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  Letter from Arch Woodruff and Linnis Cook in Brazil

Final Document of the Presbyterian Consultation on Violence
São Paulo, Brazil, July 11-14, 2001

Jesus said to him: I am the way, and the truth, and the life
(John 14:6).

The Presbyterian Mission in Brazil, through its member churches, the United Presbyterian Church of Brazil (IPU), the Independent Presbyterian Church of Brazil, and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), gathered from July 11 to 14, 2001, in the city of São Paulo, with 30 official representatives, consultants, and guests. We reflected and discussed, in an interdisciplinary way, the concepts, causes, consequences, and alternatives to violence in society. The goal of the consultation was to reflect on the presence of the Church in the
face of the reality of violence and what actions will give witness to Jesus Christ and to the proclamation of the gospel of peace.

For whenever I speak, I must cry out, I must shout, "violence and destruction!" (Jeremiah 20:8.)

Violence is any dynamic action that impedes the bringing to fullness of life. Violence is the negation of this peace, which is God’s purpose for humanity and all creation. The marks of violence are death, injustice, oppression, suffering, fear, and despair. The marks of violence have been all too evident in human history. The system of violence is cultural, and is both visible and invisible and is present in diverse structures of society. The culture of violence reduces life to consumerism and destroys relationships. These are important factors in the creation of violence and forms of oppression. We recognize that the capacity towards violence is within each of us individually and
in the very structures of society. The tendency toward violence is also within our churches and is evident in expressions of intolerance. We are searching as a Church to replace the culture of violence with values that give expression to the reign of God that is justice and peace.

Violence is a daily reality that touches everyone. However, women, children, indigenous peoples, immigrants, Afro-Brazilians, Afro-Americans, and prisoners suffer more because of their vulnerability and social exclusion. It is a matter of life and death. This calls the Church to proclaim the gospel of justice and peace and to stand against all forms of violence.

There are structural and ideological elements to this violence:

  • Including individual, family violence, child abuse and violence in intimate relationships.
  • Social exclusion manifested in the lack of investment in education, health, housing, sanitation, employment opportunities and in the unequal distribution of wealth.
  • The media, which glorifies violence, desegregates familiar relationships, and reflects the interests of the elite.
  • Discrimination, intolerance, abuse of power, the use of violence and social and political structures.
  • Globalization, which arises from 500 years of exploitation, by which rich nations become richer, and poor nations become poorer.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God
(Matthew 5.9).

As Peacemakers called by Christ, we commit ourselves to work for peace by:

  • Recognizing that, even though the violence is a part of each one of us, and is reflected in our relations with our families, churches, and institutions, there are ways to transform ourselves into creative agents in the process of building peace.
  • Recognizing that violence is an act against God, who created peace; against our neighbor, with whom we must live in harmony and integrity; and against the environment, for which we have the mission of caring and protecting.
  • Organizing and participating in actions against violence and in favor of peace.
  • Developing safe places to provide support and healing for victims of violence.
  • Organizing activities that further peace, i.e. forums, seminars, working in partnerships with other groups in society, and motivating members of our churches to participate in these actions.
  • Creating networks with churches and other organizations around the world to share information, experiences, and partnership against actions and structures of violence.
  • Including the study of human rights and violence in the curriculum of our seminaries.
  • Denouncing the deterioration of our basic values in society, especially as reflected in the media and in the justice system.
  • Calling our churches to work together in partnership to raise awareness of and challenge the forces in society that prevent us from seeing one another as children of God. For example, globalization, which impedes self-determination and subjects poor nations to the interests of rich nations, leads to an increase of injustice and violence.
  • Proposing that the Presbyterian Mission in Brazil ("Missão Presbiteriana do Brasil") create a permanent program for justice and peace.
  • Proposing to the Presbyterian Mission in Brazil the creation of a "National Week for Peace" as one of the activities developed by the permanent program for peace and justice.

Finally, we conclude affirming that we believe that educating for peace is the best way to bring about a more peaceful world.

  • We believe in God, the Father, who created all things for integrity and peace.
  • We believe in Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, who reconciled humanity with God, with each other, and with all nature, through
    his death and resurrection.
  • We believe in the Holy Spirit who teaches us the way of peace and justice in the world and history.
  • We believe that the unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is the model for integrity and peace for all creation.

We believe that the Church is chosen by God for the ministry of reconciliation and peace in the world.


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