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The Peace to the City Network grew out of a campaign of the same name that began in August 1997 and culminated in December 1998. The network was active until 2002; its members - churches, peace and justice organizations, faith communities and civil society movements - continue to work within the framework of the Decade to Overcome Violence (2001-2010).

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A message from WCC for the
Launch of the Peace to the City: Freetown
16th October, 2001
Geneva - Switzerland

Distinguished guests, dear sisters and brothers, dear friends and colleagues,

Warmest Greetings and Peace from the World Council of Churches !

It is with mixed feelings that I write this message to you today. One of great joy for the Peace to the City : Freetown launching celebrations underway and at the same time deep with regret knowing that due to circumstances beyond my control, I am not able to be among you in Freetown right now ! Please accept my sincerest apologies for this last minute change and be reassured that my thoughts and prayers are with you right now.

On behalf of the WCC, and especially my colleagues in the Decade to Overcome Violence and International Relations teams and the Peacebuilding and Disarmament programme in particular, I would like to relay our warmest congratulations to the Christian Council of Sierra Leone (CCSL) as we all celebrate their participation in the global peace network of the WCC: Peace to the City !

The CCSL was the first council of churches in the world that joined the newly founded Peace to the City Network in 1998, after the Peace to the City Campaign culminated at the WCC Harare Assembly, declaring the Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace for the period of 2001-2010. The Peace to the City Campaign begun in 1996, with only seven symbolic partners from all continents, with a purpose of focusing the churches attention to peace and overcoming violence. Today, almost five years later hundreds of churches, councils, ecumenical organizations, women's groups and youth movements, from parish members to church hierarchs all over the world are discussing and actively joining the Decade to Overcome Violence. We all know that the journey is not an easy one and we have a long way to go. It is for this reason alone that the Peace to the City campaign partners founded this network in order to bring their humble but dedicated contribution to this ecumenical journey.

All network members are committed to challenging and changing the growing culture of violence to a culture of peace and non-violence. The focus is on practical actions to overcome religious, ethnic or political divisions, develop non-violent alternatives to prevent and transform conflicts and wars in addition to promoting dialogue and tolerance. As a network we also emphasize efforts that are aimed at abolishing nuclear weapons, banning landmines, controlling the production, sale, transfer and use of small arms and light weapons, and stopping the use of child combatants. As a growing ecumenical peace movement we try to encourage and support one another, stimulate sharing and networking, recognize the value of different peacebuilding approaches and methodologies, learn from one another and give others hope and tools to attempt something similar in their own contexts. Network members believe that peace is possible and that it is practical ! Through practical means they attempt to respond to questions that have been with the ecumenical movement since 1937:

  • What alternatives has the church to offer to violence as a response to conflict?
  • What can the church do to lower or eradicate the incidence of violence in society?
  • How can the churches and Christians strengthen their capacity to remain in dialogue on deeply divisive social and political issues ?

I can assure you that the Peace to the City has not been the same since the CCSL joined the network. It has played a crucial role in shaping this new, grassroots, ecumenical peace network and has already participated in its training sessions, ecumenical delegations to the UN and other international forums. CCSL's analysis and down to earth approach to peacebuilding and disarmament matters in Sierra Leone are inspiring others to do the same. Its conviction and practice to promote dialogue and religious tolerance, human security, microdisarmament, peace education, conflict resolution and mediation in the churches and the community at large provide a powerful witness to the ecumenical movement and other partners all over the world.

On this special occasion, I would like to express a word of thanks to two wonderful people. Personally, it has been a delight to work with Ms Florella Hazeley, who has been coordinating the CCSL's participation in the network most efficiently and has been a great partner and sister. We have also greatly appreciated and benefited from Rev Alimamy Koroma's vision and leadership in this whole process. Without them we would not have been here today. Please accept my sincerest gratitude as well as WCC's reaffirmation to continue to cooperate with and accompany the CCSL Peace to the City Coalition in your critical ministry of peacebuilding and reconciliation.

You are launching the Peace to the City at a time when there is renewed uncertainty and growing violence, conflicts and wars in our world. Fear, insecurity, humanitarian crisis have taken center stage again. Internationally as well as nationally, we are seeing authorities ignoring civil liberties, human rights norms, principles and declarations they had all agreed to. There is a tendency for all to opt for simplistic analysis, and divide the world into clear categories of the good, the bad and the ugly. We rush to point fingers away from ourselves blame the other or a 'monster' that we have created. The use of symbols and the heavy religious dimension is being misused and abused. This is the time when we need alternative voices and experiences of peaceful coexistence highlighted. The experience of the CCSL in peaceful coexistence with its Muslim brothers and sisters is something that needs to take center stage instead. Peace work is not glorious nor is it a fast crisis response mechanism with immediate end results. Most of the times our work is done behind the scenes quietly for years on end before any positive signs are even visible. Being in solidarity with one another and knowing that we are not alone in this struggle is as important as the struggle itself. Jesus called us to be peacemakers and no matter what we have to always remember that we are all called to this ministry because of our faith in Him.

In closing, I would like to reiterate a warm welcome and congratulations on behalf of the WCC and all other existing Peace to the City Network partners from Beit Sahour, Belfast, Bethlehem, Boston, Braunschweig, Bogota, Colombo, Durban, Kingston, Rio de Janeiro, Tuzla and Yaoundé ! I pray that together we will be able to transform and overcome the violence that is engulfing us all and build a world based on justice and peace.

May God Bless you all !

Salpy Eskidjian
International Coordinator of the Peace to the City Network
Programme Executive for Peacebuilding and Disarmament
International Relations
World Council of Churches

©2004 world council of churches | remarks to webeditor