Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Meeting issues ‘Letter from Santo Domingo to All Churches.’

Representatives of the Historic Peace Churches in Latin America have issued a "Letter from Santo Domingo to All Churches" as a joint declaration calling on churches worldwide to commit to work to overcome violence.

The conference on Nov. 27-Dec. 2, 2010, was the fourth and final in a series of peace church conferences that have been part of the World Council of Churches Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV). More than 70 Brethren, Friends (Quakers), and Mennonites from some 17 countries gathered in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic, on the theme, "Hunger for Peace: Faces, Paths, Cultures." The effort flows into the culminating conference of the DOV, the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation to be held in Jamaica next year.

The letter is written in 13 sections beginning with an overview of the history of the event, and the types of stories and theological reflections that were offered. It continues with calls to care for particular vulnerable communities, shared challenges for peacemaking, concerns for political and disaster-related situations in certain countries, calls for peace churches to help build public policy and to work together, and dreams for the overcoming of violence.

The letter closes with the invitation for "all churches in Latin America and around the world to come together in this movement to overcome violence and reject any possibility of just war." (Find the full letter, in Spanish and English, at

The letter was formulated by a small committee that gathered a "sense of the meeting" out of the presentations at the conference, with an approval process conducted in the consensus tradition of the Friends. The formulating committee had the job of reducing several days of presentations, testimonies, reports, and personal stories into a document of common understandings. The committee included César Moya, Delia Mamani, and Alexandre Gonçalves.

Testimonies shared during the conference revealed difficulties as well as opportunities for Brethren, Mennonite, and Quaker churches working for peace in Latin America and the Caribbean. Reports and stories of church programs, and other personal efforts, addressed broad areas of peacemaking, justice and human rights work, and services meeting human needs.

Also presented were the theological roots of peacemaking in the three peace church traditions (find a report of the Brethren presentation on a peace church hermeneutic given by Gonçalves at

Worship services were hosted by local Mennonite and Brethren congregations, with evening devotions led by the three denominational groups. On one afternoon the group experienced an "alternative" tour of colonial Santo Domingo with an emphasis on the genocide, slavery, and other injustices set in motion with Columbus’ arrival in the Americas.

Alix Lozano, a Mennonite minister who has taught for 16 years at a seminary in Colombia, set the tone for the conference with her opening sermon calling for a focus on the "peace of the city." She called for the church to carry out peacemaking at the service of the surrounding community. Noting a text in Jeremiah in which the prophet tells the exiles in Babylon that, in Lozano’s words, "from the wellbeing of the city depends your wellbeing," she urged: "Work for your city, and pray for it."

Suely and Marcos Inhauser of Igreja da Irmandade (Church of the Brethren in Brazil) closed the conference by jointly preaching the evening sermon at host congregation Mendoza New Anointing Church of the Brethren, a Haitian-Dominican church. The story of the newly resurrected Christ appearing to his disciples while they were in hiding from the authorities, was related to Haitian experiences of oppression and discrimination in the DR and became a challenge to confront violence and oppression head on.

"I really love this Jesus of ours because he was so courageous," the Inhausers preached, pointing out that after the resurrection Jesus returned to the same city in which he had suffered torture and death. Nothing can be done about violence and oppression if we run away, they said, "We have to face it with a witnessing presence." They called believers to move out of shelter and hiding and into the world as disciples of Christ. "I need you to get out and spread the peace."

Webcasts of many of the presentations at the conference are at A photo album is at

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