Friday, February 23, 2007

European church representatives committed to overcome violence

World Council of Churches - News Release
Contact: +41 22 791 6153 +41 79 507 6363

For immediate release - 19/02/2007 12:12:04 PM


"Make me a channel of your peace" was the theme for a celebration of common commitment to overcome violence at a gathering of Orthodox, Catholic, Anglican and Protestant church representatives on 17 February in Wittenberg, Germany.

Sharing of experiences, reflection and common prayer welcomed the 2007 focus on Europe of the ecumenical initiative "Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV) - Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace, 2001-2010". The annual foci of preceding years were Palestine/Israel, Sudan, the United States, Asia and Latin America.

Rev. Dr Geiko Müller-Fahrenholz explained that the theme of the European focus is taken from the opening of a prayer attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi. He said that this prayer stands in opposition to a world-weary "realism that no longer perceives it is being used to allow the continuation of violence everywhere".

Too often "we live as though the peace of the Lord is far from us. This is why we pray, 'Lord, make me a channel of your peace'," Müller-Fahrenholz said. He serves the World Council of Churches (WCC) as coordinator of the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation being planned for 2011 to mark the end of the Decade to Overcome Violence.

Nine key issues to be addressed by European churches and others during this year are human trafficking, youth, migration, militarization, domestic and interpersonal violence, human security, the environment, violence in the church and a theology of a just peace.

The launch of the 2007 DOV focus took place as part of a four-day ecumenical encounter to prepare for the Third European Ecumenical Assembly (EEA3) to be held on 4-9 September 2007 in Sibiu, Romania.

Rev. Dr Fernando Enns of the WCC's central committee noted that the DOV leadership designated 2007 as the year of Europe with the Sibiu assembly in mind. EEA3 is being organized jointly by the Conference of European Churches (CEC) and the Roman Catholic bishops' conference of Europe (CCEE).

Ivo Marcovic, a Franciscan from Bosnia, told the story of the Pontanima ("bridge of souls") choir that brings together singers from each of the Abrahamic religions to perform "the music of their enemies" in nationalistic strongholds of Bosnia, Croatia and Serbia. The mayor of Sarajevo has called the choir "the most beautiful jewel of reconciliation".

The evening culminated in a service of common prayer at the Wittenberg church where Martin Luther regularly preached, led by Brother Alois of the Taizé ecumenical community in France.

The Decade to Overcome Violence was originally launched six years ago, at a February 2001 worship service in the war-damaged Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church of Berlin. The Decade is a global movement that strives to strengthen existing efforts and networks for overcoming violence, as well as inspire the creation of new ones.

For further information, consult the DOV website:

Third European Ecumenical Assembly (EEA3) website:

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Water Buffalo Theology

Sisters and brothers, 

Many faith communities raise money during their high holidays to support projects like Heifer International. 

Heifer addresses poverty and hunger issues around the world by sending live animals for agricultural work or for the production of milk, eggs, or meat; you can support them by donating money sufficient for a goat, a hive of bees, or a cow (for example).

You can find out more about Heifer's approach here:

One Church of the Brethren congregation I know of near Dayton, Ohio, started out to raise $1500 this year, and by Christmas Eve, they raised $5000!

Here is the letter which was sent by another congregation, Monroeville Church of the Brethren, near Pittsburgh, PA, along with their donation check this year.


Matt Guynn

Monroeville Church of the Brethren
481 Center Road
Monroeville, PA 15146

10 January 2007

Heifer International
1 World Avenue
Little Rock, AR 72202

Dear Staff of Heifer International:

Enclosed is a check for $3,520 for a gift of �14 Water Buffalos for Indonesia.� Each Advent and Christmas season our church chooses some special service or charitable project to reflect our teaching that the church is in the world for the world. This year we wanted to focus on Indonesia because of the recent natural disasters and hardships there and also to highlight the country as the site of a forthcoming, international peace conference in December of 2007.

