As we join an international wave of prayer this week for peace in Palestine/Israel, we stand with the World Council of Churches in asserting that all forms of violence are deplorable and should end. We affirm that religious affiliations should not justify the application of different moral standards for different communities. We insist that International law, as an expression of justice for all peoples, must
be respected as a moral norm to be implemented politically and socially. We continue to stand
Palestinian Christians and Palestinian and Israeli human rights groups working to uphold international law. The Methodist liaison office is one sign of our ongoing response to the cry of Palestinian Christians for their sisters and brothers in faith around the world to come and see the impact of the occupation.
In this week, we continue to pray that the conflict and division that have crushed so many lives in the region over generations may cease. We pray that the hope we share for a renewal and peace be a source of strength for all who work towards reconciliation and for those whose lives are dominated by fear and uncertainty in Israel/Palestine.
Bishop John K. Yambasu
Recipients of the World Methodist Peace Award for 2020 and 2021 are announced by World Methodist Council General Secretary Ivan Abrahams. “This Award is given annually by the World Methodist Council to individuals or organizations who have contributed significantly to peace, justice and reconciliation,” Bishop Abrahams said, “and it is a privilege to announce these two outstanding individuals for their untiring efforts.”
The recipients were chosen at the Council’s Steering Committee meeting held in August. The Committee did not choose a recipient last year, so both the 2020 and 2021 recipients were named this year as the Committee met virtually.
Both men have boldly worked for peace and in their respective areas of the world but have also been instrumental in inspiring others to work for peace globally.
The late Bishop John K. Yambasu, the 2020 Peace Award recipient, was chosen for being a courageous peacemaker in his home country of Sierra Leone and across the United Methodist connection for many years. He provided critical leadership during the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak and the 2017 mud landslide, both of which killed thousands of his fellow citizens. He was known for choosing to speak truth, even in difficult situations, while at the same time living peaceably with all people and was a role model to the United Methodists in Africa and across the connection, his nomination stated.
Bishop Yambasu grew up in poverty and is quoted as having said, “I know through and through what poverty is. I have slept with it and I have woken to it. Countless times, I went to bed without food. I have not only experienced poverty, but for almost ten years I had to wrestle with it. Today in Sierra Leone, I live side by side with poverty and misery.” He then said, “I am totally fed up!…We need to embrace each other” Red and yellow, black and white, poor and rich, have and have-nots, gay or straight, bisexual or homosexual, polygamists, we all need to engage each other… We need to torment God with our prayers and give us sleepless nights until we can look at each other in the face and say, ‘We are brothers and we are sisters’.”
The Bishop was creative in thought and action and
was consistent throughout his life. He served the
people around him as the focus of his call to ministry. He was a leader in the “Imagine No Malaria” campaign, the Ebola crisis, and COVID-19 pandemic. He was a teacher to young people, founder of the Child Rescue Center, and shortly before his death in an automobile accident, was elected Chancellor of Africa University.
His nominees said that Bishop Yambasu was a man of peace: peace for those living with illness, peace for children struggling in poverty, peace across nations and continents. He exemplified the best in Christian peacemaking.
The Rev. Olav Pärnamets of Estonia was named to receive the 2021 Peace Award. His contribution to world peace began with Europe in the second half of the 20th century. The tiny Baltic country of Estonia enjoyed less than a quarter of a century as a free republic during the first half of the 20th century. Still, during that time, the Methodist Church planted roots and grew. Born in 1937, Rev. Pärnamets spent most of his childhood and adult ministry under the strict and oppressive control of the Soviet Union, his nominees explain. Yet, this man served as a pastor and district superintendent, displaying great courage when the government of Estonia oppressed those who even participated in religious activity. Worship, theological study and evangelical activities were suppressed with the threat of punishment. But he traveled the world to share about the faithfulness of the people called Methodists in this Baltic country.
One of Rev. Pärnamets greatest strengths is creativity. With little to no money and Big Brother watching, he led by faith, and his unique ability to bring together people from different cultures, nations and backgrounds is evident in the vital Estonian church.
