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WCC hears stories of violence, peace in DOV report (2/21/06)
By Verity A. Jones, DisciplesWorld editor and publisher
PORTO ALEGRE, Brazil (2/21/06) The Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV) has been overshadowed by “brutal acts of international terrorism and the reactions to it,” says the mid-term report of the World Council of Churches (WCC) on one of its primary program initiatives.
WCC delegates at the 9th Assembly were briefed on the progress of the DOV in a Saturday afternoon plenary. An increasing concern for security in individual as well as national and global decisions “seems to be gaining the upper hand,” says the report. Religion is being used to legitimize violent conflict around the world. And the “noticeable arms proliferation and a growth in the general militarization of the world” has followed a period of actual disarmament among nations.
Olara A. Otunnu of Uganda put a face on the violence through his testimony about the bloody conflict destroying his own country. Otunnu, a former UN under-secretary general, was a special representative for children in armed conflict in 1997.
“I must draw your attention to the worst place on earth to be a child today,” Otunnu said to the delegates. “The situation in northern Uganda is far worse than that of Dafur, in terms of its duration and magnitude.”
Twenty years of war in Uganda has led to the interment of more than 2 million people into camps in which living conditions are “defined by staggering levels of squalor, disease and death, humiliation and despair.” Otunnu reported that 1,000 children die every week in the camps because of the conditions. In addition, children are routinely abducted and brutalized by the Lord's Resistance Army.
Sexual abuse is so rampant that, Otunnu said, “HIV/AIDS has become a weapon of mass destruction.” One estimate is that HIV infects close to 50 percent of the adult population in the camps.
“This is the face of genocide writ large,” he said.
Otunnu said that the people of Uganda feel abandoned by the international community and they ask where the churches are. He called for a “moral and prophetic voice” to come from the WCC assembly. “We look to you to denounce the genocide in northern Uganda.”
Bringing such a report and call to the WCC assembly is consistent with the goals of the Decade to Overcome Violence which seeks to address “holistically the wide varieties of violence, both direct and structural, in homes, communities, and in international arenas.” The first five years of the decade have focused on setting the agenda for the DOV and “analyzing the different experiences of violence.”
Four young adults from Palestine also shared stories of conflict in their region. They described their own work against violence as very difficult since it requires patience and endurance. Their initiative brings together Israeli and Palestinian youth for peace education.
“We cannot stand still in silence,” said Alfred Rock, of Bethlehem.
Janice Love, moderator of the international reference group for the DOV, said the sharing of such stories was the heart of the work of the DOV. The project intends to highlight proactive ways in which Christians are engaged in building peace and reconciliation. In the next five years, the DOV will need to shift focus to a “search for reconciliation and building a culture of peace” says the report.
A response from the assembly to Otunnu's call for help is not currently on the agenda, but it may be brought back to the assembly by the business committee later in the week.
A focus on Africa is likely to be one of the priorities recommended for the assembly's work over the next eight years.
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in North America has close ties to the Community of Disciples of Christ Church in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where more than 4 million people have died from war and poverty over the last seven years.