Religious actors play a critical role in peace processes

The war in Ukraine coloured the discussion at the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC), taking place in Karlsruhe, Germany between August 31st and 8 September 2022. Also highlighted was the role of the churches in peacebuilding and reconciliation, which led to a lively panel discussion on 5th September, organised by Finn Church Aid and the Network of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers.

THE TITLE of the panel discussion was “Faith-based actors’ role in peace-building and reconciliation processes”. Taking part were Archbishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, Most Rev. Dr. Tapio Luoma; Moderator of the WCC Central Committee, Dr. Agnes Abuom from the Anglican Church of Kenya; Ms Sally Azar from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan; and the Holy Land and Mr Matthias Wevelsiep from the Network of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers.

Since over 80% of the world’s population self-identify as as members of a religious group, religious actors play a critical role in peacebuilding, conflict transformation and reconciliation processes around the world. Mediators from a religious background work within communities, while tradition and faith serve as motivation and guide for peacebuilding.

The panel emphasised the importance of religious leaders and communities as well as other faith-based actors in peace processes.

“Looking globally, religious leaders have a lot of influence in their own communities, but also a great responsibility to act equitably and promote justice and peace with their own activities,” said Archbishop Tapio Luoma.

Moderator of the WCC Central Committee Agnes Abuom also emphasised the importance of ecumenical organisations as platforms for dialogue and peacebuilding.

four panelists and moderator
Panel discussion organised by FCA and Network of Religious and Traditional Peacemakers. PHOTO: KATRI SUOMI/FCA

Ecumenical cooperation to promote peace

The World Council of Churches was founded in Amsterdam in 1948 and includes 352 member churches from more than 120 countries. The Assembly is WCC’s highest decision-making body and meets every eight years. WCC’s mission is to promote Christian unity. Work to promote peace and justice has also been a key element of WCC’s operations since its foundation.

Finn Church Aid is WCC’s partner organisation, supporting WCC’s projects for peacebuilding in the Middle East as well as interreligious dialogue and cooperation. In addition, FCA works actively in the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), sending volunteers annually to East Jerusalem and the West Bank. During the three-month period, the volunteers monitor the human rights situation at the grassroots level, report on it and provide a protective presence to the locals.

FCA’s other global ecumenical partners are the ACT Alliance and the Lutheran World Federation.

Text: Sini Tyvi
Photos: Paul Jeffrey / WCC Assembly and Katri Suomi / FCA