“Whether challenged to abandon God for the state as a child, to give up his Bible while conscripted in the military, or faced with needs and not enough resources, Rev. Pärnamets has always leaned on God’s grace,” said his nomination. His actions as a child, a youth worker, a deacon, pastor, superintendent and ecumenical leader are evidence of his life-long peace efforts. His vision of a Baltic Mission Center became a reality through the generosity and friendship of people he influenced worldwide. There is a Baltic Theological Seminar that equips and sends clergy all over Europe. More than 90 percent of todays’ clergy in Estonia were educated there. Retiring in 2014, Rev. Pärnnamets remains active.
“The Peace Award is the highest honor of the World Methodist Council,” Bishop Abrahams explains. The criteria for the Peace Award are courage, creativity and consistency in one’s witness to peace, justice and reconciliation.
Previous recipients of the award include, among others, Presidents Jimmy Carter, Anwar Sadat, Nelson Mandela, Boris Trajkovsky (Macedonia), Father Elias Chacour, The Community of St. Egidio (Rome) and the Grandmothers of the Plaza De Mayo (Argentina).
More information on the 2020 and 2021 Peace Award recipients will be available when the public presentations are made. The dates for the presentations will be announced when available.
Rev. Olav Pärnamets
Due to the continuing challenging times from the COVID-19 Pandemic, the twenty-second Conference of the World Methodist Council was further postponed.
At the two-day virtual meeting of the Steering Committee in August, it was unanimously agreed that the global WMC family from around the world could not safely gather in Gothenburg, Sweden in August of 2022. President J.C. Park announces that a new date for the Conference will be set in the Spring of 2022.
WMC Program Chair Rev. Dr. Martyn Atkins and members of the host committee including Bishop Christian Alstead, Uniting Church President Lasse Svensson and others were consulted. Everyone agreed that a more meaningful Conference could be held at a later date. On the Move will continue to be the theme, and the issues of Migration, Justice and Hospitality are evident to be more pertinent now than when the theme was initially chosen.
More information on the Conference will be published as available in this newsletter, on the web pages of the Council and Conference, and Twitter.
Thank you for staying with us in partnership, as we the Methodist, Wesleyan and United church family, continue together On the Move.
“While we share many of the concerns upon which these sanctions are based, they have failed to resolve those concerns, despite being among the most rigorous, systemic and longest-standing sanctions regimes ever imposed,” reads the letter. “Moreover, the direct and indirect effects of the current sanctions have had very serious negative impacts on humanitarian access and action in North Korea.”
Though it is often affirmed that sanctions are not intended to harm ordinary people or to prevent humanitarian assistance, in practice the sanctions have presented major obstacles to such efforts, notes the letter.
“In addition to food shortages, reported health crises, and recent floods in North Korea represent a heavy toll of suffering for the people of the country,” reads the letter. “Several of our organizations are ready and standing by to offer needed humanitarian aid and services as soon as circumstances permit.”
Sauca also called for a new general license for humanitarian goods and services, and an approved banking channel for these purposes. “Furthermore, we consider that the current sanctions regime and travel ban are counterproductive to the pursuit of peace in the region and to the reduction of the risk of potentially catastrophic conflict,” continues the letter. “In our view, the failure to consider even incremental relaxation of sanctions was a key factor in the collapse of recent efforts at political engagement for peace.”
The rigid maintenance of ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions has only served to poison the political environment for dialogue and reduction of tensions, notes the letter. “A more flexible policy is needed to create new possibilities for constructive engagement,” the text reads. “We believe that people-to-people encounters are essential for building peace.”
Policies that prevent such encounters can only entrench conflict and division, the letter concludes. “Accordingly, we also urge you to bring to a permanent conclusion the travel ban that prevents US citizens from meeting and providing assistance to North Korean people in their country,” the text reads. “We hope that these concerns can be taken into account in the current review of US sanctions policy mandated by your Administration.”