Election Tools for Your Church: Challenge Your Candidates

Mennonite Church Canada has created a central web page for congregations to access election tools for Canada's May 2, 2011, federal election. Voters can use these tools in particular to challenge candidates on issues related to non-military solutions to peace.

The Canadian Council of Churches (which says it representsFind Your Candidate Here

85% of the country's Christians), the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, and Mennonite Central Committee's Ottawa office all have useful tools and information online that will help voters challenge candidates on central moral and ethical issues of the day, in the context of Christian values.

Personal peace building

Many well intentioned people believe that peace building needs to be the first priority option in any conflict. Yet, at a personal level, we often fail to recognize how our own behaviours fall short of our goals and ideals.

Quaker and therapist Lynn Fitz-Hugh of Washington state has compiled 50 years of personal experience about conflict and condensed it into 21Tips on Personal Peacemaking for the Friends Journal.

Courageous Muslim women challenges assassinations, blasphemy laws

Shahina Siddiqui, Executive Director of the Islamic Social Services Association, has challenged the early 2011 assassination by terrorists of Pakistan's federal minister for minorities, Shahbaz Bhatti, follows the brutal killing of Punjab Governor Salman Tasee.

In a March 4, 2011, in a Montreal Gazette op-ed piece, Saddiqui writes, “We do not honour the prophet by murdering the innocent in his name. We honour him by practicing compassion and dealing with mercy toward all of God's creation, yes, even those who hurt us,” echoing the Christian scriptural exhortation to love enemies and turn the other cheek.

Siddiqui further blames blasphemy laws in Pakistan for justifying the actions of the assassins.

"Please don't abandon us!" - Sudanese Churches

In a January 9, 2011 referendum nearly 99 percent of voters in southern Sudan – which is predominantly Christian and animist – chose to secede from the Islamic State of Sudan based in the northern capital of Khartoum.  In doing so they created the world's newest nation.

From left to right: Rev. James Lagos Alexander, Rev. Samuel Kobia and Bishop Robert Aboagye-Mensah.That the referendum came off peacefully and as scheduled is widely attributed to African religious leaders and ecumenical organizations in the region and throughout Africa, and the World Council of Churches. The referendum was mandated by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the north and south that churches were instrumental in brokering.  

The referendum ends nearly 60 years of intractable conflict in the country – which gained its independence from the British and Egyptian governments in 1956 – including two civil wars that consumed more than three decades (1963-1972 and 1983-2005). During those years more than 2 million Sudanese died and 4 million were displaced.

According to the CPA, the official independence from Sudan comes on July 9, 2011, at which time the nation is expected to be named the Republic of South Sudan.

Madagascar: Churches working to restore peace

Two years ago the idyllic island of Madagascar, home to some of the most pristine ecology in the world, fell into a political crisis that split the nation - and severely threatened the unity of the church.
Rev. Lala Rasendrahasina
Rev. Lala Rasendrahasina, president of the Church of Jesus Christ in Madagascar and a member of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee, was violently beaten and detained briefly by the military following the transfer of power of former president Marc Ravalomanana and his government in March, 2009.

But churches have not been standing idly by during this time, according to Rasendrahasina.

Churches must be one in faith and in action

Dr. Olav Fykse TveitIn his report to the first meeting of the World Council of Churches (WCC) since he was appointed its General Secretary, Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit  proclaimed that while churches are “called to be one” in their faith, they must also be one in their action on behalf of a just peace with dignity for all.

“We are called to address those in power,” he said, and to challenge world leaders “to listen to the cry for justice and for a better common future."

Areas of special concern for the WCC, its member churches and other partners, according to Tveit, include interfaith relations and dialogue, the churches and people of the Middle East and particularly Jerusalem and the rest of the Holy Land.

The issues of justice and peace will provide a focus for the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) at Kingston, Jamaica in May, 2011.

- from a WCC release

Graduate Studies in Peacemaking

Graduate study in peacemaking will be available for academic credit at the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC), May 17-23, 2011, in Kingston, Jamaica.

Sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the IEPC will offer “Overcoming Violence: An Engagement with the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation” for seminarians and other graduate students.

The course is accredited through the United Theological College of the West Indies in association with Boston University School of Theology, the WCC and the Boston Theological Institute.

The objectives of the course are to survey areas of violence which confront the churches, as discussed in plenary sessions and workshops at the IEPC, to develop skills as peacemakers with respect to IEPC themes, and to foster learning in the context of ecumenical formation.

A syllabus and a registration form for the course are available. Deadline for application is April 1, 2011.

- World Council of Churches release

Inspiring reflections on faith from Egypt

Winnipeg - It is Feb. 12, 2011, and Hosni Mubarak has stepped down after 18 straight days of mass public protest in Egypt. Meanwhile, people of faith from around the world ponder what the future holds when dividing lines formerly drawn by politics are increasingly being drawn by differences in spiritual belief.

Two stories from Egypt inspire hope:

Egypt's Muslims and Christians join hands in protest

In Egypt, Something Rare and Remarkable

Feb. 1-7 Designated Interfaith Harmony Week

“This is vital in times when there are many who seek to divide people of faith instead of finding ways to enhance our lives together through the elimination of all forms of intolerance and discrimination,” said Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in a story from the WCC.

Tviet was referring to Interfaith Harmony Week scheduled for the first seven days of February, 2011. On October 20, 2010, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously approved a resolution establishing the event, and adopted the first week of February as Interfaith Harmony Week

A global consultation of Muslim and Christian organizations addressing the topic “Transforming Communities” in November 2010 has endorsed the iniative. The consultation was convened at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva and was jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches (WCC), the World Islamic Call Society and A Common Word.

The WCC release says that "events being held around the world include interfaith luncheons in Australia, prayers for peace and bell ringing in Austria, inter-religious seminars in Pakistan, and an interfaith breakfast in Canada with Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, Lutheran and Hindu leaders." 

Israeli 12th Graders Choose Conscientious Objection to Military Service

Winnipeg -  A group of 12th graders in Israel calling themselves Shministim have been repeatedly sentenced to prison terms ranging from a few days to over a month for refusing to serve in Israel's military.

On their web site, objector Mia Tamarin writes, "I cannot become part of an organization the purpose of which is to fend off violence by violence, because it stands unequivocally contrary to everything I believe in and to my whole life. There always is another, non-violent option, and it is this option that I choose.”

The objectors have also started a Facebook group where they describe themselves as "... Israeli teenagers who refuse to take part in an army that illegaly and brutally occupies the Palestinian Territories and are willing to pay the price for our struggle against the occupation and in favor of peace."

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