[WCC] The bold idea that began at the World Council of Churches' (WCC) Eighth Assembly in Harare, Zimbabwe, in December 1998, became a reality Sunday (February 4) with the formal launch in Berlin of the Decade to Overcome Violence: Churches Seeking Reconciliation and Peace 2001-2010.
Beginning with a service of worship in the bomb-scarred Gedächtniskirche (Memorial Church) and climaxing with a candle-lit march from the Berlin House of World Cultures to the Brandenburg Gate, the Central Committee pledged "to work together to end violence and build lasting peace with justice".
The snowy march at the close of the day provided striking symbolism of the hopes for the Decade.
The marchers carried small votive candles inside red, green or yellow cups - the colours of the Decade to Overcome Violence. They marched through the snow past the dark Reichstag building toward the Brandenburg Gate. The famous gate at the site of the former Berlin Wall is being repaired and is covered by a gigantic canvas decorated with ghostly images of the structure.
The marchers then placed their glowing candles in the shape of the red heart and green and yellow globe of the DOV logo.
The general secretary of the WCC, Dr Konrad Raiser, stood bareheaded on a makeshift platform and addressed the shivering crowd.
"This gate has already witnessed many processions of protest with torches and candles," Raiser said, speaking in his native German. "The Brandenburg Gate itself is a symbol that stands for many things - lust for power and violent division, reunification and reconciliation."
Although the aims of the Decade are lofty, Raiser said it is not being launched out of starry-eyed idealism. "For us, the Decade journey must start with repentance for the violence that Christians and churches have tolerated or even justified. We are not yet the credible messengers of non-violence that the gospel calls us to be."
Raiser paid homage to martyred peacemakers. "Here in this place we remember the way travelled by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who would have been 95 years old today. We think of Oscar Romero, Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi." He concluded with a passage from Hebrews (Heb. 12:1-2), "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a crowd of witnesses... let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfector of our faith."