[DEBATE] : (Fwd) Churches v Empire
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Fri Aug 18 08:55:27 BST 2006
An Ecumenical Faith Stance Against Global Empire
For A Liberated Earth Community
Manila, the Philippines, July 13-15, 2006
It is widely and commonly recognized that the global empire is a reality
of the 21st century that must be reckoned with. There is ongoing debate
- political, academic and theological - on the nature of this global
reality and on how to respond to it.
Particularly, faith communities are seeking to discern the signs of the
times in the context of the global reality in order to take faith
stances and actions. A number of theological and interfaith discussions,
as well as academic and political discussions, have taken up this problem.
The 24th General Council of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches
(2004), in both its Accra Confession and its Mission report, called for
a faith stance and action with regard to the global empire. The 9th
General Assembly of the World Council of Churches (2006) made
significant reference to the reality of the global empire in its
In this context there is an acute need to articulate a theological
stance, which will enhance the ecumenical movement among the faith
communities as well as meet the challenges of the global empire. In
ecumenical circles, there is increasing interest in the deepening of
theological and political discussions on the issue, along with
cross-fertilizing among the regional and ecumenical discussions. This is
based on the understanding that the issue of the global empire is not
only a core theological issue but also a major political question.
In order to support the faith communities in their stance and action,
the movement needs to catalyze and facilitate an ecumenical process of
global theological reflection, discussion and debate on the global
empire among concerned theologians and religious people.
For this reason and as one of the follow-up actions for living out the
Accra Confession, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches organized a
consultation on “Theological Analysis and Action on Global Empire Today”
from 13 to 15 July 2006 in Manila, the Philippines. Seventeen
theologians from Africa, Asia, Europe and North America participated,
and two invited theologians from Latin America who could not participate
physically, sent a valuable paper for the consultation.
The following statement is a result of the theological analysis and
reflection that took place at the consultation. It is shared with the
hope that this initiative will undergird and support the ecumenical
movement throughout the world, advancing discussions among global
ecumenical organizations as well as regional and local ecumenical movements.
I. Signs of the Times: Empire on the Rise
The most outstanding sign of our times is the suffering and cries of
human persons and other living beings throughout the world, as their
victimization proceeds in a systematic and unprecedented manner under
the global US empire/market regime. At the beginning of the 21st
century, all living beings in the cosmos are threatened with death and
destruction. Their groaning echoes throughout the universe and is joined
by the Spirit’s groaning. As expressed in Romans 8:18-39, the powers and
principalities of this world - with a comprehensive destructiveness in
the form of the global empire – are causing creation to groan, in
bondage, waiting for its liberation.
The brutal atrocities committed in the course of the wars in Afghanistan
and Iraq have revealed the true nature of the global empire, which has
taken arbitrary, unilateral military actions against the people of these
countries. The global empire’s obvious purpose is to expand its
territorial borders in pursuit of regional hegemony and its control of
oil as an economic resource, consolidating the interests of the
neoliberal global market. These wars are also a new form of religious
crusade, justified through religious language and theological claims.
In the Philippines, where this theological consultation is being held,
we have heard numerous personal reports about the country’s return to
murders, abductions, disappearances and incarcerations of political
dissenters, among them priests and pastors who lived out their faith and
prophetic ministry. This resurgence of terror mirrors the Martial Law
years and is currently compounded by the illegitimacy of the current
government and its unabashed subservience to the dictates of the US
empire. Those who dare to defy the empire that has enslaved and
impoverished their people are being viciously suppressed. They form part
of a worldwide resistance against the neoliberal ideology and imperial
domination of the United States, which has officially termed the
Philippines its second front in the war on terror and made it the
linchpin of its geopolitical project in the Asia-Pacific region. The
Philippines was the very first overseas colony of the US empire, handed
over by the fading Spanish empire to the rising US Empire amidst one of
the bloodiest anti-colonial liberation struggles in history. This
longest-running liberation movement in Asia continues its struggle,
unique in its affinity with a mass-based Christian movement that is
inspired by liberation theology.
Against Cuba, the decades-old US economic embargo has been reinforced in
an attempt to stop all relationships with that country, including
contacts with and support for Cuba’s Christian churches and the Cuban
Council of Churches. Enormous economic, social, political, military and
ideological pressure continues to be exerted in order to destroy the
viability of a society that refuses to comply with the dictates of empire.
North Korea’s economy, already weakened by the ravages of neoliberal
globalization, has been pushed to the brink by the US trade embargo and
economic sanctions. As a result millions suffer from hunger and
malnutrition, leading to a scandalously high incidence of child
mortality and a massive flood of economic refugees.
Refusing to hold bilateral talks or to normalize relations with North
Korea, the US has demonized the country, naming it part of the “axis of
evil” in hopes of forcing a regime change. This has only provoked North
Korea to go nuclear, in turn heightening tensions and fuelling the arms
race in North East Asia.
