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Archbishop Tutu delivers Ecumenical Caucus statement at World Conference against Racism

Posted on: September 7, 2001 11:10 AM
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5 September 2001

[World Council of Churches] A statement addressed to the media by the Ecumenical Caucus at the UN World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (WCAR) will be issued today, 5 September, at 4 p.m. local time by Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

The Ecumenical Caucus includes representatives of the World Council of Churches (WCC), United Methodist Church (General Board of Church and Society and General Board Global Ministries), United Church of Christ/Disciples of Christ, Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Church World Service and Witness/National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, Diakonia Council of Churches (Durban), Church of England, Sisters of Mercy, Canadian Council of Churches, Presbyterian Church USA, Church of Christ in Thailand, Medical Mission Sisters, Christian Reformed Church of Canada, and Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa.

The text of the Statement of the Ecumenical Caucus follows:

"Racism is a sin. It is contrary to God's will for love, peace, equality, justice and compassion for all. It is an affront to human dignity and a gross violation of human rights.

Human dignity is God's gift to all humankind. It is the gift of God's image and likeness in every human being. Racism desecrates God's likeness in every person. Human rights are the protections we give to human dignity. We participate in the human rights struggle to restore wholeness that has been broken by racism. The struggle against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances is the struggle to sanctify and affirm life in all its fullness.

Racism dehumanizes, disempowers, marginalizes and impoverishes human beings. Its systematic and institutional forms have resulted in the death of many peoples, the plunder of resources, and the decimation of communities and nations.

Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerances all work, singularly and collectively, to diminish our common humanity. They thrive within the intersections of race, caste, colour, age, gender, sexual orientation, class, landlessness, ethnicity, nationality, language and disability. The dismantling and eradication of racism requires that we address all its manifestations and historical expressions, especially slavery and colonialism.

As people of faith, we call on all peoples, non-governmental organizations and governments to earnestly strive to break the cycles of racism and assist the oppressed to achieve self-determination and establish sustainable communities, without violating the rights of others.

The time to dismantle and eradicate racism is now. It is urgent for us and our churches to acknowledge our complicity with and participation in the perpetuation of racism, slavery and colonialism, or we are not credible. This acknowledgment is critical because it leads to the necessary acts of apology and confession, of repentance and reconciliation, and of healing and wholeness. All of these elements form part of redress and reparations that are due the victims of racism, past and present.

As a faith community we pledge to struggle against racism and all its manifestations in the hope that God's people fulfil today the Gospel mandate that we "may all be one" (John 17:21).

To the above ends we commit ourselves to put the following priorities before the World Conference Against Racism as well as to our churches and related ecumenical bodies and institutions:

1. Slavery, colonialism, apartheid and reparations. For our churches and governments to acknowledge that they have benefited from the exploitation of Africans and African descendants and Asians and Asian descendants, and Indigenous Peoples through slavery and colonialism. We further call upon our churches to address the issue of reparations as a way of redressing the wrongs done, and to be clear that the trans-Saharan and transoceanic - Atlantic, Pacific and Indian - slave trade and all forms of slavery constitute crimes against humanity.

2. Palestine. For the end of Israeli colonialist occupation in the occupied Palestinian territories, the achievement of the right to self-determination by the Palestinian people, including the right of return, and for the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state. We encourage dialogue between and among Jews, Muslims and Christians to promote peace, tolerance and harmonious relationships.

3. Dalits and caste-based discrimination. For the recognition of Dalits among the victims of racial discrimination and for caste-based discrimination to be included in the list of sources of racism. Further, that mechanisms be evolved by governments and the United Nations to prohibit and redress discrimination on the basis of work and descent.

4. Roma, Sinti and travellers. For churches and governments to recognize that they have exploited Roma through slavery, ethnocide and assimilation. Governments should adopt immediate and concrete measures to eradicate the widespread discrimination, persecution, stigmatization and violence against the above peoples on the basis of their social origin and identity. Public welfare, including accommodation, education, medical care, and employment, as well as citizenship and political participation must be ensured for them. All these concerns must be addressed with the participation of Roma, Sinti and Travellers and their communities.

5. Migrant workers and globalization. To ensure that all migrant workers have the right to fair working conditions, decent wages and the right to organize, free from racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerances, both in sending as well as receiving countries. We urge governments to legislate against and stop the trafficking of women and children for sexual exploitation and domestic labour. Poverty and landlessness breeds racism. The relation between migration, poverty and landlessness must be analyzed especially under schemes of privatization and globalization.

6. Migrants, asylum-seekerst, refugees, and internally displaced peoples. To acknowledge that racism and all its manifestations are at the root of discrimination against refugees, migrants, asylum-seekers, displaced peoples, undocumented persons and internally displaced persons. We urge the United Nations to call on governments to take appropriate action to protect the rights of such individuals in both the receiving as well as the sending countries, ensuring them freedom of movement, equitable access to education and health, housing and legal services.

7. Indigenous peoples. To join efforts with all entities to stand in solidarity with Indigenous Peoples in their struggles for self-determination and in their efforts to build peaceful and sustainable communities and to safeguard their indigenous knowledge, resources, land and ancestral domains, free from discrimination and based on respect, freedom and equality. We also call on all of us to embrace the richness of the social, cultural, spiritual and linguistic diversities of Indigenous Peoples.

8. Religious liberty and religious intolerance. To promote religious freedom and religious liberty as human rights. Any intolerance, aggression towards, or denial of this freedom to anyone and any community or society is an attack on human dignity. Even as churches must examine their complicity in religious intolerance in the past and present, we call on churches and governments to respect the freedom of religion or belief and protect the act of religious worship. We must acknowledge the negative impacts of religion, including the uncritical use of sacred texts that unduly results in the assertion of superiority of one group over another, but especially so on women, and take immediate steps to address the violence that stems from such impacts.

9. Children and young people. To ensure and empower children and young people to have a voice and be included in anti-racism strategies. Non-governmental organizations and governments should develop programmes in consultation with children and young people on all matters aimed at educating them about their rights, involving them in cultural, political and economic decision-making, and assisting them in creating positive self-identity and confidence, ensuring that their ethnic, indigenous, linguistic and religious heritages are valued.

10. Follow-up and monitoring mechanisms. To ensure that there are clear follow-up measures and monitoring mechanisms to both the implementation of and adherence to the aspirations contained in the Declaration and the concrete actions contained in the Programme of Action of the World Conference Against Racism. Considering the specificity of women's experiences of racism, the Programme of Action must incorporate gender analysis. National action plans must be developed and resources identified and allocated for the implementation of this Programme. The Programme of Action must be gender-sensitive on all levels - local, national and international."