Fifth Assembly of the World Council of Churches
Repubblica Democratica del Congo 11/1975The following resolutions were issued by the Fifth Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Nairobi, November 1975. Both texts and introduction are reprinted from The Church and the Jewish People: Newsletter No. 1/1976.
The Assembly in Nairobi has also contributed to the progress of Christian-Jewish dialogue,
1) because the statement of the General Secretary, rejecting the U.N. resolution condemning Zionism as racism was largely accepted by the delegates. The statement was not discussed in plenary and not voted upon; no disapproval of it was publicly spelled out. For Christians in Arab countries and elsewhere, the statement raised difficulties. It remained unaltered and is to be regarded as the official W.C.C. policy. In this and other cases plenary votes were not enforced, because the Assembly wanted to stay together, understand each other and not enforce opinions upon each other. If individual delegates or whole delegations would have had to leave because of majority votes forcing upon them an opinion which they cannot yet accept, this would not have helped anybody and not have been very Christian. We did not want to be another U.N., although sometimes this is difficult. The two resolutions of the Assembly (see pp. 4-5) on the Middle East conflict and on Jerusalem were prepared in the Cartigny Consultation (See Newsletter No. 4/1975).
2) because dialogue with world religions including Judaism was discussed thoroughly both in Section III « Seeking community — the common search of people of various faiths, cultures and ideologies », as well as in the hearing on the dialogue work between Uppsala and Nairobi. The concern for dialogue was also mentioned at other occasions in the Assembly. The report on Section III emphasizes that we cannot speak about dialogue in general: « Dialogue . . . varies in accordance with the nature of the partner. There is a very special relationship between Christianity and Judaism. The three West Asian religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam have a close historical relationship and theological interconnections . . . »
In the recommendations of the Assembly to the churches, we read: « sympathetic and critical studies onthe faiths and ideologies of people with whom the temporal destinies of Christians are intertwined . . . », or « preparing people adequately for dialogue and collaboration », or « deeper analysis and perceptive understanding of the cause of mutual distrust . . . » (the whole report of Section III is available on request). It is the first time that dialogue was so broadly discussed in an Assembly. The problem of its relationship to mission has not yet been fully solved, because both terms and realities are not in a dogmatic sense fixed. They are very much under discussion and therefore changing.
3) because Rabbi Arnold Wolf was together with representatives of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Sikkism an official guest of the Assembly. This was the first time that an Assembly of the W.C.C. had such guests from world religions. Rabbi Wolf contributed as the other guests in a most constructive way to the work of Section III, to the discussion in the Hearing on Dialogues, as well as in the Bible Study Group. In his first report, « Rabbi in Nairobi », he writes: « Saving souls is an older and more popular goal than making revolutions. Dialogue runs a poor third. Christianity should talk to Jews and others only when and if it remembers whom it must always talk about. Extra ecclesiam nihil salus was alive and well in Nairobi in December 1975 ». This certainly was one side of the picture which we must take seriously. It is not only a problem concerning Judaism, but also the other world religions. The Assembly just as current theology was deeply divided on this issue. (Rabbi Wolf's full report will appear in English in Common Ground and in German in the Theologische Rundschau. On request we will also send it.)
Resolution on the Middle East
1. The World Council of Churches has expressed concern regarding the situation in the Middle East on previous occasions. Events which have occurred in the area during the meeting of the Fifth Assembly in Nairobi have demonstrated anew that tensions persist there unabated.
2. We are concerned at the continued escalation of military power in the area which can only aggravate the threat to world peace from the unresolved conflict and stress the necessity for the great world powers to cease furnishing arms that maintain and aggravate tension.
3. We recognize that an international consensus has emerged as the basis for peaceful settlement on the following:
a) Withdrawal by Israel from territories occupied in 1967.
b) The right of all states including Israel and the Arab states to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries.
c) The implementation of the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination.
We are encouraged that the parties to the conflict seem to be progressively willing to accept these principles.
4. We recognize the Second Sinai Disengagement Agreement as a means of reducing tension between Egypt and Israel. However, since it is not addressed to the fears and distrust among Israel, other neighboring states, and the Palestinian people, this Agreement must be followed soon by resumption of the Geneva Peace Conference for reaching a total settlement on the basis of the principles mentioned above. The Geneva Conference should necessarily involve all parties concerned, including the Palestinians.
5. We note that some Arab states have recently declared their readiness, with the participation of the Palestine Liberation Organization, to seek agreement with Israel based upon these principles.
6. Although the parties have not trusted one another sufficiently until now to engage in dialogue, full mutual recognition by the parties must be seen not as a precondition to, but rather as a product of the negotiation. We call upon all parties to take those steps essential to negotiations with hope for success. Among these steps, we emphasize the cessation of all military activity, both regular and irregular, including terrorism.
7. Peace in the Middle East must be based upon justice and security for all concerned. The well-being of each party depends upon the well-being of all other parties. We urge the churches to help their constituencies to have more accurate information on and more sensitive awareness of the various dimensions of the Middle East conflict. The churches could thus help to promote mutual trust among the parties and to develop a responsible involvement in peaceful solution on the part of their members and the governments of their countries. This opportunity is open to churches within the area and the churches outside the area as well.
Resolution on Jerusalem
1. For many millions of Christians throughout the world, as well as for the adherents of the two great sister monotheistic religions, namely Judaism and Islam, Jerusalem continues to be a focus of deepest religious inspiration and attachment. It is therefore their responsibility to cooperate in the creation of conditions that will ensure that Jerusalem is a city open to the adherents of all three religions, where they can meet and live together. The tendency to minimize Jerusalem's importance for any of these three religions should be avoided.
2. The special legislation regulating the relationship of the Christian communities and the authorities, guaranteed by international treaties (Paris 1856 and Berlin 1878) and the League of Nations and known as the Status Quo of the Holy Places, must be fully safeguarded and confirmed in any agreement concerning Jerusalem. Christian Holy Places in Jerusalem and neighboring areas belong to the greatest extent to member churches of the W.C.C. On the basis of the Status Quo none of the church authorities of a given denomination could represent unilaterally and on behalf of all Christians the Christian point of view, each church authority of a given denomination representing only its own point of view.
3. Many member churches of the W.C.C. are deeply concerned about the Christian Holy Places. However, the question of Jerusalem is not only a matter of protection of the Holy Places, it is organically linked with living faiths and communities of people in the Holy City. Therefore the General Assembly deems it essential that the Holy Shrines should not become mere monuments of visitation, but should serve as living places of worship integrated and responsive to Christian communities who continue to maintain their life and roots within the Holy City and for those who out of religious attachments want to visit them.
4. While recognizing the complexity and emotional implications of the issues surrounding the future status of Jerusalem, the General Assembly believes that such status has to be determined within the general context of the settlement of the Middle East conflict in its totality.
5. However, the Assembly thinks that apart from any politics, the whole settlement of the inter-religious problem of the Holy Places should take place under an international aegis and guarantee which ought to be respected by the parties concerned as well as the ruling authorities.
6. The General Assembly recommends that the above should be worked out with the most directly concerned member churches, as well as with the Roman Catholic Church. These issues should also become subjects for dialogue with Jewish and Muslim counterparts.
7. The Assembly expresses its profound hope and fervent prayers for the peace and welfare of the Holy City and all its inhabitants.
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