[Episcopal News Service]Delegates attending the triennial meeting of theAnglican Peace and Justice Network are urging "our churches to incorporate issues of justice into missional work and into theological education at every level."
Meeting March 14-20 in Geneva, Switzerland, some 30 network participants representing 25 provinces of the Anglican Communion focused their conversations on international laws as they relate to non-discrimination and the rights of women, children and migrants.
The meeting also marked a major milestone for the network -- 25 years of service to the Anglican Communion in addressing issues of global injustice.
The location of the meeting enabled participants to examine the role of the United Nations, the World Council of Churches, and other faith-based and humanitarian organizations in upholding the rights of individuals and communities throughout the world.
Facilitated by the Anglican U.N. Office in Geneva, each day was grounded in Bible study and included presentations and panel discussions on a range of topics such as social justice, indigenous rights, displacement in urban settings, education, the human rights of internally displaced persons and migrant workers, gender-based violence, reproductive health, and freedom of religion.
Throughout the week, APJN members were asked what churches and faith-based organizations are currently doing and what can they do about the issues being addressed.
"The Anglican Communion has mobilized church-wide support for the U.N.'s Millennium Development Goals, and this network played a central role to that process by calling on the communion to address the international debt crisis, HIV/AIDS, and global warming," said Ethan Vesely-Flad, a member of the Episcopal Church's Standing Commission on Anglican and International Peace with Justice Concerns, who attended the APJN meeting as the provincial delegate for the Episcopal Church.
"Our conversations in Geneva indicated our church must forthrightly engage other justice and human rights issues -- and do so not only at national and international levels, but in our local, grassroots congregations," he added.
Vesely-Flad told ENS that he appreciated the opportunity to speak with network delegates from other provinces in the Americas: Mexico, Canada, Central America, and Brazil. "We discussed common concerns, such as youth violence and international gangs, the impact of militarization, indigenous rights, environmental sustainability, and immigration throughout our hemisphere," he said, adding that he would discuss their reflections with the peace and justice standing commission, and to "seek ways that we might work more directly together in our region."
At the conclusion of its meeting, APJN issued a communiqué encouraging "our churches to be sensitive to peoples' struggles in society, and to be aware of what international agencies are doing to protect and care for all God’s children in all regions."
Anglican networks represented at the meeting included the Anglican Francophone Network, the Anglican Health Network, the International Anglican Family Network, and the International Anglican Women's Network.
The Anglican Indigenous Network was represented by Sarah Eagle Heart, the Episcopal Church's program officer for Native American/Indigenous Ministries. Canon Margaret S. Larom, the Episcopal Church's team leader for global partnerships and program officer for international justice and peacemaking, served as secretary, and the Rev. Canon Brian Grieves, former director of peace and justice ministries for the Episcopal Church, attended as secretary emeritus and an ex officio member of the APJN steering committee. The meeting was also attended by a representative of the Old Catholic Church of Switzerland.
Vesely-Flad said the discussions with representatives of other Anglican global networks were very helpful. "Several of these networks are recently established or are re-forming with new leadership, and our conversations in Geneva showed there are great opportunities to collaborate as networks on many issues, such as refugee and migrant rights, gender equity and violence against women, climate justice and environmental sustainability, and more," he said.
During the closing service, Eagle Heart said in her sermon that APJN members "have had an unparalleled opportunity for direct education and face-to-face contact from our leaders struggling through the structural processes on our behalf."
She told the participants that their presence at the meeting was "not an accident. I implore you to intentionally reflect upon your gifts of ministry, your strengths, and intentionally reflect upon how you can strategically assist APJN and all our provinces to move into a critical time with action.
"Do not be angry at the processes. Do not be angry at the system or definitions. Because while your mind is clouded our leaders face violence and our beloved children are dying and yet they wait in faith."
The communiqué acknowledged that many issues of injustice and conflict are of shared concern among the networks as well as Anglican leaders worldwide, and "are rooted in the poverty and economic disparities that plague our world. Further conversation on this is one of several goals lifted up for attention in the next few years."
Among other subjects that the network said it will continue to examine are "conflict and post-conflict situations; the socio-economic impact of unjust or irresponsible use of the earth's resources as well as inattention to climate justice; human trafficking, and the plight of people on the move," the communiqué noted.
Receiving news of the attempted murder of Bishop Martín Barahona of El Salvador, the network was reminded of the "dangerous realities...prevalent in so many parts of the world" and urged "our churches to condemn violence whenever and wherever it occurs."
Barahona was accompanied by his driver Francis Martínez and a church musician on March 17 in Santa Tecla, El Salvador, when an unknown man approached and started shooting at them. Barahona was unharmed, but Martinez was hit in the stomach and his arm was broken by one of the gunshots.
"We give thanks that he [Barahona] escaped injury, and pray for the swift recovery of his driver who was wounded," the communiqué said. "May God bring healing to all victims of violence, and may we never forget those who have given their lives in the search for peace."
APJN delegates pledged to address specific concerns in their own contexts. Representatives from theNippon Sei Ko Kai (Anglican Church in Japan) and the Anglican Church of Korea invited colleagues to share their opposition to militarization in the region during the Japan Peace Week and a peace conference in Okinawa in June 2010, the communiqué noted. The African delegates said they intend to bring APJN matters to the next meeting of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa.
The network said it welcomed "the growing recognition by some of our speakers and other contributors to the meeting that faith-based organizations can be important partners in tackling some of the issues and situations they address, not least because of their grassroots presence and knowledge of the local community and context. We recognize that the Anglican Communion has the potential to engage more deeply with many human rights issues and challenges through education, pastoral care and advocacy, and through appropriate collaboration between the official networks of the communion and the Anglican United Nations offices in New York and Geneva."
The full text of the APJN communiqué is scheduled to be posted on the Anglican Communion News Service on March 29.
The meeting commenced on March 14 with an opening service at Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Geneva, with the Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, Anglican Communion secretary general, presiding, and Dr. Jenny Te Paa, APJN convener, preaching.
A memorial service celebrated the life of Luis Osorio Prado, former bishop of Pelotas, dean of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil's seminary in Porto Alegre, and founding member of APJN, who died Dec. 21, 2009.
Founded in 1985, the APJN is an official network of the Anglican Communion and includes more than 40 members from around the Anglican Communion.
The APJN "has a long history of assisting the communion to place peace and justice in the center of mission, and providing a space where Anglican provinces can bring forward local issues of peace and justice and gain access to the wider communion for partnership and joint witness," Te Paa, dean of theCollege of St. John the Evangelist in Auckland, New Zealand, said in her letter of invitation to the meeting.
Vesely-Flad told ENS that were it not for the work of APJN, "our communion would not have spoken so early and so clearly about the devastating impact of global debt on many developing countries [or] stood so tall in solidarity with the churches existing in places of ongoing conflict -- like the Philippines, Burundi, Sri Lanka, Palestine, and Korea. If not for APJN, the birth and growth of other networks addressing issues like the environment, refugees and migrant workers, urbanization, and women's rights would have happened much later and more slowly."
The Episcopal Church plays a critical role in supporting the work of APJN, he said. Since the network's inception, its secretariat has been housed at the Episcopal Church Center in New York City "and our province has provided significant funding to hold its triennial meetings."
The church's Office of Government Relations "has also frequently been called on to engage the White House, Congress, State Department, and World Bank/IMF in issues of concern to the network. I will strongly urge our church's financial decision-makers to continue providing the funding to make this network's work possible."
The APJN, Vesely-Flad concluded, "has been and should continue to be a voice calling our church members to fulfill our baptismal covenant and to engage in mission that makes a difference in the world."