As a minister and seminary professor, I am involved in a decade long program of seeking cultures of peace through a partnership with the Historic Peace Churches and the World Council of Churches� Decade to Overcome Violence initiative. This is ecumenical and cosmopolitan work. This year our context is Asia with plans for a major conference and consultation in Indonesia.

The Monroeville Church of the Brethren is a teaching church. As such, this Advent we used both Heifer International and the WCC Decade to Overcome Violence as programs that make cosmopolitan affections concrete and embody the lesson of the lectionary: �Peace on earth and good will to all.�

We made good use of Heifer�s educational materials. Your water buffalo buttons and cards were quite effective. For example, each person, youth or adult, that helped name one of the 14 buffalos, contributed money, or told friends and neighbors about this special project received a button and card in a spirit that was both playful and purposeful. We also created additional materials for use in the church such as water buffalo cut-outs and posters.

In this Water Buffalos for Indonesia campaign, 33 family units or individuals made contributions totaling $2,020. The balance of our gift to Heifer, $1,500, came from a tithe on the annual rent we receive from the Head Start program in our church. Our church board made a deliberate decision to regard the use of our facility by groups beyond the congregation as a ministry of service rather than a mere profit making enterprise.

When the Head Start program learned of this, because Heifer International is wisely nonsectarian, they happily introduced their children to Heifer�s good work and philosophy and to our Water Buffalos for Indonesia project.

We as a church are aware that Heifer International has deep roots in the Church of the Brethren through the pioneering work of Dan West and many other worldly saints. We are also delighted that the vision of Heifer was not narrowly missional or sectarian but cosmopolitan. Thus, Advent at the Monroeville Church of the Brethren this year witnessed 14 Water Buffalos dwelling in peace with the donkey and the sheep at the conventional manger scene. For us, the classic Christmas narrative found artful and ethical expression in a Water Buffalo theology.

Best wishes and blessings in your good work.

Sincerely yours,

The Reverend Scott Holland, Ph.D., Lead Minister on the Pastoral Team of the Monroeville Church of the Brethren and Associate Professor of Theology and Culture at Bethany Theological Seminary.

Monday, February 12, 2007

February 28: Counter-recruitment networking calls

Hello friends,

Every six to eight weeks, On Earth Peace sponsors conference calls for individuals and groups who are doing truth-in-recruitment organizing, or who want to get started.  Since April 2005, more than 70 people have participated, from coast to coast.  Can you join us this month?

The calls' purposes are 1) to learn from each other and grow in strategic reflection about our work, 2) to join together for inspiration and spiritual support, and 3) to strengthen the truth-in-recruiting movement as a whole by increasing our connections with each other.  

Our calls are especially focused on supporting those working from the basis of Christian faith, although all are warmly welcomed to participate. On Earth Peace is the peace education and action agency of the Church of the Brethren.

This month, we are offering two calls, both of which will take place on Wednesday, February 28th.  Can you join us?

(1) Weds, Feb 28, at 11:00AM-12:30PM EASTERN TIME (8:00AM-9:30AM Pacific)
(2) Weds, Feb 28, at 7:00PM-8:30PM EASTERN TIME (4:00PM-5:30PM Pacific)

The February 2007 calls will feature:
(1) Christian theological reflection on counter-recruitment,
(2) a chance to share and hear stories with other organizers around the country,
(3) highlights of recent resources and new developments in the truth-in-recruiting movement, and
(4) strategic reflection on themes and common challenges that emerge from the call, including the explanation of one strategy tool you can take back to use in your work in your local setting.

There will be eight slots available for each call.  We have found it's best to limit the number of participants in order to deepen the sharing and conversation that can take place.

Please send an e-mail to to join this month's calls!

Call Facilitators:

Matt Guynn
Coordinator of Peace Witness
On Earth Peace ~
Richmond, Indiana

Deb Oskin
Peace Minister, Living Peace Church of the Brethren
Columbus, Ohio