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Ecumenical conference ends
with call for bold peacemaking

By Jordan Blevins

Philadelphia, January 20, 2009 – An ecumenical peace conference concluded here Jan. 17 with a declaration of God’s vision of peace for the world, and direct action calling for an end to gun violence on the streets of Philadelphia.

The gathering, Heeding God’s Call: A Gathering on Peace, was convened by historic Peace Churches: The Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends, the Church of the Brethren, and the Mennonite Church USA.

More than 300 delegates spent the week worshiping, participating in workshops, and focusing on what actions could be taken to bring God’s vision of peace to the world.

A statement from the group read, “Through prayerful worship and earnest study of the scriptures, our Gathering listened to God.  We were blessed with diverse participants, enthusiastic singing, and much laughter.  Workshops and small groups resulted in new friendships and fresh insights.  We were inspired by personal stories of people transformed by the Spirit to walk hand in hand with those who suffer.”

The gathering ended Friday night with worship and a reading of an epistle to the world, calling for a new beginning in the work for God’s Peace.

"Awaken with us to this new opportunity to act as the united Body of Christ, along with friends of peace everywhere, in a world desperately in need of justice and peace.  Let us be bold.  Resist disillusionment,” the epistle declared.  “The Holy Spirit must rise up in you and me to set all people free.  Our task is to practice hope and to act as instruments of God's peace.   Peace will come when people demand it and live it out.“

The epistle was unanimously adopted by all the participants, representing 23 different Christian communions. The full text, as well as audio from the gathering, can be found at www.peacegathering2009.org.

Participants then moved to put their words into action, completing a week of direct action against gun violence with worship, a march, and a rally calling on gun shops in Philadelphia to sign a code of conduct helping to prevent the illegal sale of handguns.  

Moving down Broad Street, the group of more than 300 sang songs, chanted for an end to gun violence, and encouraged passing motorized to honk to prevent gun violence. At the rally, Rev. Isaac Miller reminded participants that this was the start of something new, a faith based campaign to end gun violence, and to keep the energy going.

Participants left this gathering in Philadelphia with a message for their communities and the world: “Specific peacemaking actions are desperately needed in a world tormented by violence and oppression.  We implore friends of peace everywhere to heed God's call to prayerfully, earnestly, deliberately take action to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God (Micah 6:8). “


Jordan Blevins is assistant director of the National Council of Churches' eco-justice program in Washington.
NCC News contact:  Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228,
pjenks@ncccusa.org


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