The "Decade to overcome violence" programme of the World Council of Churches and Peace in Nigeria : a theological assessment

Kajom, David Haji (2012-12)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2012.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This dissertation has been motivated by the prevailing trends of violence in Nigeria and the detrimental effects on human dignity as understood from a theological perspective. The call for peace building by the Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV) programme of the World Council of Churches (WCC) is an important attempt to address the issue of violence which should be taken seriously by the Christian church in Nigeria in its own efforts to address this problem. The increasing deteriorating relations and persistent inter-religious, socio-economic, political and cultural violent strife constitute primary contributing factors that threaten peace in Nigeria. For a long time, this concern has necessitated careful, honest and sincere revisiting. This research which is based on the DOV is motivated by the framework of the global human community which has been marked by numerous structures of violence, injustice, oppression and discrimination causing suffering to millions of men, women and children. Violence, whether physical, structural, psychological or in other forms, is shown to be a denial and abuse of life. Affirming human dignity, the basic rights of people and their integrity, shows that justice is vital to lasting peace and that the denial of the dignity of others serves as motivation for and usually also constitutes the first casualty of any form of violence. Violence, therefore, reaches beyond physical harm to the violation of the personhood of the other. Victims of violence referred to in this study are mostly the innocent and the powerless whose dignity is being violated by religious, social, economic and political structures. Nigerian history testifies to such denials of human dignity through the deplorable and persistent violence in the country. Furthermore, the world is responding to this situation, and similar situations elsewhere, with growing concern and determination. Since 2001, the World Council of Churches has been addressing violence in many different ways. It has generated significant alliances and measures to prevent violence and educate people on peacemaking, by declaring 2001-2010, the Decade to Overcome Violence. Through the DOV, the WCC has declared prevention of violence a public and organisational priority, thus, requesting all member states to establish violence prevention programmes within their ministries. One of the questions posed at the onset of the programme is whether it is possible to eradicate violence completely and establish world peace within a decade. However, the initiative does not actually claim that it would overcome all forms of violence. At the end of the Decade, violence might still be witnessed, but by participating in this global movement for peace, the churches would have become sensitised to situations of violence within and around them and would have been sufficiently motivated to participate in the task of healing the brokenness around them. The desire and aspiration to overcome the spirit, logic and practice of violence in a Christian and ecumenical spirit, however, is rooted in the gift and promise that Christ made to his disciples: “My peace I give you”, and “blessed are the peacemakers…” (Matthew 5:9). Against this background, engaging Hans Küng’s work becomes consequential, since a number of key implications for the Nigerian church and society have emerged in the attempt to consider Küng’s Christology of peace as a framework. Küng’s work is employed as the basic framework of this research as he provides us with a Christology of active non-violence and an ideology of peace. He presents us with a historical Jesus who demonstrated peace building and reconciliation in his ministry. Therefore, if the Christian tradition wants to contribute to peace in the contemporary world, then it needs to rediscover the radical non-violence of its founder and take seriously his disclosure of God. For Küng, peace can only have its root in the world (and that includes Nigeria), if it is established through radical humanism, transcendence, love and obedience.