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Report of the XLIII Meeting of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs

22 January 2000

La Longeraie, Morges, Switzerland, 22-28 January 2000.

The first meeting of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (CCIA) elected by the Central Committee after the Eighth Assembly in Harare was held in Morges, Switzerland, 22-28 January 2000. The meeting was characterized by a deep concern for the well-being of Creation. Despite our sense of inadequacy in the face of many apparently insurmountable threats, as we approached our task we kept in mind Paul's counsel to the Church in Corinth:

Not that we are competent of ourselves, but our competence comes from God who has made us ministers of a new covenant, a covenant not of the word but of the Spirit which gives life... Therefore, since it is by God's mercy that we are given this commission, we do not lose heart. (II Cor.3:5-6, 4:1)

Two-thirds of the Commissioners participated in this meeting which remained regionally balanced despite absences. Ten Commissioners were prevented by illness or unavoidable schedule conflicts from attending, but all were consulted in shaping the agenda and several shared perspectives which were taken into account. The Commission was grateful to Dr Konrad Raiser, WCC General Secretary, Ms Geneviève Jacques, Director of the Cluster on Relations, Ms Joan Geuss, Cluster Finance Officer, Ms Sara Speicher, Cluster Communications Officer, and to staff of the Justice, Peace and Creation, and Regional Relations teams who joined in and contributed to parts of our deliberations.

The purposes of this first meeting were to:

  • familiarize Commissioners with the mandate given in the CCIA Bylaws, the mandate given to International Relations by the Central Committee, and the directives given by the Harare Assembly and the Program Committee;
  • bring the Commissioners' regional, professional and pastoral expertise and experience to bear;
  • build a sense of solidarity and team spirit among Commissioners and with staff;
  • build consensus and advise the Program Committee with respect to principles, program priorities and policy in the field of International Relations;
  • review the budgetary needs and fund-raising concerns related to International Relations program; and
  • review the role and functions of Commissioners and organize their involvement with program.

The Commission heard reports from the Moderator and the Coordinator. Amb. Bethuel Kiplagat addressed the "Challenges to the Ecumenical movement in International Affairs in an Age of Globalization." The Rev. Dwain Epps reviewed the development of the new WCC integrated staff structure and the place of International Relations within it. He described how the concerns of the two streams which flowed together in this programmatic team - International Affairs (CCIA) and Uprooted People (RMS) - were being integrated into a single, interrelated team approach in a way which kept the two components visible in the life of the WCC. He traced briefly the history of the CCIA Commission and described the roles of Commissioners.

The Commission received and reviewed program reports on:

  • Peace and conflict resolution
  • Peacebuilding and disarmament
  • Impunity, truth and reconciliation
  • Uprooted people
  • Human rights and religious liberty
  • United Nations relations

It reviewed plans to create a new ecumenical mechanism for advocacy, and forwarded its comments to the General Secretary for consideration in the further discussions on this matter between the WCC and its partners in the following months.

The Commission also reviewed a staff proposal for a study requested by the Central Committee on the ethics of "humanitarian intervention". This study to be done in consultation with church-related and other humanitarian agencies, and in cooperation with competent research institutes, should lead to the development of a set of applicable ecumenical criteria. The Commission made recommendations on the issues to be taken into account in the study and consultation process. Several Commissioners will remain closely involved in the study and the resulting policy proposal will be sent to the full Commission for comment, amendment and adoption before it is forwarded to the Central Committee at its next meeting.

Election of the Vice-Moderator

Ms Lois Dauway, a Central Committee member from the United Methodist Church in the USA, was elected vice-moderator of the Commission by acclamation.

Recommendations on program directions and priorities

The Commission welcomed the progress being made in integrating concerns for International Affairs and for Uprooted People (Refugees, Migrants and Internally Displaced Persons) in the program, work and approach of the International Relations staff team. While appreciating the holistic approach taken, it stressed the need for the specificity of the concerns of these two important streams of ecumenical work to be visible. It took particular note of the continuing role of the Global Ecumenical Network on Uprooted People (GEN) in policy and strategy development on behalf of the Commission.

The Commission discussed in detail various aspects of International Relations program in working groups, a summary whose conclusions is appended to this report. It considered policy formation to guide the churches in their efforts and to advise staff in the shaping and implementation of WCC programs which will support the churches' engagement. Commissioners were appointed to reference groups to guide the implementation of action plans in the mentioned program areas.

It considered that the present direction of program planning generally corresponds to the mandate of International Relations, to the needs of the churches, and to the ecumenical vision of the Commission which was briefly summarized as follows:

  • Religion, including Christianity, is being used increasingly to fuel conflict. We have a special responsibility to demonstrate that our faith is committed to and a source of peace.
  • The alarming and increasing racial dimension to conflict and choices of engagement for conflict resolution must be acknowledged and systematically addressed. The indivisibility and cultural inclusiveness of the concept of the universality of human rights is essential to narrowing rapidly widening religious, racial, ethnic, national and cultural divides.
  • Victims of injustice and violence are essential to the search for solutions, and deserve a place table where response strategies and actions are being considered and decided.
  • Economic injustice under conditions of globalization, and the social disorders to which it gives rise are at the root of many conflicts and of many of the concerns mandated to this Commission and the staff of International Relations.
  • The increasing militarization of conflict management, the continuing proliferation of conventional weaponry and small arms, and the continuing threat posed by nuclear weapons combine to pose a major threat to life.
  • "Humanitarian intervention" has become a common rationale for response to complex emergencies. For such actions to be responsible and effective clear criteria need to be established to ensure that they protect life, and promote the re-establishment of the rule of law and the resolution of the underlying conflict.
  • The protection of human rights is a priority for the churches, especially the rights of the most vulnerable groups in situations of conflict: women and youth, people displaced by conflicts within their own countries, uprooted people subjected to trafficking, and others.
  • Better systems of bridge building between potential protagonists need to be developed and put in place at the earliest stages of identification of conflict.
  • Africa is a special region of concern both to the WCC and to this Commission, given the combined and incremental effects of underdevelopment, poor governance, the spread of the AIDS virus, militarization and war which hinder the protection and promotion of abundant life on that continent.
  • There is a strong commitment by the CCIA to search for innovative processes, mechanisms and methods to pool and coordinate the various human and material resources within the ecumenical family which are required for the work of the churches in international affairs. The Commission expressed appreciation for funding partners who are assisting and hopes that they will increasingly support programs that emphasise long-term process development in addition to their ongoing support for short-term projects and emergencies.

Some of the implications of the above for this Commission, the WCC and the programmatic work of International Relations are:

1.     Frequent interchange and joint vision building is necessary between the various Commissions of the WCC, particularly between the CCIA Commission and the Justice, Peace and Creation Advisory Group. The Commission has noted with appreciation that at the staff level the new structure and creative practices are allowing this to happen. Mechanisms need to be enabled for the same to take place at the level of advisory bodies.
2. The connections between uprootedness and its causes - poverty, the breakdown of community stability, armed conflict and war, and human rights violations - are now part of the revised mandate of the CCIA. The Commission drew attention to the need for the Global Ecumenical Network on Uprooted People (GEN) to contribute to the building of the agenda.