Jamaica–a proud and independent Caribbean nation struggling with a high level of violence and criminality–is the location of the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) facilitated by the World Council of Churches (WCC) from May 17-25. The event is the “harvest festival” of the Decade to Overcome Violence, which since 2001 has been coordinating and strengthening peace work among WCC member churches.
The convocation, prepared in cooperation with the National Council of Churches of Jamaica, will take place near the capital Kingston and will be the largest peace gathering in WCC history with an expected participation of about 1,000 people from around the world (by invitation).
The theological basis of the peace convocation is an ecumenical call for a just peace–a milestone in the developing of an ecumenical theology of peace. The theme will be “Glory to God and Peace on Earth.” The just peace which the call envisages is seen “as a collective and dynamic yet grounded process of freeing human beings from fear and want, of overcoming enmity, discrimination and oppression, and of establishing conditions for just relationships that privilege the experience of the most vulnerable and respect the integrity of creation.”
In Bible study, worship, workshops, seminars, and plenary sessions, participants will deal with four thematic areas: Peace in Community, Peace with the Earth, Peace in the Economy, and Peace Between Nations.
For the churches of the Caribbean the convocation is a high watermark event according to Gary Harriott, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Jamaica. “This year is the 70th anniversary of the founding of the National Council of Church of Jamaica,” he said. “It is a real privilege for us to be able to celebrate this anniversary together with the worldwide ecumenical community.” A cultural high point will be the Concert for Peace, to which musicians have been invited to bring their own message of peace. The concert will take place in Kingston, and will be broadcast by radio throughout the island.
A course for seminarians is being offered at the IEPC. Theological students can register to participate in this program by April 1, in cooperation with the United Theological College of the West Indies and the Boston University School of Theology. The aim of the course, for which credits can be obtained by students from their own schools, is to strengthen ecumenical education through theological reflection and students’ own experiences.
On Sunday, May 22, Christians in all parts of the world are invited to relate worship in their own churches to the peace convocation. Hymns, Bible texts, and prayers–for example a “peace prayer” written by the Caribbean churches–can be included in worship services. The hope is that there will be a worldwide wave of praise and prayer for peace, radiating out from Jamaica.
— Annegreth Strümpfel is a theologian and scholar working on a doctoral thesis about the history of the WCC in the 1960s-70s. More information about the IEPC is at http://www.overcomingviolence.org/ . Ideas to celebrate World Sunday for Peace are at www.overcomingviolence.org/sunday . Information on the IEPC course for seminarians is at www.oikoumene.org/index.php?RDCT=e5033399ef1a0b09e424 and www.oikoumene.org/index.php?RDCT=70af6faaef472ac39348 .
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