The International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (IEPC) scheduled for May 17-25, 2011 in Kingston, Jamaica, is being billed as be a "harvest festival" celebrating the achievements of the Decade to Overcome Violence which began in 2001. At the same time it encourages individuals and churches to renew their commitment to nonviolence, peace and justice. (The peace mural pictured above is on the campus of Kingston University, the conference site).
According to Rev. Dr Paul Gardner, the president of the Jamaica Council of Churches, one of the event's hosts, the event "will be a
Regarding the violence in Kingston's "garrison communities" that led to a state of emergency earlier this year, Dr. Gardner had these comments, in the excerpts below from a report on the World Council of Churches web site:
"I think it is important that churches take far more interest in the development of communities, far more interest in what is happening to people in depressed inner city communities," he states. "I don't think we can have the luxury of not being involved or believing that nothing will happen."
In Jamaica, Gardner says, the main role of the churches has been in advocacy for justice, peace and social transformation:
"One of the good things, if there is any good thing that has come out of what has happened, is the formation of a civil society group holding government accountable for the proper development of communities and the implementation of the things that they promise,” he said.
“We are not a political party, we are church people, church leaders and we must be able to speak as we discern what God is saying to the churches at this time,” Gardner says.
In recent years an umbrella group, which includes churches that are not members of the Jamaican Council of Churches, has been created. “We have found a way to bring them together,” says Gardner. However, he says, “The state of emergency almost threatened the existence of that group … because some of us felt that we had to speak out that the government is wrong. But there were church leaders who were not prepared to do that.”
With Adventists comprising a relatively large proportion of Jamaica's population (11% according to a 2006 U.S. State Department report), with the island's governer-general, Sir Patrick Allen, among them, we may hope that Adventists will not remain aloof from this endeavor on behalf of peace. The West Indies Union Conference of Seventh-day Adventists is listed among the "Observer member churches" of the Jamaica Council of Churches.