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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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Braunscheig Launch
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Opening event of the "Decade to Overcome Violence"
and "Peace to the City" in Braunschweig

"Violence has many faces", explained Ms Salpy Eskidjian - Programme Executive responsible for the "Peace to the City Network" of the World Church Council of Churches (WCC) - during a celebration launch of the Network's first German partner city in Braunschweig. "For this reason we have to seek ways and means to expose, name, confront and overcome violence in all forms. Peace-work is active non-violence, not just in times of war, but as a concerted preventative effort of various churches and agencies even in times of peace to solve conflict and to prevent violence."

The world-wide network "Peace to the City", has played an important role as it helped to inspire the ecumenical "Decade to Overcome Violence", launched by the WCC on Feb. 4th, 2001 in Berlin.

Braunschweig holds a unique role within the network, because in Braunschweig active violence prevention is the main topic on the city's agenda. Other cities have to challenge the many sources of existing urban, ethnic and political violence.

Violence prevention was also highlighted on May 19th 2001, when the Lutheran Church in Braunschweig, together with a host of ecumenical partners and NGO agencies, held the opening event of the "Decade to Overcome Violence" in Braunschweig. A far-ranging programme was organised, starting with morning workshops illustrating and highlighting different grass-roots initiatives against violence in families, schools, the workplace, in gender relations, rightwing parties etc. An internet-café organised by students added a special flavour to the event.

Many of the young people who acted as stewards for the workshops were very excited about the chances the Peace to the City Network has opened up for them. The said they very much looked forward to the "Peace Train Youth Exchange" which is going to link them with youth from Durban, South Africa who are coming to Braunschweig for a first visit in October 2001.

A march involving 200 youth carrying banners promoting peaceful togetherness led people to the church yard of St. Magni in Braunschweig, where a "market of possibilities" was set up. Here, many institutions and organisations introduced their peace initiatives and answered questions to the interested public. Also, they enjoyed the different activities organised for them: from African rap dance to Russian folklore and even a batting cage. One of the special highlights was the interview with Dr. Rubem Fernandes who gave an inspiring address about VivaRio, a peace cooperation of more than 300 institutions in Rio de Janeiro.

"All these wonderful people have come together to show an unmistakable sign of courage" outlined Rev. Klaus J. Burckhardt, initiator of "Peace to the City" in Braunschweig and "Steps against Violence", an anti-violence programme for schools.

Sigmar Gabriel, Presiding Minister of Lower Saxony, saw these initiatives as a "movement of the decent majority" and an "expression of civil courage": "No democratic society can accept violence as a solution for conflicts". And Heiner Bartling, minister of the Interior of Lower Saxony commented: "We have to challenge prejudice and broaden our minds to learn from others and to make sure that violence cannot develop".

A moving exhibition of children's paintings showed the horrible and lasting impact violence has on children all over the world. An accompanying documentation gave a brief background explanation of the pictures, making it unmistakably clear that nobody should experience such cruelty. "Everybody can be a peace maker" stresses Dr. Christian Krause, patron of the launch as Bishop of Braunschweig and President of the Lutheran World Federation.

The day ended with a special ecumenical worship service with sermons given by Bishop Krause and Mrs. Sue Brittion of Peace to the City Durban. Both speakers highlighted the special responsibility to safeguard German youth from the repetition of the past and to set positive signs against rightwing propaganda and hate. They also drew hope from the Biblical mandate of peace-making in Jesus' words of the Sermon on the Mount ." 'Love your enemy' is not poetry. It is strategy", Sue Brittion said. "For in the end it is the only way to leave the world a better place. Non-violent resistance is based on the faith that in the end justice will come because justice is right and God is good. Impossible? No, but difficult? Yes. As we move into this Decade to Overcome Violence in this new Millennium, let us take hope from the successes and failures of the past, and know that the future is in our hands. We can choose. We can do it. God expects no less from us."

©2004 world council of churches | remarks to webeditor