Protestant Churches issue joint Statement of Peace for the first time

For the first time, the Protestant Churches in Europe have issued a joint “Statement of Peace.” Under the title of “Remembering Together,” they commemorate the end of the First World War 100 years ago and the heavy burden of its legacy. With this critical and self-critical retrospection, the churches want to contribute to building fair structures. “In the face of the devastating and lasting effects of the war, the Churches are well aware of the importance of acting to promote peace and prevent civil conflict,” states the document adopted by the 8th General Assembly of the Community of Protestant Churches in Europe (CPCE) in Basel.

Territorial changes and shifting borders, collapsing multi-ethnic empires and emerging new states caused new injustices and upheavals whose repercussions are felt even today, the CPCE paper states, adding that the peace agreements of 100 years ago did not result in peace. The statement touches upon the issues of guilt, reconciliation, refugee movements and minorities, as well as democracy and civil society. The Churches are aware of the fact that the “the global political situation is very different now from 100 years ago.” Nonetheless, looking at the First World War, they still see questions and challenges “that have emerged time and again during the past 100 years but have hardly been resolved.” The paper states that in some countries, the repercussions of war persist subliminally and indirectly to this day. Regarding the issue of guilt, the self-critical question is raised where churches observed the enthusiasm for war uncritically or even supported or helped incite it. Or where they might have been so bound up in the spirit of the day that they helped legitimize a political system ideologically and theologically. Minority rights continue to be an issue in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe even today. Here, diaspora churches have often taken on the task of preserving not only the confessional, but also the cultural identity of their members, the paper states.

Exile and migration after the First World War with an estimated 9.5 million displaced and relocated people is seen as an event that was just as epochal as the current “influx of refugees” in Europe. The paper demands a “common European policy based on the values of the conventions on human rights and refugees.” And, the line of thought continues, those in Europe who seek to stem the flow of migration “cannot ignore the issue of how our economic, trade and agricultural policies have played a role in provoking the present migration from other regions and parts of the world.” The churches are called upon to keep the longing for peace and reconciliation alive and to defend democracy and the rule of law on all levels of state. On the anniversary of the armistice on November 11, the Protestant churches in Europe are encouraged to include the end of the war in their prayers of intercession.