Washington, DC (BWA)--In May of this year, the Baptist World Alliance (BWA) sent official representation to the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in Kingston, Jamaica, meeting under the theme, "Glory to God, peace on earth." Approximately 1,000 delegates and representatives from more than 100 countries attended.
BWA Vice President Burchell Taylor, representing General Secretary Neville Callam at the convocation, said the meetings were held in a context where "fresh threats to peace, both in individual places and in relation to the global community, were on the horizon." This, he said, made it imperative that peacemaking "be pursued resolutely and with renewed vigor."
The convocation occurred while there were conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as elsewhere. In these conflicts, Baptists have not been untouched. Baptists in Syria report being adversely affected by the unrest in that country, with children suffering in particular. Livelihoods of Baptists have been disrupted as businesses have been curtailed. Baptists in Lebanon have been called into action to minister to the hundreds of Syrian refugees that have poured into that country, with assistance from Baptist groups around the world, including Baptist World Aid, the relief and development arm of the BWA.
Our Baptist brothers and sisters in Egypt have also been affected by the recent unrest in that country in the quest for greater openness and freedom. These and many other instances, such as in Maiduguri in Borno State in Nigeria where the Victory Baptist Church was attacked by about 10 sectarian gunmen in December 2010, damaging the church building and killing its pastor and several members, should lead us, Baptist Christians, to care about the issue of peace.
Our concern for peace should be so whether or not Baptists are affected, for peace is a gift from Christ our Lord, whom scripture describes as the Prince of Peace. "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you," he told his followers.
The BWA has passed a plethora of resolutions on peace since its 5th Baptist World Congress in 1934 in Berlin, Germany. The latest of these resolutions were passed in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in July of this year by the BWA General Council, one of which endorsed the 10 practices of "just peacemaking" developed by scholars led by Glen Stassen, a Baptist professor in the United States.
Another resolution "urges Baptists around the world to work and pray for a just resolution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine" and reaffirmed the Baptist commitment "for people of all religions to live at peace with one another in the same geographical space."
It is therefore not farfetched for the BWA to give support to the quest for true peace by all well thinking groups and persons. The BWA supports such observances as the International Day of Peace that was first established in 1981 by the United Nations General Assembly to coincide with its opening session in September of each year.
Peace is a crucial concept for Christians. It includes reconciliation with God, with each other, and with local and global neighbors. Such peace includes justice and respect for the fundamental rights of all human beings.