Under its “defense transformation programme”, the US is now turning
North East Asia into a major platform for its regional and global
imperial military operations. The US-Japan alliance has been redefined
to organize the Japanese self-defence forces under the effective command
and control of the United States, accelerating Japan’s remilitarization.
In this process, the domestic political forces that wish to glorify
Japan’s imperial past are gaining ground, putting the country on a
collision course with its Asian neighbours who have suffered Japanese
colonization and aggression. The US bases in Korea are being
consolidated for “strategic flexibility” to allow pre-emptive attack on
North Korea and military operations anywhere in the “arc of instability”.
A new militarization is also in process in the European Union (EU).
European “battle groups” are being developed in order to interfere
everywhere in the world to secure economic interests, particularly the
access to natural resources and strategic raw materials, as well as to
protect “free trade”. This was concretely written into the treaty on a
new European Constitution. Although the French and Dutch people defeated
this neoliberal, militaristic constitution, governments are busy trying
to revive it, as a legal foundation for the building of a sub-empire.
The US is developing new systems of weapons of mass destruction and
generating high-tech and nuclear weapons. This operation along with
strategies for cyber warfare and the unrestrained use of nuclear
weapons, including a nuclear first strike, is seriously eroding and
imperilling the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime and disregarding the
fundamental prohibition against nuclear first strikes.
The “war on terror” has led to a series of draconian laws and legally
sanctioned repressive measures within the United States and in many
other countries that effectively condone torture, arbitrary detention
and deprivation of liberty, summary deportations, extraordinary
rendition and violations of a wide range of other political and civil
rights. This has effectively undermined both practice and principles of
the human rights regime and the rule of law. One visible impact of
empire has been the inviolability of human rights.
The very nature of the imperial project requires access to the world’s
natural resources of oil, natural gas, minerals, water and forest
resources. Empire is based on the appropriation of riches from the
dominated countries for the benefit of the power centre. The empire is
reaching out to establish unilateral control over natural resources
around the world, even if this means going to war or destabilising
legitimately elected governments. Instruments such as the World Bank and
other international financial mechanisms are being used to “liberalize”
resource-extraction policies for the absolute benefit of the large
transnational corporations serving the empire, with minimal benefits to
the resource-endowed nations.
In countries, such as Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo,
Ghana, Indonesia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Nigeria, Peru, the Philippines and
the Sudan, resource extraction is undermining development. Poverty is
intensified as a result of the privatization policies, which siphon
profits out of these countries. Human rights are violated as people are
forcibly removed from their land; working conditions are poor;
environmental degradation and pollution are aggravated by a lack of
control or corporate accountability, and many of these situations are
giving rise to local armed conflicts.
There is a rise in religious fundamentalism within Christianity, Islam,
Hinduism and other religions. The empire uses religions to justify and
provide the ideology of war. This religious dimension has led to an
intensification of violent conflicts fuelled by theological
justifications and invoking divine purpose.
Western Christianity has been closely related to empire since the Roman
days and has thus spread throughout the world. It is now being used to
provide ideological legitimization for today’s empire. Globalized
Christendom and the “crusades” it embarks upon today are symbiotically
intertwined with global capital and the power of the global empire. In
its triumphalistic pursuits, it discounts if not condemns all other
religious faiths and cultures. The indigenous religions of many
communities are destroyed and Islam is vilified.
The convergence of Christian religion with Western modernity has
destroyed the religious and cultural life of peoples and their
communities throughout the world. The powers and principalities of the
global market and empire are being baptised by these theological
distortions of “Christianity”, which promote religious conflicts and
The Christian religion of empire treats others as “gentiles” to be
conquered, as the “evil empire” to be destroyed or as the “axis of evil”
to be eradicated from the earth. The empire claims that the “goodness”
of the empire must overcome these “evils”. Its false messianic spirit is
imbued with the demonic.
These false claims destroy the integrity of faith(s), and radically
erode the identity of Christian faith in Jesus Christ. As the spirit of
empire penetrates souls, the power of global empire possesses the bodies
of all living beings. Lord of its domain, it builds temples for the
global market to serve Mammon.
In the name of peace and security, the global empire is exercising
“omnipotent” power through its military weapons systems of mass
destruction and its intensive, totalistic warfare. Already, wars such as
the Crusades, the conquest of the Americas, and the colonial wars
against the racial and ethnic peoples in Asia and Africa have caused
massive victimization of peoples. This historical process of systematic,
massive conquest and destruction of people and the earth has extended
into modern times. World Wars I and II, the US atomic bombing of the
Korean and Japanese peoples, the US Cold Wars against the Korean and
Vietnamese people, and the Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq wars against
those people and their communities have evolved into total wars of
omnicide. Current developments by the empire in global militarization
threaten the total destruction of earth as a living abode. The nature of
war has been radically transformed into limitless war in time and space
under the geo-politics of global empire. But the omnipotent power of
empire can never obtain “total security”. Its absolute power through
modern military technocracy – omnicidal weapons systems and the claim of
omnipotent power – constitutes a tyranny over all living beings.
