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.”
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With its horrible human harvest, the COVID-19 pandemic has instilled fear, extreme anxiety, and confusion like no other natural calamity in recent history. The pandemic forcefully reminds us that we are one world, one humanity, and more interdependent than we imagined. It has also exposed the fault lines of global inequality in access to health care and other basic needs.
COVID-19 offers us an opportunity to stand together and press the reset, revision, and recalibrate button to work for a transformed world in which we commit to sharing resources, walking softly on the earth, and affirming dignity of all humanity. We note with gratitude the work of the World Health Organization, the United Nations, and other international organizations.
We commend the bold initiative by President Biden to remedy vaccine apartheid globally through the purchase and donation of half a billion vaccines to 92 low and lower-middle-income countries and the African Union. We, however, note that more needs to be done, like the approval of the TRIPS waiver to remove the legal barriers to cooperation in generic manufacturing of Covid-19 medical products.
As we navigate unchartered waters, the World Methodist Council stands in solidarity with inter-faith leaders. We tap into the spiritual resources of all religions and people of goodwill to work towards a substantial structural and systemic change that will allow the poor greater access to healthcare.
Together we can do more and make a difference!
Ivan M Abrahams General Secretary
In a letter to the G20 finance ministers before the International Tax Symposium on 9 July, organizations representing a half billion Christians worldwide urged that it has never been more urgent and necessary to fix our broken global tax system.
Photo: Marcelo Schneider/WCC
The World Council of Churches, World Communion of Reformed Churches, Lutheran World Federation, World Methodist Council, and Council for World Mission urged strong social protection measures in all countries to ensure that the poor and vulnerable are able to weather COVID-19’s unprecedented health and economic consequences.
“The pandemic has revealed once again the importance of people’s access to essential health care and basic income security throughout their lives,” reads the letter. “To date rich countries have spent 35.6 percent of their GDPs on responding to the health emergency and supporting employment and businesses.”
In contrast, low-income countries were only able to expend a meagre 6 percent of their GDPs on fighting the pandemic and are even now struggling to meet the demands of protecting their citizens, the letter notes.
“As the most sustainable source of revenue, tax systems have a pivotal role to play in bolstering social sector initiatives and financing the recovery from the crisis,” the letter continues. “We acknowledge recent efforts by the international community at tax reform, not least the G7 proposal for a 15% global corporate minimum tax.”
The endemic injustices of global poverty, racial inequity, health inequality and climate change are rooted in the legacies of colonial exploitation and resource extraction, and call for systemic change, urges the letter. “The pandemic shows us people’s lives and livelihoods are at stake, at a time when the life of the earth is also under threat, the letter reads. “Not only is tax justice at the heart of any recovery plan, it is crucial for mitigating widening inequality and stepping up to the challenges posed by a rapidly warming climate.”
We wish to express our solidarity with the Nassar family they are Palestinian Christian and Recipients of the 2018 Methodist World Peace Prize. Their Tent of Nation’s Farm located south west of Bethlehem, close to the village of Nahalin. We have known this family for more than 10 years, we visited them with many church delegations and groups , we planted olive and other trees on their property. This family and their Tent of Nations farm became a symbol of the Palestinian nonviolent resistance. We are very much aware of their struggle to protect their land from the danger of confiscation by the Israeli occupation for the last 30 years. Recently the Nassar family and their land has been attacked several times allegedly by a Palestinian family from the village, who started to cultivate some fields, built a fence, broke into their house and destroyed parts of it, vandalized the property and threatened members of the family. The recent attack was on Friday 21/5/21 when a huge area of the Nassar land was set on fire. The Nassar family reported the attacks to both the police and the governor of Bethlehem, but the attacks continue. While the family is struggling against the threat of confiscation from the Israelis Authorities, they also appear to be being attacked by their Palestinian brothers. Their nonviolent way of resistance is respected and supported by many churches and people. They and their Tent of Nations are a strong testimony of a peaceful resistance to achieve justice. We pray for the attacks on all side to cease. We uphold the family and all concerned in our prayers. We call on all involved to stop the attacks, to bring the perpetrators to account and to uphold the way of reconciliation and justice.
Worldwide Christian and other faith leaders have joined with the Archbishop of Canterbury, the International Committee of the Red Cross President and humanitarian groups urging global leaders to ensure equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines around the world.
On the opening day of the World Health Assembly, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have said that global leaders must choose between “vaccine nationalism or human solidarity”.
In a joint Declaration co-signed on May 24 by international faith leaders and humanitarian groups, Archbishop Justin Welby and ICRC president Peter Maurer said that equitable distribution of Covid-19 vaccines is a humanitarian imperative.
The statement is signed by Christian, Muslim and Jewish leaders, as well as the International Committee of the Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies (IFRC), the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The faith leaders include senior representatives from all the major Christian denominations, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, and Azza Karam and Rabbi David Rosen of Religions for Peace.
