Reading, writing and concentrating.—’The Kingship of Christ’ (1954), [Chapter 12- ACTION FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE] by G.K.A. Bell

I am currently struggling to read books. I tell myself every day that I should read on my lunch breaks at work etc, but my mind races from one thought to another and I mainly fail at opening a book and discovering what is contained within. 

Today, I have decided to chain myself to my desk for much of my lunch breaks and copy from whatever book I have to hand.

It forces me to read, write and concentrate at the same time, in the hope that over time it may replace some bad habits with some good ones, and generally help me become a better reader and writer……..etc,…



 WHEN the statesmen on the victorious side in the First World War were preparing for the Peace Conference at Versailles (1919), Charles Bent, Bishop of Western New York wrote to President Wilson making two requests. He urged first that the Conference should be opened with prayer; and secondly that some frank statement should be incorporated in the covenant of the League, that mankind belonged to God and that we were set on working out his purpose. Both proposals failed.

‘I need not tell you,’ wrote President Wilson with regard to the latter, ‘that the suggestion it [your letter] contains appeals to my heart, but I am afraid with the peculiar make-up of our Commission on the League of Nations it would be useless to propose such a sentence for the Covenant of the League.’

A mere sentence, Bishop Brent commented at the Stockholm Conference (1935),

‘is valueless unless it expresses a conviction under the jurisdiction of which we live. But the Christian Churches do live under the jurisdiction of that conviction, and it is their right and duty to state it to the world of nations’.

The World Council of Churches has a special duty to express such a conviction. the Amsterdam Assembly of 1948 expressed the following among other convictions with reference to international affairs:


The World in god’s hands

The churches bear witness to all mankind that the world is on God’s hands. His purpose may be thwarted and delayed, but it cannot be finally frustrated.

War a sin against God

War as a method of settling disputes is incompatible with the teaching and example of our Lord Jesus Christ. The part which war plays in our present international life is a sin against God and a degradation of man.   

The State subject to God

Our Lord Jesus Christ taught that God, the Father of all, is Sovereign. We affirm, therefore, that no state may claim absolute sovereignty, or make laws without regard to the commandments of god and the welfare of mankind. It must accept its responsibility under the governance of God, and its subordination to law, within the society of nations.


At the same time, if the World Council is to give adequate expression of its convictions at a particular moment, any statement it makes must be addressed to a particular situation, and take account of the actual conditions. Hence the World Council would require the assistance of those with special knowledge of international affair. As Sir Alfred Zimmern has written,

Firstly, there is a technique of politics. Caesar has a business of his own, which requires knowledge, training, skill, a special quality of judgement. Politics – and more especially international politics – require more than good will and fine aspirations. . . .

‘Secondly, the things of Caesar must be related to the things of God. Politics is not a closed department, any more than any other special activity’.

(Spiritual Values and World Affairs, p.7.


and again,


‘Between the things of Caesar and the Kingdom of God there is perpetual tension, a tension that is at its highest when, as in the case of Africa, Caesar’s power is least subject to control. in order to play his part in Caesar’s world, the Christian needs, on the one hand, to arm himself with an understanding of Caesar’s problems – he must be able, so to speak, to out0Caesar Caesar on his own ground – and, on the other, the military metaphor may be excused, to keep open his line of communication with his own spiritual base’

Spiritual Values and World Affairs, pp. 176-7. :


It was in order to provide the World Council with the means of understanding Caesar’s problems that the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs (C.C.I.A.) was formed in 1946, and made a joint permanent agency of the World Council of Churches and the International Missionary Council in 1948. The Commission consist of forty-five members, with baron van Asbeck (Holland), Professor of International Law at the University of Leiden, as President, Sir Kenneth Grubb (Britain) as Chairman of the Executive Committee, and Dr O. Frederick Nolde (U.S.A.) as Director. The Commission of the Churches on International Affairs also has the assistance of 25 National Commissions, and 350 international correspondents.


A Technique of Politics

During the past six years the World Council of Churches has had to do with a good many particular subjects in the international field, and it looks to the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs for expert help. Some of the subjects are broad, and of general public interest. Others have a more specialist character. But as C.C.I.A. is the expert body dealing with general and particular situations and problems, it is important that it should be recognized as the instrument of the World council (and the International Missionary Council) by the inter-governmental organizations and by national governments. This applies not only to political, but also to economic questions, and to questions which have a wide social bearing.

Taking the first point in Zimmern’s analysis, we must note that since the main contemporary forum for discussion and decisions on international problems is the United Nations, the commission of the Churches on International Affairs must have a status with regard to that body. It has accordingly registered with the United Nations Department of Public Information, which entitles it to have an observer at all open meetings of United Nations Organs, to receive documents, and obtain information and assistance. It has also been given a consultative relation with the United Nations Economic and Social Commission (Category B), and is therefore entitled to be represented by consultants, and to submit written statements and oral interventions. It has similar consultative status with the United Nations Economic Social and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), 1949, and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO.), 1950.

Whenever the Assembly meets, Dr Nolde, or another member of the staff, is in attendance at the sessions, and makes careful preparations beforehand. Thus the transactions of past sessions are studied to discover ‘unfinished business’; and consultations with delegates or secretariat reveal new issues to be considered. Over a period of three or four months preceding a General Assembly session the actions of the Churches and National Councils on particular topics are assembled, and broad resolutions are drafted for the consideration of the C.C.I.A. Executive Committee. when the provisional agenda of the General Assembly is issued, a special memorandum is prepared wherein the positions of the Churches are correlated with the items for United Nations debate and decision. This type of preparation paves the way for registering Christian views more effectively when the Assembly actually begins the session.

Further (and this applies not only to issues handled by the United Nations but to all issues involving Governments) the officers must show a practical realization of the nature of the particular problem involved. They must analyse that problem, in order to determine the facts by which it is characterized, and so that pertinent Christian truth may be interpreted in such a way that its relevance is clear, and its application seen to be politically possible. They must also realize that while statements by church agencies may have general educational value, such statements have political effect only if their influence is felt at the time and place where decisions of international political importance are reached.


The Kingship of Christ

At he same time (taking Zimmern’s second point) it must be remembered that, as Baron van Asbeck said when reporting to the World Council of Churches Central Committee art Rolle in 1951, the C.C.I.A. being an ecumenical Commission, must take a supra-national and not aninter-national view of affairs. It cannot identify itself with a State or a group of States, or with the united Nations, or with a political movement. It does not keep aloof form political affairs, but at every juncture must take a definite stand, not because it is the stand of a particular nation or group, but out of obedience to the will of god as revealed in the Bible, the book that speaks of the Justice of God in relation to world affairs. therefore the prime target for the C.C.I.A. is the realization of justice.’

Further, while the purposes of the United Nations in the settlement of difficulties and promotion of friendly relations among nations deserves the support of Christians, any idea that the United Nations is part of a Messianic scheme must be totally rejected. Obedience to the will of God is the Christian’s spiritual base. It is the Kingship of Christ over the kingdoms of the world which is the supreme aim of the World Council of Churches.


Religious Liberty

There are certain major interests which stand out in the World Council’s dealing in the field of international affairs. From the very start the World Council has taken particular interest in Religious Liberty and Human Rights. The resolutions on Religious Liberty adopted in Chichester (1949) and Toronto (1950) are evidence of the Council’s attitude. It has interested itself consistently on behalf of religious minorities in different countries, partly through personal intervention. partly through statements published in the press. Ever since 1948 it has worked systematically for religious freedom all over the world. Its views, and through its officers the views of member Churches, are made known on particular points, or when a particular opening is given, such as the framing of a new Constitution for a people which has recently acquired independence.

Reference has been already made* to the two main paragraphs of the resolution adopted by the Central Committee at Toronto in 1950 on this general subject. The whole resolution was framed, and the discussion took place, on the basis of a comprehensive study drawn up by the C.C.I.A. (by request) with the title ‘Religious Freedom in face of Dominant Forces’. The Study is in three parts.

Part I: (printed in the Toronto minutes) The Defence of Religious Liberty – an approach to a comprehensive plan for promoting the observance of religious freedom.

Part II: Supplementary data – an assembly of selected information on areas where the problem of religious domination appears.

Part III: Papers submitted by Church leaders indicating the nature and extent of the restriction upon religious freedom in the areas which they represent.

The Central Committee in the preamble to its resolution spoke of its attention having been called ‘to serious infringements of religious freedom in certain countries in which the Roman Catholic faith is the dominant religion, and in regions in which the Muslim faith is the dominant religion’, and also to reports ‘concerning discrimination against religious minorities in countries where the Protestant or Orthodox Churches are dominant’. By way of conclusion it emphasized ‘the vital importance of incorporating adequate safeguards of religious liberty within national Constitutions’; welcomed ‘the recent enactment of such constitutional safeguards in various countries’; urged all Governments ‘when drafting or amending Constitutions or laws to secure for all people within their jurisdictions the fundamental right of religious freedom’; and stressed ‘the necessity of bringing local administration and practice into conformity with the law’ when adequate standards have been enacted. These resolutions, and the report on which they were based, afford a charter both for watchfulness, and for action, on the part of all interested in the various Churches. It is not surprising that the assistance of the C.C.I.A. is being increasingly sought in situations where religious liberty has been threatened or violated, involving the seizure of Church property, the curtailment of freedom in pursuing normal Church activities, restrictions upon travel of missionaries and their admission to certain countries, and the imprisonment of missionaries. One of the most recent special issues taken up by the Commission arose out of grave reports of the persecution of Protestant Christians in Colombia.

 *(1)  To declare its opposition to all practices by which governments, Churches, or other agencies curb the exercise of religious freedom; to call upon the Churches to disseminate information and to take individual and collective action for promoting in their own countries conditions under which religious freedom may be fully practised; and, further, to make representation regarding infringements to the religious authorities which have jurisdiction in the countries concerned.

(2) To encourage the development of a comprehensive and co-ordinated programme of action, national and international, and thereby to pursue affirmative, preventive, and remedial measures for promoting the observance of religious freedom for all men.

Declaration of Human Rights


An illustration of the way in which the Commission brings its influence to bear on United Nations and the Human Rights Commission is to be found in a study of the steps which were involved in drafting an article on religious freedom in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. the Director, Dr. Nolde, has described the process in a most effective way. First of all there was the action of the World Council of Churches and the International Missionary Council when it adopted a Declaration on Religious Liberty in which the basis for human rights was established in the nature and destiny of man by virtue of his creation, redemption, and calling. Next, different situations in many parts of the world had to be surveyed, so that the consequences of the Declaration might be expressed in a form which took account of the actual conditions. An analysis was then made of the particular ways in which the expression of religious freedom might take place. As a result the conclusion was reached that man should be able to manifest his religion or belief alone or in community with others, and in public or private. It was further concluded that worship, teaching, practice, and observance had all to be taken into account. Missionary needs indicated that a particular importance must be attached to freedom to change one’s religion or belief. In the study by which these components of religious freedom were identified, Christian leaders from many parts of the world participated. Thus a result of extensive study and investigation, the Churches were able to make a fairly precise representation, which flowed from their distinctive conviction and experience at the moment, to the whole discussion at United Nations Commissions where it was definitely relevant. The article which was finally incorporated in the Universal Declaration reads:

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship, and observance.


It will be noticed that freedom to change one’s religion, as well as to manifest it in teaching, is secured. The Universal Declaration, including this article, was adopted and proclaimed by the United Nations General assembly at Paris on 10 December 1948. the officers of C.C.I.A. have taken much trouble since then to call attention to the importance of the declaration in the constituency of the World Council of Churches and the International Missionary Council. Thus on 6 November 1951, they wrote a special letter to forty-five members of C.C.I.A. and to the National Church Commissions, and selected correspondents, calling their attention to the opportunities which the anniversary of the Declaration affirded. According to the reports received, this action was particularly helpful in countries where religious freedom was locally threatened or restricted.

The Commission has continued in active contact with the Human Rights Commission of the United Nations in the work it is doing on two further Covenants on Human Rights, one dealing with civil and political, the other with economic, social, and cultural rights.

Times of International Tension


The Officers of the World Council and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs are naturally alive to the duty of churchmen to be particularly on the watch for opportunities of service in times of grave international tension. The status of C.C.I.A. in relation to the United Nations and to the Governments with which the Officers are in special touch gives them a means of securing information and exchanging reflections which is of special value. Further, the development of the World Council as an ecumenical reality in a divided world is an important factor in relation to the East-West division. The World Council maintains regular contacts with a number of Churches in Eastern Europe. Representatives of those churches are present as meetings of the central committee; and the frank discussions at their meetings and the experience of unity shown by the delegates demonstrate hoe the Churches find bonds with one another after a fashion that overcomes political divisions. A similar sense of the support of their brethren in the World Council meant so much to the churchmen in East Germany at the time of the new attacks which were made by the State on the Church and its youth movement in the spring of 1953, and ceased in June.

Peace Observers


The action taken by the World Council on different occasions in connexion with the Korean War has already been described. The reference to the value of an umpire in the chairman’s letter addressed from Lucknow to the President of the United Nations Assembly** will be remembered. It is of interest also in connexion with the Korean War to note action taken as a result of C.C.I.A. intervention in favour of setting up peace observers.

In August 1950, that is shortly after the outbreak of the Korean war, the C.C.I.A. officers made a proposal that consideration be given to the establishment of a ‘widespread system of United Nations Observer Commissions’ to deter aggression or to identify aggressors, and this was supported by leading churchmen in representations to several Governments in the United Nations. The main elements of the proposal were subsequently incorporated in the Uniting for Peace resolution approved overwhelmingly by the United Nations General Assembly on 3 November 1950. At its Sixth Session in 1951, the General Assembly requested the Peace Observation Commission to establish a Balkan sub-commission because of the tense situation in that area; and on 23 January 1952 it was established for the current year with the following members: Colombia, France, Pakistan, Sweden, and U.S.A.

**- The Central Committee wishes me to say how greatly it appreciates the efforts of the United Nations to overcome what is apparently the one remaining obstacle to the conclusion of an armistice in Korea. It regrets that no plan has so far been found acceptable to all parties. It most earnestly urges the United Nations to persevere in its efforts to resolve the conflict by a truce which will safeguard prisoners of war against forcible repatriation or forcible detention.

The question of repatriation may not be the only obstacle to the conclusion of agreements to end fighting, and other steps may have to be taken. The Central Committee therefore welcomes the expressed willingness of the highest authorities of certain great powers to hold personal discussion and trusts that the essential preliminary conditions of successful consultation may be satisfied.

The immediate object for which the United Nations intervened has been fulfilled. There now remains the settlement of the Korean question with a view to the unification and independence of Korea. The Central Committee is far from underestimating the difficulties. But it is convinced that the only way to end the bloodshed in Korea and so hasten the solution not only of the Korean but also of wider questions is through negotiated settlements. A deep sense of responsibility therefore prompts this appeal to the United Nations to guard against any extension of the conflict and to persist unceasingly in the promotion of negotiations until success is achieved. It commends the more widespread use in international conferences of an umpire.

The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches is also aware that the serious economic needs of many countries in different parts of the world especially in Asia cry out for attention. It appreciates the notable work done through technical assistance and in other humanitarian ways by the United Nations and urges the nations unitedly to devote their resources to meet this call. But in this grave and perilous hour the breaking of the deadlock in Korea is the immediate and essential step to these wider constructive activities.

Underdeveloped Regions


There are many other fields in relation to the United Nations in which the services of the commission of the Churches on International Affairs have been and are of great value. Particular importance is likely to be attached in the near future to its contacts with the Social and Economic commission. It is taking a special interest in the technical assistance programmes and also in expressing Christian concerns in regard to food and agriculture. In this, it gives witness to the Churches’ deep concern and respect for the rights and welfare of the people in the underdeveloped regions. It also shows a lively interest in the work of the United Nations Trusteeship Council.

Atomic Weapons

The Executive of the Central Committee met in February 1950, immediately after President Truman’s instruction to the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission on 31 January 1950 to continue work on all atomic weapons including the hydrogen bomb. And since peace is in a particular way the interest of the Churches and in view of the alarming development of modern methods of war, I propose to devote the rest of this chapter to a consideration of the World Council’s attitude to atom bombs and similar weapons and to a description of the attitude it has adopted in relation to peace appeals.

The Executive Committee denounced the hydrogen bomb as ‘the latest and most terrible step in the crescendo of warfare which has changed war from a fight between men and nations to a mass murder of human life’ It added:

All men have responsibilities before god as they face the grave issues raised by the hydrogen bomb and other weapons of modern war. . . . The governments of the nations have an inescapable responsibility at this hour. The world is divided into hostile camps through suspicion and distrust, and through the failure of the nations to bring their mutual relations within an agreed system of justice and order. As representative of Christian Churches we appeal for a gigantic new effort for peace.


The Stockholm Appeal


A first Peace Congress under Communist auspices had been held in Paris in April 1949. The Paris Congress set up a permanent World Committee of Partisans of Peace, later known as the World Peace Committee. The World Peace Committee (after its first plenary meeting in Rome in October 1949) held its second plenary meeting in Stockholm in March 1950. It issued an appeal known as the ‘Stockhom Appeal’. It reads as follows:

We demand the total banning of the atomic weapon, the arm of terror and the mass extermination of populations.

 We demand the establishment of strict international control to ensure the implementation of the ban.

 We consider that any Government which first uses the atomic weapon against any country whatsoever would be committing a crime against humanity and should be dealt with as a war criminal.

 We call on all men of good will to sign this appeal.


When the Central Committee of the World Council met in Toronto in July 1950, it made a statement on the Korean situation and World Order which included the following paragraph:

Such methods of modern warfare as the use of atomic and bacteriological weapons and obliteration bombing involve force and destruction of life on so terrible a scale as to imperil the very basis on which law and civilization can exist. It is, therefore, imperative that they should be banned by international agreement and we welcome every sincere proposal to this end. However, the ‘Stockholm Appeal’, which demands the outlawing and control, both immediate and continuous, must be regarded as a strategy of propaganda rather than a genuine peace proposal. We must seek peace by cultivating mutual confidence and work for an increasing devotion to common moral principles

 At the same time, the officers of the C.C.I.A. issued a letter to their colleagues in different countries in which they pointed out serious differences between the principles underlying the Stockholm Appeal and those which are held by Christians. They also pointed out that the term ‘Strict international control’ is a term already used by Soviet representatives to describe their proposal for *national* ownership and management, *periodic* (as in continuous) inspection of declared facilities, and *special* investigations when suspicions of violations arise. The purposes of the Cominform campaign may be manifold, but there is no indication that a fresh start in the Atomic negotiations is among them.

Approach by the World Peace Council

In January 1951, M. Joliot-Curie, President of the World Peace Council, made a direct approach to the President of the World Council of Churches asking for the Council’s support for the appeal made by the ‘Second World Congress of the Defenders of Peace’ in succession to the Stockholm Appeal), that all kinds of atomic, bacteriological, chemical, toxic, and radio-active weapons, and all other means of mass-destruction, be entirely prohibited; and that during 1951-2 there should be a gradual reduction simultaneously and in the same proportion of all armed land, sea, and air forces, this reduction being increased from one-third to a half.

The Presidents entrusted the task of replying to the officers of C.C.I.A. In February 1951 these officers, writing to M. Joliot-Curie, informed him of various statements made by the World Council through its organs on the subject of disarmament, and emphasized the importance of an adequate international combined force of United Nations, organized to safeguard any State against aggression of any kind, and to enforce international law.

In June 1951, M. Joliot-Curie wrote again to the Presidents calling their attention to the World Peace Council’s new campaign for a peace pact among the five great powers.

These various proposals came before the Central Committee and the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs at Rolle in Switzerland in August 1951. The Central Committee adopted a statement by it Executive Committee in which it gave its reasons for declining to join in issuing a general appeal for peace, including the following paragraph:

All the members of the Executive Committee, as indeed all the Churches represented on the world Council of Churches loathe war. They realize to the full the ruinous consequences with which the world is threatened should war break out. They threfore believe that the utmost efforts should be made at every point possible to prevent war starting, and that, as such efforts are made persistently and sincerely, their cumulative effect in promoting peace will be great. But peace is not a magic condition which can be conjured up by a stroke of a pen. The present acute international tension has lasted too long, and is too complex in origin, to admit of a quick termination, or a simple solution. Nor are they true friends of peace who, while crying out for peace, create strife and so intensify division.

 The Central Committee did not consider the issuing of a general peace appeal ‘a practicable policy or one that would help the general situation’, but instructed its Executive Committee and the C.C.I.A. ‘to watch for opportunities of co-operation on concrete issues where there was some promise of a fruitful intervention on just grounds’. The C.C.I.A. Executive Committee at the same time issued the following brief formulation of principles for the guidance of Christians.



  1. As Christians it is our duty to seek both peace and justice. We no less than others detest war and we shall do everything in our power to prevent present tensions and limited conflicts form leading to a third world war. Yet we must neither purchase peace at the price of tyranny nor in the name of justice look on was as a way to justice or as a ground of hope.


  1. We stand opposed to every form of oppression and aggression. We condemn any extension of oppression, carried on behind afaçade of propaganda for peace. We condemn equally the proposal of a preventative, or the use for aggressive purposes of atomic weapons.


  1. We do not believe that peace will come merely by new pacts or disarmament. There must first be a sufficiant mutual trust and good faith between natiuons to ensure that agreements will be honoured. Peace and disarmament will follow form mutual trust; they will not automatically create it.


  1. In present world conditions peace and justice require international organs of law and order. We therefore fully support all forms of co-operation between nations which will serve this purpose. Believing that the United Nations and its agencies present now the best means to develop rule of law over the nations, we condemn unilateral military action in defiance of decisions under the Charter of the United Nations.


  1. We press urgently for thr most generous assistance by the wealthier to the poorer nations of the world in their economic and social development, and for immediate sharing by all nations in responsibility for the millions of refugees.


  1. We believe that it is the duty of all Governments and of the United Nations to recognize the dignity of man as a child of god, and to protect the right of the individual. Every denial of fundamental rights should be made known and resisted.


  1. Christians can witness convincingly to peace only if they and their Churches, in their relations with one another across all frontiers, put loyalty to their common Lord above any other loyalty.


On 9 August after the discussion in the Central Committee the offivers of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs write to M. Joliot-Curie saying that they were ready to discuss the various matters raised informally and privately with representatives of the World Peace Council. This offer was welcomed, and, as a result, a conference was held in Paris on 24 November 1951, between M. Joliot-Curie and three of his colleagues, and Baron van Asbeck and four colleagues. The following agreed communiqué was issued after the meeting:

They [the representatives present] proceeeded to an exhange of information and a clarification of their respective positions on the leading international problems and on their respective modes of approaching these in the total setting of the problem of peace and justice.


They exaqmined more particularly the disarmament question, that of the control of atomic weapons of war, that of the peaceful coexistence of different political and social regimes, and other questions such as the importance which must be attributed for the maintenance of peace to the protection of human rights and to technical assistance for underdeveloped areas.


They decided to proceed to the exhange of documents and they will consider the advisability of meeting again.


Dr Nolde, in commenting on the meeting, stated that it had made clear that there are vital differences between the basic conceptions and the approaches of the two bodies concerned with the problems of peace. However, the discussion had offered an opportunity for the removal of misunderstanding.

No further discussions have taken place. But it should be added that the World Council of Churches and C.C.I.A. are deeply concerned about the need of an agreed plan for disarmament under international control, for the banning of the hydrogen bomb and similar weapons, and for a just settlement of outstanding issues between the Powers. Nor is there any weakening in their conviction that a positive attempt must be made to ensure that competing economic systems, such as Communism, Socialism, and free enterprise, may coexist without leading to war.