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WCC blog: what does peace mean to you?

WCC assembly, Busan 7 November 2013 | by Paul Valentin

This morning the sky has cleared and so has my head - thanks to a good night's sleep, the first since arriving here.

It's Thursday, the last full day of the World Council of Churches assembly. I am wearing black, following the example of many colleagues who do so in silent protest against gender-based violence.

I notice that quite a few participants are doing the same although many of the clergy present more likely do it out of habit!

The theme of the day is 'God of life, lead us to justice and peace', and we started with an exploration of the definition of peace. Too often peace is simply defined as the absence of war and the silencing of dissent. I believe true peace is the absence of fear.

Speaking out against injustice

Liberian Nobel laureate Leymah Gbowee shared her story of peaceful resistance against the violence that once blighted her country.

Her message to the assembly was loud and clear: the church should not hide in the comfort of being close to state power. When the church remains silent about any form of injustice it is complicit in the injustice.

She got a loud applause but I'm sure that some church leaders were slightly uncomfortable with her message. 

Peace around the world

We were lucky enough to hear some very moving personal accounts and interpretations of peace from around the world.

A young Iranian Christian woman spoke about the impact of political sanctions on ordinary people in her country. A deaf young man from Costa Rica shared his message that: peace starts with the acceptance of 'the other'.

There were moments of total silence and moments of raving applause. I also learned how to applaud in sign language: waving both hands above your head! What an experience to be part of this amazing assembly.

Postponing decisions

After this high, everything that followed had to bring us back to earth. The business plenary was still fighting over exact formulations of diplomatically worded statements, occasionally getting stuck and postponing decisions until tomorrow’s sessions.

Act Alliance

At the end of the day, we gathered in our Madang (a Korean word for a space of sharing) with colleagues from the ACT Alliance for a brief service of thanksgiving.

We gave thanks for the assembly, for what we were able to contribute and learn, and for the great opportunity to strengthen ties and work together

My suitcase is packed; I’ve sorted through the numerous papers to decide what to take and what to leave behind. In two days’ time we will once again be dispersed over five continents.

I am signing off now, but I already know I am going to miss this amazing experience!


Our staff are in Busan, South Korea attending the World Council of Churches assembly. The theme of the assembly, 'God of life, lead us to justice and peace', provides a focus for theological reflection, worship and meditation, as well as for planning programmatic activities before, during and after the assembly.


Read more World Council of Churches blogs

WCC blog: a reflection - speaking out against injustice

WCC blog: justice and consumer behaviour

WCC blog: uniting in a diverse world

WCC blog: back to business

WCC blog: a global assembly

WCC blog: a reflection from Busan

WCC blog: settling in  

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About the author

Christian Aid's international director Paul Valentin

Paul Valentin is Christian Aid's International Director.

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