Many of the member churches in the World Council of Churches are directly affected by political, ethnic and military conflicts. The ecumenical movement as a federation of churches can not least be understood as their reaction to the conflict experiences of the first and second world wars. Such collective experience is called for in the most various conflictive contexts and will be further transformed. The project combines historical research into conflict-related strategies of the ecumenical movement with case studies on their engagement in actual conflicts such as in Northern Ireland, Ruwanda, Serbia/Bosnia and South Africa. The goal is to describe religious peace strategies and to reflect theologically on reconciliation processes as collective processes of psychological healing.
The ecumenical movement of churches arose for a large part from a need, after the First World War, to avoid further war and destruction. Therefore, it is no coincidence that such important international initiatives such as the International Fellowship of Reconciliation arose in connection with the Life and Work Movement (a partial initiative of the early ecumenical movement). The World Alliance of Churches for promoting International Friendship (see Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Friedrich Wilhelm Schultze) also emerged from an initiative of German and English churches with the goal of avoiding an intensifying conflict between their respective ruling houses.
These two examples demonstrate the role of churches in overcoming as well as in aggravating conflict in the local and global fields. When churches today attempt to take part in peace monitoring in the framework of the Helsinki process, it is due to these early ecumenical beginnings.
The investigative field ranges from the role of the ecumenical movement and its churches during European Fascism through the “cold war” and nationalistic military rule up to the genocide and racial persecutions of today (e.g. Sudan) and will be examined on the basis of case studies.
The project is concerned not only with the processing of facts but also how, following such conflicts, the processes of reconciliation (behaviours to overcome conflict) can be set into motion.
Materials have begun to be collected from a consultation of the World Council of Churches in October 2007 in Dublin, in which the research director participated and the results of which he has published (Pain-Remembrance-Healing, Chennai 2008). Furthermore, materials from the preparation process of “Living Letters” of the World Council of Churches for the ecumenical peace convocation (Jamaica) in 2011 will be used.