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die motivering vir hierdie tesis het ontstaan in die heersende tendens van geweld in Nigerië en die nadelige impak wat dit het op menswaardigheid, soos verstaan vanuit `n teologiese perspektief. Die oproep vir vrede deur die Dekade om Geweld te Oorkom (DGO) programme van die Wêreldraad van Kerke (WVK) is `n belangrike stap in die poging om die kwessie van geweld aan te spreek. Dit moet ernstig opgeneem word deur die Christelike Kerk in Nigerië en deel vorm van die kerk se pogings om hierdie probleem aan te spreek. Die toenemend verslegtende verhoudings en volgehoue inter-religieuse, sosio-ekonomiese, politiese en kulturele geweldadige worstelinge vorm deel uit van die bydraende faktore wat vrede in Nigerië bedreig. Hierdie bekommernis is al vir `n geruime tyd een wat versigtige, eerlike en opregte aandag nodig het. Hierdie navorsing is gebaseer op die DGO en is geinspireer deur die raamwerk van die globale menslike gemeenskap wat gekenmerk word deur verskeie strukture van geweld, onreg, onderdrukking en diskriminasie – wat lei tot die lyding van miljoene mans vroue en kinders. Geweld, of dit nou fisies, struktureel, sielkundig of in ander vorme gepleeg word, kan gereken word as `n miskenning en mishandeling van lewe. Deur menswaardigheid te bevestig, die basiese regte van mense en hulle integriteit, word daar gewys dat geregtigheid van kardinale belang is om volhoubare vrede te vestig. Die ontneming van hierdie waardigheid gewoonlik as `n motivering en eerste stap in die ontstaan van enige vorm van geweld beskou. Geweld strek daarom verder as fisiese skade en sluit ook in die skending van die menslikheid van ander. Slagoffers van geweld in hierdie studie is meestal die onskuldiges en magteloses wie se waardigheid aangetas is deur religieuse, sosiale, ekonomiese en politieke strukture. Nigeriese geskiedenis wys dat hierdie ontneming van menswaardigheid uit in die betreurenswaardige en aanhoudende geweld in die land. Die wêreld reageer op hierdie situasie, en soortgelyke situasies in ander lande, met groeiende bekommernis en vasberadenheid. Die Wêreldraad van Kerke het sedert 2001 geweld op verskeie maniere aangespreek. Dit het betekenisvolle alliansies en maatstawwe in plek gesit om geweld te voorkom en om mense op te lei in die sluit van vrede, onder meer deur 2001 – 2010 as die Dekade om Geweld te Oorkom te verklaar. Deur die DGO het die Wêreldraad van Kerke die voorkoming van geweld as `n openbare en organisatoriese prioriteit verklaar, en daardeur alle lidstate versoek om voorkomingsprogramme vir geweld binne hulle bedienings in plek te stel. Een van die vrae wat aan die begin van die programme gevra word, is of dit moontlik is om binne `n dekade geweld geheel en al uit te wis en wêreldvrede te vestig, alhoewel die inisiatief nie aanspraak maak daarop dat dit alle vorme van geweld sal oorkom nie. Aan die einde van die dekade mag daar moontlik steeds’ geweld voorkom, maar deur deelname aan hierdie globale beweging vir vrede, word kerke gesensitiseer oor situasies van geweld binne en rondom hulle en word hulle genoegsaam gemotiveer om deel te neem aan die taak om die gebrokenes rondom hulle te genees. Die begeerte en aspirasies om die gees, logika en praktyk van geweld te oorkom in `n Christelike en ekumeniese gees, is gegrond op die gawe en belofte wat Christus aan sy dissipels gemaak het: “My vrede gee ek vir julle” en “geseend is die vredemakers....” (Matteus 5:9). Die bestudering van Hans Küng se werk, veral sy Christologie van vrede, is gevolglik belangrik, aangesien dit `n aantal sleutel implikasies inhou vir die Nigeriese kerk en samelewing en `n raamwerk bied vir vrede. Küng se werk word aangebied as die basiese raamwerk vir hierdie navorsing, aangesien hy `n Christologie bied van aktiewe nie-geweldadigheid en `n ideologie van vrede. Hy bied `n historiese Jesus aan wat vredemaking en versoening in sy bediening gedemonstreer het. Daarom, as die Christelike tradisie iets wil bydra tot die bereiking van vrede in die kontemporêre wêreld, dan moet dit die radikale nie-geweldadigheid van sy stigter herbesoek en sy openbarings van God ernstig opneem. Volgens Küng kan vrede slegs in die wêreld bewerkstellig word (en dit sluit Nigerie in) as dit gevestig word deur radikale humanisme, voortreflikheid, liefde en gehoorsaamheid.

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