The Declaration, which calls for decisive leadership from countries and organizations across the world, states: “There is a choice. The world of the next 10 years can be one of greater justice, abundance and dignity. Or it can be one of conflict, insecurity and poverty. We are at a turning point.”
The catastrophic impacts of the pandemic, combined with existing issues of conflict, disaster and famine, mean that the world is facing the challenge of reversing “devastating dynamics”, the leaders say.
“People not only need vaccinations – they need access to healthcare workers who are skilled and equipped to deliver adequate medical support. We need to build a world where each community, regardless of where they live, or who they are, has urgent access to vaccinations: not just for COVID-19, but also for the many other diseases that continue to harm and kill. As the pandemic has shown us, in our interdependent world no one is safe until everyone is safe.”
The Declaration calls on world leaders to:
The full text of the Declaration and signatories can be found below.
COVID 19 Treatment Centre in Aden, Yemen. (Picture: ICRC)
Equitable vaccine distribution is a humanitarian imperative
There is a choice. The world of the next 10 years can be one of greater justice, abundance and dignity. Or it can be one of conflict, insecurity and poverty.
We are at a turning point. COVID-19 has been a truly global crisis in which we all have shouldered a burden. In many cases this has caused us to reflect on those longer injustices that have perpetuated in parts of the world where the pandemic is yet another layer of misery, instability and unrest. These inequalities have been exposed and exacerbated by the impact of the pandemic, both between and within countries. The effects will be felt on a global scale for years to come.
The impact of a catastrophe like the COVID-19 pandemic is measured in the tragedy of individual loss and death, as well as the national and global disruption to almost every part of life. No country in the world has been untouched.
Variants of the virus, potentially more infectious and resistant to vaccines, will continue to threaten us if they are not controlled now.
Those of us who have signed this declaration represent organizations with roots in communities across the world. We work closely with those affected by conflict, disaster and famine, and know the immense challenges they face – but also of their resilience even in the worst of situations.
In 2021, the world economy is facing the worst downturn since 1945. For some countries this will sharply increase poverty and suffering. For others it means hunger and death. The fallout from the pandemic will be with us for a long time to come. There will be a continued economic impact, with all the human suffering that brings. A generation of children, especially girls, have left school and will not return.
The world is facing the challenge of how to reverse these devastating dynamics with health being a key part of such a response. We advocate here for ‘Health for All’, where each person’s life is valued, and every person’s right to healthcare is upheld. People not only need vaccinations – they need access to healthcare workers who are skilled and equipped to deliver adequate medical support.
We need to build a world where each community, regardless of where they live, or who they are, has urgent access to vaccinations: not just for COVID-19, but also for the many other diseases that continue to harm and kill. As the pandemic has shown us, in our interdependent world no one is safe until everyone is safe.
We have a choice: vaccine nationalism or human solidarity.
Thanks to effective international action, several vaccines have been produced. The World Health Organisation, GAVI and CEPI are leading the COVAX initiative, which is currently the best effort we have to ensure that vaccines reach people around the world. However, COVAX is only intended to cover 20% of the global population– the most vulnerable in lower-income countries – by the end of 2021 and it is not yet clear if it will meet this target. Meanwhile studies show that if we focus only on vaccinating our own populations, the world risks global GDP losses of up to $9.2 trillion (with half of that cost being incurred by high income countries) this year alone.
But it is not just a matter of money. In order to achieve wider global vaccination, complex logistical, infrastructure and scaling issues must be addressed. The Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator is focused on providing a means to accelerate the development, manufacturing and distribution of COVID-19 diagnostic and treatment products. The ACT recognizes and aims to address the requirement for information sharing – whether about technology, intellectual property or manufacturing.
However, more needs to be done. The sharing of information, the transfer of technology and the strengthening of manufacturing processes, to name a few, require the active involvement of States and the private sector.
We therefore call on world leaders to:
It is time for decisive leadership. Countries and organizations across the world have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address global inequality and reverse some of the fallout from the past year. In doing so, they will bring hope not only for the poorest in the world, but for us all.
The Most Reverend Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury
Peter Maurer, President of the International Committee of the Red Cross
Bishop Ivan M Abrahams, General Secretary of the World Methodist Council
HE Elder Metropolitan Emmanuel of Chalcedon, Ecumenical Patriarchate
The Reverend Dr Chris Ferguson, General Secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches
Henrietta H. Fore, Executive Director, UNICEF
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General
Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
The Reverend Dr Martin Junge, General Secretary of the Lutheran World Federation
Dr Azza Karam, Secretary-General, Religions for Peace
Francesco Rocca, President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
Rabbi David Rosen, Co-President, Religions for Peace
Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, The Grand Imam of al-Azhar
HE Cardinal Peter Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Rome