15 May 2006 — Ambassador Alyson J.K Bailes from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), making a keynote speech, emphasised the importance of regional cooperation across national borders as a mechanism for conflict prevention, non-violent conflict management and peacekeeping.
Churches committed themselves to monitor developments towards a more coherent security and defence policy in the European Union – emphasizing the need for an effective early warning and conflict prevention system as well as non-violent means of conflict resolution and maintenance.
The Church and Society Commission urged the European Union and its Member States to strengthen the Union’s capacity in the area of non-military interventions. It also called for the establishment of a European Peace Agency in order to enhance additional research and an active engagement in conflict prevention and the peaceful settlement of conflicts.
The plenary meeting recognized the important contribution of the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in conflict prevention through the implementation of human rights as well as through strengthening civil society.
Peter Brune, Director of the church-related Life and Peace Institute in Uppsala, challenged the audience to recognize the expertise within churches to engage in conflict prevention and non-violent conflict mediation.
But he also stated, “As churches we need to increase our competence on peace and conflict.” In particular, he urged Christians to become more involved in discussions about security issues. “What is the churches’ understanding of security and which consequences derive from that?” he asked.
In an age where religion is often misused or portrayed as fuelling conflicts, the Church and Society Commission committed itself to enhance its work in relation to peace, security and reconciliation – in relation to the European institutions on the one hand and in supporting a strengthened witness of the churches on the other.
The main emphasis of the Church and Society Commission work programme in this field, it said, will be to reflect on the relationship of security and vulnerability from a faith perspective, to promote conflict prevention and non-violent forms of conflict management in relation to the European Institutions, and to support existing (church-related) networks in their efforts to capacity building and promoting a regional approach.
The Conference of European Churches (CEC) is a fellowship of some 125 Orthodox, Protestant, Anglican and Old Catholic Churches from all countries of Europe, plus 40 associated organizations. CEC was founded in 1959. It has offices in Geneva, Brussels and Strasbourg.
© 2006 Ekklesia. Posted on Religioscope with permission. An initiative of the Anvil Trust, Ekklesia is a not-for-profit think-tank which works to promote theological ideas in the public square. Website: www.ekklesia.co.uk