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Minute on Peace and Security in South Asia

Public statement by the WCC Executive Committee at its meeting held 12-16 September in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

16 September 2011

1.      The South Asia region, (comprised of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka), continues to be one of the most volatile regions of the world. The negative effects of ongoing ethnic conflicts, civil wars, ethnic cleansing, communal and political violence, persecution against minority religious communities especially against Dalits and Indigenous Peoples, terrorism, counter terrorism, religious extremism, militarization, gross and systematic violation of human rights, unresolved inter-state and intra-state conflicts, and subversive economic interests, etc., are visible today more than ever before in the South Asia region. South Asia has become a hotbed of the war on terror and a victim of the strategic interests of major power blocs keeping the region in constant turmoil and uncertainty. The nature of its volatility and that of the conflicts has been redefined by the US-led war on terror, wherein the rulers of the region have joined together as partners. This has wider repercussions in the region as resentments against foreign forces in the region are growing among various sectors in society, especially in the context of the recent happenings in Pakistan.

2.      There is a feeling among the general public that peace and security in South Asia are defined today in terms of the strategic interests and objectives of countries outside South Asia. Home to one-fifth of the world’s population, this region is accountable for fifty percent of the world’s illiterate and forty percent of the world’s poor. This poverty-stricken region faces innumerable adversities in terms of securing peace, security and development. The extent of human deprivation in the region contrasts with the large armies, modern weapons and increasing defence budgets, arms race and nuclear power struggle which keep the region seething with unrest.

3.      The increasing trend of religious intolerance and politicization of religion create havoc in Pakistan, Bangladesh and in India. Although one of the world’s bloodiest and longest-running civil wars in Sri Lanka is over, it left parts of the island devastated and hundreds of thousands of people displaced and forced to live in camps. A dysfunctional judiciary and justice system, lack of democratic governance and gross violations of human rights have become pervasive phenomena of Sri Lanka today. Although a new government has been installed recently in Nepal, the Constituent Assembly could not agree upon a new Constitution, and the country is facing a constitutional crisis with political parties failing to reach a consensus; the peace and reconciliation process initiated in the country has been jeopardized.

4.      A meeting of the South Asia Ecumenical Forum on Peace and Security (SAEFPS), which was initiated in 2009 by the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA) and the South Asian Councils of Churches (SACC) met on 18-19 April 2011 in New Delhi, India. Having analyzed, listened to and realized the seriousness of the situation in various South Asian countries, the SAEFPS made a proposal to the WCC and CCA to be involved in global ecumenical advocacy on peace security in South Asia.

The Executive Committee of the World Council of Churches meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 13 to 16 September 2011, expresses particular concern about the deteriorating situation that threatens the peace and security in South Asian countries. In light of the present situation of increasing hostility and security threats, the Executive Committee:

A.      Extends support and encouragement to the South Asian churches and National Councils of Churches as they work for peace, security, reconciliation, religious tolerance and justice for all;

A.      Encourages WCC staff to continue to monitor developments in South Asian countries and exchange information;

B.      Calls on WCC member churches to accompany and support the churches in Pakistan in their initiatives to address the issue of the misuse of blasphemy law, especially through their engagement in advocacy at the local, regional and global levels.

C.      Extends support to the Pakistani churches’ efforts to promote communal harmony and religious tolerance;

D.     Calls on WCC members churches to be in solidarity with the persecuted religious minorities in India, especially the Dalits and Indigenous Peoples;

Calls on WCC member churches to pray for the people and churches in South Asia.