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World's Ecumenical Leadership Writes Kofi Annan, Sudan's Church Leaders

September 7, 2004, NAIROBI, Kenya -- General secretaries of world and regional ecumenical bodies, among them the Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar of the National Council of Churches USA, concluded their annual meeting, held here Sept. 2-4, by addressing letters of support to United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and to Sudan's church leaders, also asking Mr. Annan for a meeting before year's end and Sudan's churches for word on how the world's churches can help them press for peace, especially in Sudan's Darfur region.

In their letter to Mr. Annan, they recall with appreciation his two meetings with ecumenical delegations in May 2004, particularly his "sincere recognition of the positive role which faith and religious commitment can and do play in working for reconciliation in a world of conflict and violence."  One step to follow up is the World Council of Churches' call to its member churches, which comprise more than 550 million Christians worldwide, to observe the U.N.'s International Day of Peace by joining people of all faiths in an International Day of Prayer for Peace.

They reaffirmed the "deep desire of our organizations and member churches to support the United Nations, and you personally, at this critical time on the world scene," and said they hope the U.N.'s forthcoming 60th anniversary observances will "present an opportunity for a just appraisal of the role which the U.N. has played since the Second World War, and at the same time an examination of how it can be adapted to fulfill more effectively its role in a world which has changed so much in sixty years." 

The leaders from Christian ecumenical bodies of eight continents and regions of the world -- Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, North America and the Pacific -- and of the World Council of Churches offer the U.N. Secretary General a suggestion -- that he deliver a periodic "State of the World" message on global issues, placing particular problems in a world perspective and pointing to wherever he sees signs of hope. 

The full text of the letter to Mr. Annan, including a list of signatories, follows.

Their letter to leaders of Sudan's churches recalls ecumenical engagement in the peace process since the early 1970s, noting that the World Council of Churches and the All Africa Conference of Churches especially "have played a major role in giving an ecumenical and global voice to the prevailing situation in the Sudan."  They express great concern for the current situation both in Southern Sudan and in the Darfur Region, including implementation of the peace agreements signed in Naivasha on June 13 and the urgent need to stop the "continuing killings of the people by the Janjaweed militias" in Darfur.

"We insist on the responsibility of the Government of Sudan in fulfilling its responsibility of caring for all the peoples of Sudan," they wrote, and they called "for a free movement of the humanitarian agencies to provide care and assistance to the people caught up in this unfortunate situation."  They concluded that they "stand to hear from you more of how we would be of greater assistance to you and your communities in the struggle for peace in Sudan."

The full text of the letter to the leaders of the Church in Sudan will follow shortly.

Mr. Kofi Annan
Secretary-General
United Nations
New York

Nairobi, 4 September, 2004

Dear Mr. Annan,

We write to you from Nairobi, Kenya, where we are meeting as representatives of the Christian ecumenical bodies of eight continents and regions of the world - Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, North America, the Pacific - and of the World Council of Churches. We are meeting during a time of appalling and continuing instances of conflict and violence, from nearby Sudan to North Ossetia in Russia and in the Middle East, but we greet you in the name of him who said, "Blessed are the peacemakers”.

In May this year several of us were privileged to meet with you in your office in New York. On 17 May Dr Sam Kobia, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, met with you and on 24 May you received a delegation of church representatives from the USA, Canada and Europe. We recall those meetings with deep gratitude and appreciation. We were moved by your readiness to find time in your schedule to receive us and by the evident seriousness with which you listened to us and attended to our concerns. We further appreciated your sincere recognition of the positive role which faith and religious commitment can and do play in working for reconciliation in a world of conflict and violence. We left much encouraged by a real sense of commonality of interest and purpose between yourself and ecumenical Christianity. Among the fruits of Dr Kobia's conversation with you has been the call to churches throughout the world to observe 21 September as a day of prayer for peace, to be shared with people of all faiths, and for this we are deeply thankful.

All of us meeting here in Nairobi wish to take this opportunity of reaffirming the deep desire of our organisations and member churches to support the United Nations, and you personally, at this critical time on the world scene. We believe that the UN remains the indispensable instrument of the nations of the world if they are to remove the scourge of war from the earth and to establish the conditions for peace, notably: observance of human rights, a just sharing of the earth's resources, eliminating poverty and all forms of discrimination. In face of all tendencies either to disregard it or exploit it for particular national ends, we believe that the unique status of the UN in the eyes of all its member states must be restored, accompanied by a renewed respect for international law and the desire to solve conflicts by a truly multilateral approach. We are committing ourselves to promoting this view of the UN in our respective church constituencies.

Soon the UN will be marking the 60th anniversary of its founding. We share the hopes of many that this will present an opportunity for a just appraisal of the role which the UN has played since the Second World War, and at the same time an examination of how it can be adapted to fulfill more effectively its role in a world which has changed so much in sixty years. Coming as we do from all regions of the world, we are very conscious that to many peoples and nations, especially outside Europe and North America, the inherited structures of governance of the UN do not adequately reflect the present realities and needs of the world as a whole. We look forward to sharing in and contributing to the coming debate on these issues, for we believe in the UN and in its future.

Returning to a more personal level, we especially wish you to know the deep respect and trust in which you are held among us and those whom we represent. It is difficult for us to conceive the pressures you must experience day by day, but we hope that on your part you can imagine the spiritual support with which you are surrounded. Be assured that every discouraging sign which you encounter, whether of indifference to or hostility towards the UN and your work, is being countered by the hopes and prayers of countless people of faith and goodwill around the world. We will always be ready to offer signs of this support in further meetings with you, and to hear your own expectations and hopes of the churches in facing the current challenges for peace and justice. Indeed we would welcome the opportunity of such a meeting before the end of this year and one of our colleagues will be in contact with your office about this possibility.

Attached to this sentiment we would like to offer a specific suggestion. We believe it would be very appropriate if, in addition to your statements on particular problems, crises and conflicts, and your reports to the governing bodies of the UN, you felt able from time to time to deliver what would amount to a "State of the World" message, addressing global issues and placing particular problems in a world perspective - and also pointing to wherever you see signs of hope. This, we believe, would not only serve to enhance the profile of the UN in the eyes of people at large, but also would help to generate and spread the sense that we are indeed living in one interdependent world where there can be no real peace and security for any if there is not peace and security for all.

These thoughts, wishes and hopes, which we convey for your kind attention, come with our heartfelt prayers that you may be given all needed strength and wisdom and find blessing as you seek to fulfill the responsibilities entrusted to you.

On behalf of our respective independent regional ecumenical organisations and the World Council of Churches,

Rev. Dr H. Mvume Dandala
General Secretary
All Africa Conference of Churches

Dr. Ahn Jae Woong
General Secretary
Christian Conference of Asia

Rev. Dr Kingsley Lewis
Member Continuation Committee
Caribbean Conference of Churches

Rev.  Keith Clements
General Secretary
Conference of European Churches

Rev. Israel Batista
General Secretary
Latin American Council of Churches

Mr. Guirguis I. Saleh
General Secretary
Middle East Council of Churches

Rev. Dr Karen Hamilton
General Secretary
Canadian Council of Churches

Rev. Dr Bob Edgar
General Secretary
National Council of Churches USA

Rev. Dr Sam Kobia
General Secretary
World Council of Churches

This letter is facilitated through the office of the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches.


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