New Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance Targets Peace Issues

 — Dec. 7, 20007 déc. 2000

Church organizations hope their new alliance will be a prophetic voice.

Inspired in part by the Jubilee 2000 campaign against debt and by the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines, a unique alliance to harness the collective energies of the worldwide church to promote justice and peace issues has been launched in Geneva.

The Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, which is holding its founding meeting in Geneva from December 7 to 9, brings together 45 representatives from a wide range of organizations, including the World Council of Churches, regional ecumenical organizations from all parts of the world, and international ecumenical bodies.

The alliance is intended to promote joint action by its members “to influence the policies and practices of governments, international institutions and the corporate sector,” according to a background document produced about the network.

“Never before has a meeting taken place which brought together such a comprehensive and wide-ranging group of ecumenical partner organizations engaged in the work for justice and peace, for development and human rights, for ecological integrity and sustainable conditions of life for all,” said Konrad Raiser, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), at the opening session of the alliance December 7.

What was new, Raiser said, was “the resolve to strengthen the prophetic voice and the impact of ecumenical witness on the crucial social, political and economic issues of the day by pooling the resources of partner bodies in the ecumenical movement.”

Outlining the range of issues the alliance intended to tackle, Raiser said: “The gulf between rich and poor is continuously widening, both within and between countries. There is an ever-increasing number of conflicts, and we witness the spread of a genuine culture of violence. The number of refugees has increased dramatically, and the prospects for containing or even reversing ecological degradation is vanishing.”

The WCC, which represents more than 300 Orthodox and mainstream Protestant churches worldwide has taken a leading role in organizing the alliance. Although the Roman Catholic Church is not a member of the WCC, several Catholic organizations are in the alliance, including Pax Christi International, Franciscans International and the International Cooperation for Development and Solidarity (CIDSE).

“The participation of Catholic organizations offers new, I dare to say exciting, opportunities to work together on some of the most pressing issues of the day,” Raiser said.

Celine Monteiro, vice-president of the board of directors of Franciscans International, a non-governmental organization for the followers of Saints Francis and Clare of Assisi, told the gathering that to “fight for a cause” required “collaboration with one another. We can’t work alone.”

She said: “Forget our differences, and build on what we have to strengthen our collaboration and unity.”

The launch of the alliance was also welcomed by a senior United Nations official. Bertrand Ramcharan, the U.N. deputy high commissioner for human rights, told the meeting: “It is important for you to be a voice of the people in a globalizing world … to be an advocate of minimum standards of economic, social and cultural rights, as well as civil and political rights, in a world where social safety nets are disappearing.”

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