The ravages of the neoliberal market economy, driven by the insatiable
quest for profits, have led to massive ecological destruction, climate
change, and the daily extinction of animal, plant and fish species,
diminishing the earth’s life-giving bio-diversity. The contamination and
exhaustion of sources of potable water, the pollution of the oceans and
the destruction of rain forests threaten our habitat and the life of
Patriarchy and empire are inextricability interwoven. Today we see, in
addition to the complex oppression of women through the ideology and
practise of imperial patriarchy, the vicious use of rape and violence
against women as a military tactic of domination in the wars in Kosovo,
Afghanistan and Iraq, among others. Such brutal military aggression
against women and girls is one of the signs of a deep and pervasive
system of domination that extends to all dimensions of human life.
The gender ideology of patriarchy is pivotal in all domination
hierarchies in human society and in the communities of all living
beings. These hierarchies are driven by, express and reinforce the
gender ideology, as well as the racist ideology of global white power
and the class ideology of transnational corporate elite. Manifested in
all spheres of life, these ideologies converge and become especially
visible in the global market and the geopolitics of the global empire.
II. Hope Arising in the Midst of Empire
The people of Brazil, Venezuela, Uruguay and Bolivia, as well as
Argentina and Chile, have chosen governments and opted for economic
policies in resistance to the US empire. New forms of Latin American
solidarity are emerging as people rise up to take control of their own
resources, affirm their identity and pursue policies of economic
justice, explicitly rejecting the dictates of the global neoliberal
market economy and US cultural hegemony.
The people of Afghanistan and Iraq, amid rampant violence and the
intense suffering of innocent citizens are resisting the occupation and
imperial domination of their land. The Palestinian people continue their
decades-long resistance against Israeli occupation, unmasking the link
between the US imperial project of geopolitical control over the
oil-rich Middle East and the Israeli expansionist project and exclusion
of the Palestinians.
In Nepal the people’s movement successfully dismantled the empire-backed
monarchical despot and reclaimed the right to chart their own political
future. In South Korea there is growing, organized resistance by the
people against the US bases and the “flexibility” doctrine, and renewed,
intensified calls for the investigation of US wartime atrocities. In
Okinawa, the people’s sustained non-violent struggle against US bases
succeeded in 2005 in forcing the US and the Japanese Government to
abandon the offshore base.
Around the globe we see a resurgent peace movement and new and growing
civil society actions for peace and justice. There is an inspiring rise
in peoples’ resistance everywhere including within the US. The hegemony
of fear has not quashed the spirit of freedom of the people, who in
various parts of the world are gaining strength from each other’s
stories and examples.
If the rise of the global empire is the defining sign of our times, it
is counter-posed by people’s visions of a civilization of convivial life
of all living beings. These visions are rooted in people’s experiences
of suffering and struggle, which contain revitalized wisdom from their
philosophical, cultural and religious traditions of past and present.
Buddhist wisdom to overcome greed, Hindu dharma of the cosmos, Confucian
wisdom of Li/Ki, Taoist wisdom of the Way (Tao), Islamic wisdom of
justice, and many African, Asian, Native American and Pacific original
peoples’ cultural and religious wisdom provide reservoirs for the
foundation of visions of a new civilization.
Such visions will be antithetical to the global empire, to Western
modernity and to global Christendom. They will open ways to a
civilizational and cultural “evolution” or “mutation”, in which perhaps
the vision of Jesus against Pax Romana may be fused and integrated. Such
movements are signs of hope, rising among the communities of people in
solidarity with all living beings.
This convergence of visions of life in the midst of suffering and
struggle by all living beings against the global empire, is a definite
alternative to the technocratic convergence of science and technology
backed by the power and greed of the global regime of empire/market.
Empire is now firmly on the ecumenical agenda as a major concern leading
to discussion, reflection and in some cases action. The ecumenical
engagement is deepening and widening with increased theological,
prophetic and spiritual discernment. Specifically, the World Alliance of
Reformed Churches, the Council for World Mission, the World Student
Christian Movement, the United Church of Canada, and the World Council
of Churches have all committed themselves to address the problem of
empire from various perspectives. The Lutheran World Federation and
other worldwide organisations have also entered into processes of
engagement with global economic injustice and hegemony.
Reflecting this widespread concern, ecumenical consultations on empire
have been held in Africa, Asia, Latin America and also in the USA.
III. Global Empire: Critical Analysis and Reflection
The use of the word “empire” in relation to US power was once
controversial, more or less restricted to left-wing critiques of US
hegemony. But now in the mainstream media and political discourse the
concept of “empire” and “Pax Americana” are mentioned frequently and
Discourse on the Global Empire
Essentially, the use of the term “American empire” or “US empire” is an
attempt to express the concept that the United States is no longer
merely an exceptional super, hyper or hegemonic power. The shift in
terminology from dominance to hegemony to “empire” is significant, above
all because it highlights the classic concept of direct political
control by an imperial centre. It is a question of indefinite dominance.
The US is by circumstance and design an emergent global empire, the
first in the history of the world. In the last decade, the US has
consolidated its Cold War-era, far-flung military base system into a new
global imperial system. Driven by a triumphalistic ideology, an
exaggerated sense of threat and a self-serving military role, this
juggernaut is tightening its grip on much of the world. Imperial
domination expands by co-opting and pressurising national, regional and
international government structures around the world as well as
interacting with the owners and managers of transnational corporations
and mass media.
The Project of Global Empire
Ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 there have been
strong claims based on a new US-dominated power structure, including
celebrations of a so-called “unipolar moment” and assertions that the US
is “the indispensable nation”.
The report of the Project for the New American Century, entitled
Rebuilding America’s Defences: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New
Century, published in September 2000, says:
“The U.S. is the world’s only superpower, combining pre-eminent military
power, global technological leadership and the world’s largest economy…
America’s grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this
advantageous position as far into the future as possible”.
The Military Doctrines of the Empire
It is officially claimed that the United States has no rival and is
militarily dominant around the world. Its goal is not combating rivals
but maintaining its imperial position and maintaining imperial order.
Planning for imperial wars is different from planning for conventional
wars. The maximum amount of force can and should be used as quickly as
possible for psychological impact, to demonstrate that the empire cannot
be challenged with impunity. Imperial wars end but imperial garrisons
must be left in place for decades to ensure order and stability.
Finally, the imperial strategy focuses on preventing the emergence of
powerful hostile challengers to the empire, by war if necessary, but by
imperial assimilation if possible.
The official policy of the USA is called the “transformation of the
military establishment”. When pressed on the meaning of
“transformation”, Pentagon officials speak of replacing the
“threat-based strategy” that long governed US military planning, with
what they describe as a “capabilities-based approach”. This means that
the defence department will no longer organize its forces to counter
specific military threats posed by clearly identifiable enemies, but
will acquire the capability to defeat any conceivable type of attack
mounted by any imaginable adversary at any time - from now to the
distant future. Put differently, it is a mandate for the pursuit of
permanent military superiority.
The war aims of the USA have been radically changed, according to
official documents. Wars are fought by the USA not just to defeat the
enemy but for “regime change” and “occupation” – thus expanding the empire.
The classified Nuclear Posture Review of the US (details of which
appeared in the media in March 2002, revealing the Pentagon’s ambitious
nuclear battle plans), redefines the role of nuclear weapons as
fundamental to US defence policy. It places new emphasis on the utility
of nuclear weapons in US military doctrine and strategy, and changes the
very notion of deterrence. “First use” and “first strike” are writ large
on the nuclear agenda of the US. The readiness of the US to use nuclear
weapons “in the event of surprising military developments” is ominous in
the context of the War on Terror with its changing and expanding aims
The constant threat of war, now turned into a veritable state of
permanent war, the hype about security and the promise of lasting peace
are often constructed and maintained by the empire for its own survival.
The defence budget of many countries is controlled or influenced, if not
dictated, by the empire. The empire claims the right to intervene in any
country at any time, with no particular enemy in mind. Unconditional
access to space and to the use of military bases, technologies and
facilities that the empire has in different countries across the world,
especially in Korea, Japan and the Philippines, show the extent of its
military hegemonic power. According to reliable sources of information,
the Pentagon has military connections or alliances with 130 countries
around the world and 800 to 1,000 (perhaps more) military bases and
The Ideology of the Empire
The most conspicuous and salient feature of the empire’s approach to
international affairs is its universalistic and monopolistic claims.
The empire uses “democracy” as an umbrella term for the kind of
political regime that it would like to see installed all over the world.
Bringing democracy to countries that do not yet have it is claimed as
the defining purpose of US foreign policy. For the US, democracies
abroad are regimes that support or follow its dictates.
According to the National Security Strategy of the USA 200, the United
States, “sustained by faith in the principle of liberty and the value of
a free society”, also has “unparalleled responsibilities, obligations
and opportunities” beyond its borders. It calls for possessing such
overwhelming military power as to discourage any other power from
challenging US hegemony or developing weapons of mass destruction. It
overturns the old doctrine of deterrence and containment. Committing the
US to a much-expanded understanding of security, it argues that the US
must reserve the right to act pre-emptively and unilaterally against
potentially threatening states or organizations. The US claims that it
uses its power for good and has a selfless purpose. The Strategy also
reflects the belief that global security and liberal order are based on
the US – that “indispensable nation” – wielding power as the global empire.
The cultural hegemony of empire, what some call US “soft power” is a
slow yet sure way of making people accept the role, function and reality
of the empire as indispensable, normative and ideal. The minds of the
subjects (most nations, peoples, individuals, institutions, governments)
of the empire are made to believe and confess that there is no
alternative (TINA) to the empire. Homogenization of cultures,
traditions, values, lifestyles and the spread of triumphalistic
Christianity can be identified as ways of extending the empire in all
directions in global society. The emergence of religious fundamentalism
can also be seen as linked to the empire. Technology and the media also
are turned to its own advantage to perpetuate the values of the global
Economics of the Empire
The empire has two faces: global militarization and neoliberal
capitalist globalization. These are interrelated, as economic domination
and military rule are inextricably joined. The military forces of the
empire act as the “global cop” to maintain the order and security of the
The US has declared in the National Security Strategy of the U.S.A. (NSS
2002) that it will “use this moment of opportunity”, that is, the war on
terrorism to bring democracy, development, the free market and free
trade to every corner of the globe. The economic agenda that will follow
the flag in the quest of what is called “a better world” is clearly
spelt out. It is claimed that the concept of “free trade” arose as a
moral principle even before it became a pillar of economics. It is
further claimed that “the twenty-first century will be an era of great
promise. Globalization – the process of accelerating economic,
technological, cultural and political integration – is bringing citizens
from all continents together. A growing number of nations around the
world have embraced American core values of democratic governance, free
market economics and respect for fundamental human rights”.
The implication is clear. There is an integral relationship between
American-style free market economics and American security in the world.
Globalization and imperial security go together. Global capitalism and
enforced militarily (if necessary) are integral to empire building.
Having achieved a “pre-eminence not enjoyed by even the greatest empires
of the past”, the US is focused on using its power globally, through
both military and market intervention. America’s War on Terror or “war
for freedom” is at one with the expansionary goals of the market - open
invasion in some places, open markets everywhere.
Global Sovereignty of the Empire
The “National Defense Strategy 2005” states that the most important
strategic objectives of national security are to defend the US from
direct attack and then to secure strategic access and retain “global
freedom of action”.
There is virtual rejection of international law and multilateral
institutions and mechanisms. The Defense Strategy document states, “Our
strength as a nation state will continue to be challenged by those who
employ a strategy of the weak using international forums, judicial
processes and terrorism”. Here international forums, judicial processes
and terrorism are equated. Proponents of international law are equated
It is officially claimed that Washington would not be reluctant to send
its forces into other states that, in its opinion, “do not exercise
their sovereignty responsibly” or “use the principle of sovereignty as a
shield behind which they claim to be free to engage in activities that
pose enormous threats to their citizens, or the rest of the
The strategy of preventive war (pre-emption) is closely bound up with
the new vitality of the “hegemonic international law nihilism” that is
exhibited by the present US administration. It is rooted in the idea
that only the USA will be entitled to global sovereignty in the future
world order. This notion of global sovereignty means that the USA will
lay down international rules (for example, through the formation of
alliances or blocs), determine what constitutes a crisis (a state of
emergency), distinguish between friend and foe and make the resulting
decision on the use of force. Only the USA is competent to use force
anywhere in the world. This is one of the pillars of the new grand
strategy, which is exemplified above all else by the concept of an
exclusive right to preventive military intervention all over the world.
Commitments to international alliances, and in particular to the United
Nations, are rejected as constituting a restriction of the freedom of
the US to act. By military might the global empire wants to assert
global sovereignty and maintain global freedom of action.
IV. Theology in the Face of Empire
We offer here, first, a distinctive theological approach to empire, and
second, certain key theological affirmations and rejections that need to
be lifted up in this time of global empire.
Our theological approach begins with the Galilean Jesus, who lived at
the historic crossroads of empires and cultures. He bore witness to a
gospel of life as the critique of all forms of domination at work in
empire, and set into history a power for building new communities in the
face of empires. The main lines of a theology of the Galilean Jesus can
be set forth below in five sections: treating (a) The Witness of the
Hebrew Scriptures against Empire, (b) The New Testament Witness to the
Galilean Jesus, (c) The Crucifixion of Jesus, (d) The Resurrection, and
(e) A New Heaven and New Earth.
a) The Witness of the Hebrew Scriptures against Empire - The prophet
Isaiah stands in a long line of stubborn resistance to imperial
domination, calling all nations into the “shalom” that renews all
humanity and creation. This long line of resistance includes remembrance
of liberation from the Egyptian empire, rejection of human kingship,
prophetic critique of militarization and empire, and the Sabbath/Jubilee
pronouncements rejecting economic slavery.
b) The New Testament Witness to the Galilean Jesus - The Jesus of
Galilee lived out a gospel of the “reign of God” amid and against the
Pax Romana, the imperial domination of his day. Against imperial
domination he brought new life, healing souls and bodies wounded by
empire, proclaiming and building peace on earth, anticipating the
restoration of all creation. To follow Jesus means many things but it
surely means nothing less than resisting empire and creating new
communities of life amidst it.
c) The Crucifixion of Jesus - Jesus’ life and ministry under Pax Romana
led to his crucifixion. Jesus’ suffering bears witness to how often
imperial execution (along with harassment, abusive ridicule, and
torture) is imposed upon those who resist the politics and culture of
empire. The empire’s decision to kill Jesus reveals that the struggle
against empire is a life-and-death matter, that Jesus’ gospel of life is
in fundamental conflict with the death-dealing ways of empire.
d) The Resurrection - Empire did not have the final word. Jesus’
embodiment of life, love and justice under empire, and his resurrection
by God overcoming the power of empire’s death-dealing ways, empowered
new communities of life. This “body of Christ” as a community of the
Spirit is risen and present among us through the collective body of
movements and communities – surviving, resisting and flourishing amid
e) A New Heaven and New Earth - Reading the book of the Revelation of
John, through the eyes of the sufferers of empire, we understand the
“fall of Babylon” as judgement on all empires of history and as the
promise of the New Heaven/New Earth. Empowered by the power of the
resurrected Christ in history, we labour for life in inter-religious
- with struggles against empire rising from diverse faith communities
- with movements rising to break the bonds of class, caste and other
social structures of exploitation,
- with coalitions rising within the US and worldwide to end the
domination of the US empire – its wars and destruction of world peace,
- with visions of indigenous peoples rising to restore respect for the
- with persons rising to break down the patriarchal powers of empire in
order to form a gender-just community of women and men,
- with the people rising to resist racism against communities of colour
in every continent,
- with the new consciousness rising to free peoples everywhere from
- with the work and dreaming rising from peoples everywhere who
experiment with new economies and new politics to challenge the ever-new
faces and manifestations of global empire.
Theological Affirmations and Rejections
In the face of the present crisis created by US global empire today, we
reach for new understandings of the gospel message. In the spirit of the
Galilean Jesus who took on Pax Romana, we find it necessary to lift our
voice against some prominent features of the current Pax Americana:
1. Concerning Absolute Power
The US global empire today, with a spirit of divine pretension, lays
claim to absolute power. In so doing it becomes a force that contravenes
the gospel of life revealed in the Galilean Jesus.
We reject US claims to unlimited sovereignty, as seen in its National
Security Strategy, its violation of international law with impunity and
its unbridled unilateralism.
2. Concerning Imposed Messianic Agendas
The US global empire, with its messianic spirit, its sense of a sacred
destiny (“manifest destiny”) to save and liberate the world from evil,
usurps the saving role of God in the resurrected Christ. The power of
the resurrected Christ is not given through any one nation’s drive to
power over others; it is given, instead, through a confluence of visions
and new communities born from many peoples and nations working together
toward justice, peace, democracy, dignity and the integrity of all
We reject therefore the theocratic and “Christocratic” aims of many
leaders in Washington, DC and throughout the US, who seek to build
political dominion in the name of Christ and who support or tolerate Pax
Americana’s imposition of a new Christendom globally.
3. Concerning Imperial Justifications of War
The US global empire claims a right to kill and destroy, assuming that
Pax Americana is the final arbitrator of justness and goodness. There is
a god-like pretension in the empire’s posing as righteous dispenser of
freedom for all other peoples. We covenant to continue the urgent task
of theologically exploring the themes of war and peace, of church and
state in the context of empire.
We reject the empire’s use of theological and biblical language to
justify its wars and other exploitative and oppressive designs. We
reject the kind of apocalyptic messianism among Christians that misuses
the Book of Revelation and the book of Daniel to justify its imperial
violence and destruction of “others”.
The new visions for ecumenical strategies and practices, which are
offered in the next section, select key themes and dimensions of this
theology to give more concrete guidance to the witness of the church
amid global empire today.
V. A New Ecumenical Vision: The Peace of Jesus
We affirm another world is possible! This enables us to search for a
collective vision of a community of life in justice and peace. The peace
of Jesus is not the peace of empire. A new ecumenical vision for a
community of life in justice and peace is being born in our day.
New Visions for Peace
In making our contribution to new visions of community of life in
justice and peace we recognize that it is grounded in the struggles of
the people who are resisting neoliberal globalization and the empire in
multi-dimensional, multi-cultural, multi-faith, interdependent and
Through peace movements around the world, various visions of a peaceful
world are taking shape. The beginning of the 21st century saw the
emergence of an international civil society consciousness, informed by
disillusionment with the current neoliberal economic globalization and
empire, and searching for an alternative community of life in justice
Social movements are important sources for new visions. The World Social
Forum (WSF) has become the symbol of this rising international civil
society consciousness that seeks to create space for all individuals and
organizations seeking and working for justice and peace for life. A new
vision of community of life in justice and peace is already growing on a
worldwide scale, with initiatives for a “social economy in solidarity”.
Cultural and religious heritage: Cultural visions include, for example,
Ubuntu within the African culture, which reflects a definition of
personhood that finds its meaning within the context of a common
humanity, sharing in God-given life, dignity, interdependence and a
common future. In Asia, major religions have long been reservoirs of
wisdom and vision for a world of peace and justice. These are harnessing
and nurturing a new cultural and religious heritage of peace.
Neoliberal economic globalization and its military promotion and
protection can only be countered by the convergence of visions. A
fragmented vision is inadequate to resist and replace this order with an
This vision must be inclusive of political dimensions with regard to
democracy. Democracy is not the market but the people’s democracy, which
is participatory - with the right of people to decide their own future
and to enjoy fundamental political, social, economic and cultural rights
as well as the right to life.
Democracy is a balanced system of governance, led by rules and
institutions for the management of public common goods and services, and
to which end global, democratic public institutions and political bodies
must be restructured or created. It is based on a universal ethic of
responsibility and solidarity in which the interdependence of humanity,
the biosphere and societies is reflected in responsibility and social
contract. Democratic governance, as a process, leads from domination to
autonomy in solidarity. In this sense the state can regain legitimacy
through responsibility, transparency and participation of peoples,
recognition of the existence of the public common good and promotion of
responsible public social expenditure. As such, democratic governance
helps to define rules for the economy and gives a social framework to
Global democratic institutions cannot be limited to interstate relations
but reflect international civil society participation. The converging
multitudes of peoples’ movements and visions, not the global empire,
give rise to the democracy the world needs. As people marching in the
streets worldwide have chanted, “This is what democracy looks like!”
As a Christian faith community, our vision is informed by our reading of
the Bible. Biblical witness to the peace of Jesus against empire
provides a key toward reaching the full wisdom of God and the creative
inspiration of the Spirit.
Values of a Peace Vision
This vision may be manifested in values of respect for the human being,
for life in all its dimensions and for the life of nature. These are the
values of mutual recognition among human beings, including the
recognition of the natural origin of all, and the recognition by human
beings of the rest of nature external to them. Its principle is - No one
can live, if the other cannot live.
These values challenge the imperial system and on their behalf we are
called to resist, to intervene and to transform that system. The common
good is the process in which these values confront the empire.
These values are not justified for calculable advantages in terms of
utility or of personal interest. Nevertheless, they are the basic values
of humanity, without which human life is destroyed, in the most
elementary sense of the word.
We are called to be nonconformist and transformative communities,
because life is not possible unless we undertake transformation that
addresses the roots of injustice.
We search for new community and a new world of peace against empire;
therefore we live out peace and justice as a committed/faith community
of peace and life:
- with critical analysis,
- with repentance and confession of our complicity,
- with theological clarification and Bible study,
- with peace pedagogy,
- with resistance, joining in the resistance of people against empire,
- with work to build peace in the world from the local to the global,
- with partnerships of solidarity.
Realizing the New Visions
A process of recognition, education and confession regarding economic
injustice and ecological destruction (processus confessionis) has led to
the Accra Confession (2004) rejecting global neoliberal capitalism and
starting a covenanting process for justice in the economy and the earth.
In this context the Confession as well as the Mission report of the
Accra General Council identified the global empire of the USA as the
violent system pressing through and protecting the mechanisms and
structures of capital accumulation at the cost of people’s lives and
communities at all levels. It is necessary to continue the process of
recognition, learning and confessing, addressing the interaction of
empire and global capitalism.
How can congregations, churches, ecumenical groups and the ecumenical
movement be engaged in this process concretely? Some examples of
reflections and processes already have been launched.
Stories of Ecumenical Witness:
Ecumenical Movement in the Philippines
Ecumenical Movement in the Philippines
Since 2002 US President Bush named the Philippines as the second front
of the war on terror. The ecumenical movement in the Philippines,
discerning the grave signs of the times, has taken an unambiguous
position against the war on terror, understanding its nexus with
globalization. The National Council of Churches (NCCP), together with
the World Council of Churches and Christian Conference of Asia, convened
the International Conference on Terrorism in a Globalized World in
September 2002. In the Manila covenant, for the first time in the global
ecumenical community, the empire was named as the logic behind these
seemingly unconnected forces of destruction.
Peace for Life, a new South-South and North-South solidarity network of
peace advocates, was created on the mandate of the Manila covenant. Its
purpose is to be a global, faith-based movement for peace and justice
engaged in building people’s solidarity and in mobilizing resistance to
the war on terror and destructive forces of corporate globalization. At
its inaugural forum in Davao City, Philippines, in December 2004, on the
theme “Christian-Muslim Solidarity in the Era of Empire”, it moved ahead
further to define its character within the frame of interfaith
solidarity. Peace for Life organized an interfaith delegation of
Christian and Muslim leaders and activists from different parts of the
world to join the international group of protesters against
globalization during the 12th WTO Ministerial Meeting in Hong Kong, in
The NCCP has been very active in mobilising the ecumenical community to
confront the overt state tyranny that has been fuelled and funded by the
Bush war on terror. Particularly, the United Church of Christ in the
Philippines, the Iglesia Filipina Independiente and the United Methodist
Church in the Philippines have been outstanding in their witness and
activism against injustices. The Council’s mission of solidarity with
the landless victims of Hacienda Luisita (small-scale mining communities
being evicted by multinational mining interests – victims of
environmental destruction and the empire’s greed for strategic
resources) has strengthened the faith and prophetic witness of church
workers. With the support of Peace for Life, the NCCP initiated the
WCC-convened Pastoral Ecumenical Delegation Visit to the Philippines in
June 2005 to call on the international community to hear the cries of
the voiceless. Together with the activist Moro-Christian People’s
Alliance, it also convened an international solidarity gathering in 2005.
Active participation of the Philippine ecumenical community in social
concerns dates back to the dismal days of Martial Law in the 1970s.
Christian leaders and activists have continued to be an integral part of
the struggle for peace with justice. The resilience and continuos
accompaniment of the suffering people’s movement for liberation even
when faced with ongoing persecution and murder (unprecedented in its
brutality) is a significant source of strength and resistance.
The United Church of Canada (UCC) study: “Living Faithfully in the
Midst of Empire”
The United Church of Canada (UCC) has completed a study titled “Living
Faithfully in the midst of Empire”. This project builds on previous
work, study and actions that have focused on deepening the understanding
of neoliberal economic globalization and unlimited market capitalism as
roots of poverty and ecological destruction. The study also makes
linkages to the ecumenical processes of the Accra Confession (WARC) and
AGAPE (WCC’s programme to develop alternative visions to globalization).
The strength of the UCC’s engagement in the study of empire lies in its
strong engagement with partner voices and experiences through stories,
theological reflection and social analysis. The study contributes to a
deeper awareness of empire as a system of global domination and a threat
to life and creation, and shows that the present time is critical for
discernment of the Gospel. The call to confession acknowledges the
church’s complicity in empire and challenges the church to responsive
transformation based on justice. Critical elements of this work include
institutional support and commitment to seeking justice and resisting
evil, availability of human and financial resources, ability to work
ecumenically wherever possible, and commitment to a partnership model
that takes local and global partners’ voices and participation seriously.
The challenges that lie ahead include the development of education for
justice resources for use by congregations in their reflection and
action on empire, continuing the process of grounding the work
theologically at all levels, challenging churches to live out more fully
the transformative change it has called for in the report with respect
to social, economic and environmental justice and continuing to live out
the church’s commitments to gender and racial justice in all its
responses to the challenges of empire.
In this regard, we have been encouraged to note many newly emergent
examples of action in resistance against the domination of the global
empire and for the building of an alternative world. To mention a few,
there are the growing democratic consciousness among peoples of Latin
American nations, the strong citizens’ movements against US military
bases in Korea and Japan, efforts to address US policies within the
United States and efforts for alternatives to neoliberal globalization
in Germany. Also emerging are theological movements and mission
movements for justice, such as in South Africa and in ecumenical
organizations, including the Council for World Mission.
VI. A Call to Struggle Against the Empire
The global empire, with its unprecedented reach, represents a massive
threat to life. In the face of this pervasive and death-dealing reality
of worldwide hegemony, we are inspired and empowered by Jesus of Galilee
to resist empire and to renew communities of life. This new reality has
economic, political, social, cultural, religious and spiritual
dimensions. It presents life and death challenges for Christians, as the
empire uses religion to justify its domination and violence, and makes
claims that belong to God alone.
We ask all churches whose missions and peoples have historically been
involved in empire building to seriously scrutinize - in partnership
with the victims of their imperial past - their structure, teaching,
liturgy, funding agencies and policies as well as their political
allegiances, in order to repent and reshape their life in all aspects in
the spirit of the anti-imperial biblical heritage.
We call upon WARC member churches, congregations and organizations to
engage in processes like these, to make connections with social
movements and other faith communities in order to resist imperial and
capitalist structures in their particular contexts and build up
communities of peace for life.
We also ask the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World
Federation, the World Student Christian Federation and other ecumenical
organizations to join in these processes, as they did following the WARC
decision at the 23rd General Council in 1997 - embarking on a processus
confessionis related to global economic injustice and ecological
Throughout the consultation, participants raised the question of how to
address the linkage of US and Israel imperialism in the context of the
oil-rich Middle East, where it misuses the Bible in a fundamentalist
manner and most violently oppresses the Palestinian people. We ask WARC
to take up this issue and develop responses in cooperation with other
We acknowledge the disastrous consequences of the domination by empire
around the world. Participants of the consultation were particularly
attentive to the dramatic situations in the Philippines and in
Palestine. We call on WARC to take up these concerns and develop
courageous responses in cooperation with other ecumenical organizations.
List of Participants
Rev. James Buys, South Africa
Prof. Kim Yong-Bock, Korea
Dr. Ninan Koshy, India
Prof. Ulrich Duchrow, Germany
Rev. Chris Ferguson, Canada/Jerusalem
Bishop Erme Camba, the Philippines
Prof. Mark L. Taylor, U.S.A.
Ms. Carmencita Karagdag, the Philippines
Dr. Evangeline Anderson-Rajkumar, India
Rev. Cheryl Dibeela, Botswana
Mr. Muto Ichiyo, Japan
Sr. Mary John Mananzan, the Philippines
Ms. Omega Bula, Canada
Dr. Keum Jooseop, CWM staff, UK/Korea
Rev. Dr. Karen Bloomquist, LWF staff, Switzerland/U.S.A.
Prof. Park Seong-Won, WARC staff, Switzerland/Korea
Rev. Patricia Sheerattan-Bisnauth, WARC staff, Switzerland/Guyana
SWP Manila Declaration FINAL EDITION
15 08 06
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