Journal from Jamaica – May 19, 2011


Church of the Brethren director of news services, Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford, is reporting from the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Jamaica through May 25, the culminating event of the Decade to Overcome Violence. She hopes to post a journal entry each day as a personal reflection on the event. Here is the journal entry for Thursday, May 19:


This evening there was an informal meeting of people from the “living peace churches”–a better name than Historic Peace Churches! Not all of the Quakers, Mennonites, and Brethren made it, because the invitation was spread by word-of-mouth, but close to 30 people met at the outdoor café at Rex Nettleford residence hall.

Photo by Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford
The outdoor cafe at the Rex Nettleford residence hall, where IEPC participants have begun to gather after dinner to sit around tables for lively conversation, or as a place to access the Internet at the campus wifi hot spot.

We grabbed chairs and made a circle on the grass at a quieter spot away from the cafe tables, where Fernando Enns–an ecumenical leader from the German Mennonite Church–facilitated introductions, asked what burning issues we had to talk about, and answered questions.

Frankly, we had to move away from the café area just to hear each other. This has become an after-dinner social spot for more and more people, and the crowd this evening was already growing. The area also is a hot spot for Internet, so there are tables of lively conversation, and other tables of serious people with laptops.

My room is in Rex Nettleford, and sometimes I feel like I’ve inadvertently gotten into the “party dorm” on campus! The café area was still crowded when I headed to bed at close to midnight.

The main question for peace churches: how to move on from here? This is the concluding event of the Decade to Overcome Violence, and as Fernando explained, the DOV has become a structure through which peace churches relate with the World Council. Will we Brethren, Quakers, Mennonites need to seek out new paths for involvement after this? More importantly, what will we do in our own churches with the outcome of the IEPC? With the just peace document? With whatever comes to the churches through the final message from this meeting?

It quickly became clear that the final message from the IEPC is a whole topic of its own, and has raised a lot of anxiety. Fernando, who is moderating the peace convocation planning committee, had to field a number of anxious questions and concerns. At several places in the paperwork for the convocation, and in remarks from the stage, the WCC has said this is not supposed to be a decision making gathering. But there is going to a “final message” that is supposed to be adopted “by consensus” during the closing plenary on Tuesday afternoon.

One concern is that there are no peace church representatives in the writing/listening group for the final message. Another is that the process and purpose of the final message hasn’t been clearly stated. Fernando let the group know he’s already shared the first concern and got himself appointed as a “consultant” to the writing/listening group. But he is busy, as we all understand, and couldn’t make the group’s first meeting.

(A quick note here: the next morning at the start of the plenary WCC leadership quickly responded to the peace church concerns. A brief explanation of the message process was given from the stage, members of the writing/listening committee were named, and an invitation was extended for people with concerns to share them with a staff person.)

In further discussion, the issue of “responsibility to protect” came up as a difference among people in the peace church circle. The just peace document includes acknowledge of bodies like the UN and others using the concept of “responsibility to protect” but some among the peace churches think this is just a continuation of the just war doctrine in different words. Others said that if the repudiation of the just war doctrine somehow gets taken out of the just peace document, we in the peace churches will no longer be able to support it.

The peace church people are having a follow up gathering Monday evening to catch up with each other again. More to come!