The 2004 US Conference for the WCC Opens with Calls for Peace

Hundreds of church leaders and ecumenical forerunners gathered in Atlanta, Georgia, for the annual United States Conference for the World Council of Churches (WCC), on Oct. 5, 2004. During the keynote address, the General Secretary of the WCC encouraged U.S. churches to carry the responsibility of maintaining peace and justice, and thanked the U.S. peacemakers for their work.

Given that "the US is now the world's only superpower" and that "its policies and actions have consequences for every country in the world", people around the world "are afraid of US power and the way it is being used,” the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia expressed.

In this context, US churches are expected to "continue to advocate for a responsible use of power", while their responsibility "to speak truth to power" becomes "difficult and risky,” Kobia continued.

"This is precisely why churches worldwide are mobilized in support of communities in the US that uphold another power, the power of peace, in all places and at all times," stated Kobia. "They expect much from you, because indeed much has been given to you.”

At that end, Kobia reminded the U.S church leaders that they can be an inspiration for people everywhere through the “vitality and creativity of peace and justice work in the US,” as well as the churches’ “spiritual discernment and prayer".

Following Kobia’s keynote speech, the senior pastor of the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, Rev. Dr Joseph L. Roberts, Jr., gave a sermon emphasizing the Martin Luther King Jr quote: "true love is a painful embrace".

As God "painfully embraces the world with all its evils," asked Roberts, "will our arms reach those who are suffering" from Beslan to Abu Ghraib, from Darfur to the thousands of women and children introduced every year into the US and sold into forced labour and prostitution?”

Meanwhile, Atlanta’s Mayor Shirley Franklin, who attended the press conference held at the City Hall after the opening session on Oct. 5, gave tribute to the WCC for its work in advocating peace.

"As Atlantans and as Americans, we applaud the WCC for its tireless pursuit of peace and justice throughout our global community and for initiating the Decade to Overcome Violence," said Franklin.

Along the same note, Franklin presented the WCC with the city’s Phoenix Award for its commitment to reconciliation and peacemaking.

The remainder of the conference will focus on recognizing ten peacemakers from secular, ecumenical and interfaith communities, whose courageous efforts made a difference in the peace and justice-making works worldwide.

The “Blessed are the peacemakers awards” will be presented to 10 peacemakers and their organizations. The awards ceremony will take place on October 6, 2004, at the Historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, during the Conference’s closing service.

The following are the list of organizations and individuals that will receive the award:

Concerned Black Clergy of Metropolitan Atlanta, Inc - This interfaith, interdenominational, non-partisan organization has been active in many aspects of promoting peace, including peace rallies, forums and workshops on peace issues and seeks to address homelessness, hunger, housing, economic development, education, juvenile justice, and health issues in Metropolitan Atlanta.

Adopt-a-Minefield, Atlanta Chapter, one of the recipients, will receive an award for its fund-raising efforts to clear six minefields in Mozambique. This Atlanta-based organization has also been involved in peacemaking and advocacy in support of the Landmine Ban Treaty and educating groups about the scourge of landmines worldwide.

Also receiving the award is Hodan Osman, a Somalian refugee who has helped to build bridges among children of different faiths and cultures. She has studied peace and justice through the Friends Service Committee and has provided leadership to children and teenage girls to learn to live with others.

The American Friends Service Committee, Southeast Regional Office - The committee's program on the Middle East brings education about justice, peace and violence in the Middle East to the Atlanta community.

The Decatur Cooperative Ministry's "Hagar's House" - This shelter provides temporary, emergency housing and support services for women with children.

The First Congregational United Church of Christ - Known for providing the first public water fountain in Atlanta that was available for use by blacks - and any others who wished to quench their thirst - upon completion of the construction of the current building in 1909.

Harmony: Atlanta's International Youth Chorus - This broad-based multicultural community group is dedicated to choral excellence, known for its partnership with peacemaking leaders and groups. The chorus has sung for Jimmy Carter and Desmond Tutu, among others, and participated in events such as the Georgia First Lady's Summit on Our Children and Africa's Children's Fund.

Rev. Dr. Henry Jee - The late doctor was a native of Korea who received numerous awards from secular, religious and intercultural organizations for his 30 years of community relations work in Atlanta.

The Open Door Community - This residential community does advocacy work on behalf of prisoners, the homeless and other oppressed persons.

The Regional Council of Churches of Atlanta - Once known as the Christian Council of Metropolitan Atlanta, this organization's 1957 "Ministers' manifesto" was signed by 315 local clergy in support of public school desegregation.