Search in

Digital Archive International History Declassified

January, 1972


This document was made possible with support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY)

  • Citation

    get citation

    This is an IKV internal paper recollects the founding of the IKV in 1966. In addition, this document outlines the official mandate from the churches, its tasks and goals, as well as the Peace Weeks to be organized on an annual basis. Each Peace Week was to provide a new thematic accent concerning certain political or social issues prevalent to the IKV agenda.
    "Interchurch Peace Council (IKV) Internal Paper," January, 1972, History and Public Policy Program Digital Archive, International Institute for Social History, Amersterdam, Archief Interkerkelijk Vredesberaad, Notulen en Vergaderstukken 1972, Box 4.
  • share document


English HTML

Interchurch Peace Council (IKV) The Hague,

IKV/ 1972/ 1 January 1972

The Interchurch Peace Council.

  1. The origins of the IKV are found in the suggestion of Pax Christi in its pamphlet “Underway with Pacem in Terris,” that peace activities in the Netherlands should get a ecumenical character.[1] A quick answer came from Reverend Landman, secretary-general of the Dutch Reformed Church and of the Council for Government and Society of the same church (at that time, Dr. C.P. van Andel was its secretary). Within the Reformed Churches the Council for the study of the Problem of War was directed to carry out its task within an ecumenical context too.

Late 1966 these three groups founded the IKV. The novelty was that the churches as churches took responsibility for the peace issue. For the Dutch Reformed Church this was a logical follow-up on its report about nuclear weapons. The Dutch bishops asked the peace movement Pax Christi officially to represent the Roman Catholic Church in the IKV. Very quickly, the smaller churches too appointed official representatives. With this, the IKV became an official ecumenical cooperation between the churches.

Therefore, the IKV has the official task from the churches to study on its own responsibility the problems of war and peace and of development in the world, to publish in popularized form, and to recommend fitting actions to interested parties. Since its creation, the IKV has been aiming for close cooperation with other movements in Dutch society with the same purposes.

The Council of Churches was not yet created at that moment, but it was clear already that the IKV followed a different approach than that practiced for years by the International Affairs Commission (CIZ) of the former Ecumenical Council. This committee prepared statements and advised the cooperating Churches in the Council and maintained the relations with Geneva.[2]

Politically too, there existed a difference in perceptions, as became clear in a discussion between Professor Patijn, chairman of the then CIZ, and the IKV in June 1969 in Wending. At this moment, early1972, the IKV is a collaboration formally separated from the Council of Churches. But there are ongoing talks between the new section International Affairs and the IKV about possible collaboration.

In the IKV, representatives of the Baptist Fraternity, the Evangelical Brethren, the Evangelic Lutheran Church, the Society of Friends, the Reformed Church, the Dutch Reformed Church, the Remonstrant Brotherhood, the Old Catholic Church and the Roman Catholic Church all work together.

  1. TASK

As starting point, IKV chooses a positive and dynamic notion of peace. Peace tends to be seen as rest and passivity, in the private sphere and in society at large. The IKV, however, accentuates the responsibility of the Christians for world peace and therefore wants to foster the process of consciousness-raising. The lack of war and direct use of arms in our environment (the negative peace) could be seen as a period offering us the chance to do something about the advancement of a positive peace and to take measures that actually realize human rights.

Peace is not identical to deterrence and stability, but means welfare and freedom for everybody as well. For that reason, peace action includes the concern for economic welfare of Third World countries. Local action groups, translating the IKV initiative to their local context, therefore often choose actions for the benefit of developing countries as local point of departure.

Next to the reflection on problems of war and peace within the Council – where it is about following the development of thinking within the respective churches and to search for commonalities in these ideas – the IKV has formulated as its main goal to promote and to intensify, through education and information, the discussion and formulation of positions among the members of the churches, in the communities and parishes. In this, the IKV connects to existing – trending – developments:

  1. With the fading of the uncompromising and fatalistic Cold War atmosphere, space emerges for the expression of concerns about the danger of war, for criticism of one’s own behavior. There is a growing need for intensive dialogue to identify the nature of the (perhaps still existing) ideological differences. First and foremost, this dialogue demands the willingness to unmask in ourselves and in others everything that is contrary to humanity and truth.
  2. Widely, but especially among young people, there is a growing and demonstrable need to engage with political issues and to receive the necessary education and information. But because this still is a minority, it is not contrary to the observation, on the other hand, that there still is a lot of depoliticization; of a lack of interest in “politics,” which is experienced as incomprehensible and in the face of which one feels powerless. The IKV wants to break through this feeling of powerlessness and to meet the need for information.
  3. The idea is gaining ground that, next to the “micro-ethics” of acting correctly (as a Christian) at the individual level, there must also be a “macro-ethics” of acting correctly and establishing good structures in society at large. The proclamation and task of reconciliation is the perspective from which the churches must speak about this to the world over and over again. That is the political responsibility of the Church.

This is not only about individual conversion and “being a good person” in the sphere of direct charity. That is important, but insufficient to solve political problems. “Political problems must be solved through politics, that is to say through the conscious shaping of society through the structuring of the existing powers in it.” (according to the IKV in “Conclusions Peace Week”)


The IKV is of the opinion that educating and the giving of information has of course to occur as professionally and objectively as possible, but it is aware that, also under those conditions, every bit of information implies a political choice.

That is already implicit in the subject choice, the formulation of a problem and the selection of experts. The demand of professionalism and objectivity is a legitimate one, unless “objectivity” is understood as not drawing any conclusions, and “professional” only as expressions with a thrust and content with which one agrees.

The opinions within the IKV are located between pacifism narrowly defined (briefly to be understood as rejecting every international use of violence and non-reliance on armaments to conduct or prevent war) and more common political ideas, about the inevitability of armament and war, the irreconcilability of ideological differences and the inclination of humankind (c.q. our adversaries) to evil.

In between there is a vast, empty terrain of unused possibilities, of larger or smaller steps that can create the climate needed for the bigger steps. With “climate” is meant the entirety of attitudes and opinions in which a willingness exists to do, or refrain from doing, what is needed for more peace.

Particularly churches can and must play a vital role in this. Like no other institution in society, they are rooted both in “the center” of society, where the power resides and the pragmatic “realism” reigns, and in “the periphery,” where new ideas come into being and the radical “idealism” is to be found. Sociologically the Church can fulfill a fairly unique bridging function, through which these two worlds can come into contact with each other and develop responsible policies. Perhaps it is not superfluous to say that this does not imply at all that the truth always must lie “somewhere in the middle.”

IKV’s purpose, therefore, primarily is better to equip the individual members of the different churches for reflection on the issue of war and peace, and in this way to enable them to make up their minds and to take political action.


Since its founding, the IKV limited itself in explicit opinions concerning current developments. There are, however, some clear exceptions: in the autumn of 1968, IKV together with the Pax Christi peace movement has opposed a defense increase of 225 million guilders. In 1969 it approached the Ministers of Defense and of Justice with a new formulation for the law on conscientious objectors to military service.

In addition, the IKV several times prepared a postion for the different churches. The pulpit messages at the beginning of the Peace Week in 1967, ’68 and ’69 can be mentioned; statements after Martin Luther King’s death; the Warsaw Pact invasion in Czechoslovakia in 1968 and the Vietnam War.

This self-limitation in regard to taking positions is caused by the following considerations. Within the churches there are other bodies that address government and parliament directly (e.g. the Synod or office of the presidium of the Dutch Reformed Church, the conference of bishops, the various peace movements etc.) