of Churches would be strengthened by making reference to them.
Coordinator/Director of the CCIA
Dwain C. Epps, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Salpy Eskidjian, Armenian Apostolic Church of Cyprus
Clement John, Church of Pakistan
Charles Harper, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)
Geneviève Jacques, Eglise Réformée de France
Catherine Christ-Taha, administrative assistant in Geneva since April 1993, departed in January 1996.
Nancy Davis, administrative assistant in the UN Headquarters Liaison Office in New York since January 1988, retired on 30 June 1996.
Salpy Eskidjian, formerly Justice, Peace and Human Rights Coordinator of the Middle East Council of Churches, joined the CCIA as Executive Secretary for International Affairs in January 1995.
Charles Harper, Interim Director of CCIA from 1991-1993, retired in September 1995 after 21 years of distinguished service on the WCC staff, most of it as director of the Human Rights Resources Office for Latin America.
Geneviève Jacques, formerly General Secretary of CIMADE, joined the staff on 9 April 1996 as Consultant for Impunity, Truth and Reconciliation.
Gail Lerner, administrative assistant in the United Nations Headquarters Liaison Office in New York from 1979-1987, was appointed as UN Representative in New York on 1 July 1996.
Rainer Lingscheid was seconded by the Evangelical Church in Germany as director of the UN Headquarters Liaison Office in New York from April 1994 to April 1996.