23.05.17 | Press Reports, News

Commitment to peace and reconciliation is an indispensable part of mission

EMS Representatives at the Conference on the Peace Responsibility of Religions in Berlin

"Religion in the 21st century is misused more and more often to underpin claims to power. Agitators repress the forces of balance, take the law into their own hands and call for violence in the name of God," says Jürgen Reichel, General Secretary of the Evangelical Mission in Solidarity (EMS). In a world which is torn by conflict, the commitment to peace and reconciliation is an indispensable part of the mission and witness of the EMS Fellowship.

General Secretary Jürgen Reichel and Dr Uwe Gräbe, Middle East Liaison Secretary of the EMS and Executive Secretary of the Evangelical Association for the Schneller Schools, took part in the Conference on the Peace Responsibility of Religions in Berlin on 22nd May at the invitation of the German Minister for Foreign Affairs Sigmar Gabriel (SPD). Gabriel invited about a hundred international representatives of various religions to this conference to improve "the capacity of the German Foreign Ministry to analyse the situation, take appropriate action and harness the socio-political potential of religious communities for peace work", as it said in the 20th report of the German government on Germany's foreign and educational policy in March of this year. To this end a "Peace responsibility of religions" task force was set up in the German Foreign Ministry in October 2016. "Religious authorities enjoy enormous trust and support in their societies and therefore bear a special responsibility," it says in the report.

"The issue is becoming more and more urgent. What does the communication of the message of Jesus mean today in view of growing fundamentalism in many religions? What role can Christian churches play to promote peaceful coexistence between various religions?", asks Reichel. It is not just recently that these questions have preoccupied members of the Evangelical Mission in Solidarity (EMS). The projects supported by the Fellowship show the practical aspects of what the members of the 23 churches and five mission societies belonging to the EMS regard as the main priority of their actions.

For example, Christian, Muslim and Druze children attend the Johann Ludwig Schneller School in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. The school is managed by the National Evangelical Church of Beirut (NECB) and receives funds and practical support from the Evangelical Association for the Schneller Schools (EVS). There the children especially live and learn one thing together: to respect the religion and cultural characteristics of the other. Even communal prayer is possible. Quite naturally, the roughly 300 children from the school transmit the concept to their families that it is possible for members of different religions to coexist in peace.

Up to 1,000 young people are trained every year to become "angels of peace" in Ghana and learn methods of constructive conflict resolution. Another 100 teachers of both genders and parish leaders are trained to become instructors. As a result of this programme, the Presbyterian Church of Ghana makes its contribution towards preventing splinter groups of the Islamic terror group "Boko Haram" from the north of Nigeria from gaining a foothold in Ghana. Among the workshop participants are highly motivated young people: Christians and Muslims as well as members of youth associations of the political parties. Their slogan is "Ballots, not bullets!"

Freedom of religion is a major topic in Indonesian society. Fundamentalist Muslim groups repeatedly attempt to set up Islam as the dominant religion in the state and in everyday life. The Institute for Interfaith Dialogue in Indonesia (Interfidei) is an institution with inter-religious managers and is highly regarded in the country. As a partner of the EMS, it has been organising training courses, conferences and workshops for many years, for example for teachers at secondary schools, which are the central body for teaching democratic and pluralistic values for young people in Indonesia. In cooperation with female and male teachers of upper school classes, the institute develops a curriculum on the topic of religious diversity. The teachers also learn how to convey the values and contents of religious plurality to their pupils.

Press contact:
Regina Karasch-Böttcher, karasch-boettcher@ems-online.org, +49 711 636 78 85, Mobile +49 178 62 000 52

Jürgen Reichel, reichel@ems-online.org, Tel. +49 711 636 78 21, Mobile +49 178 636 78 31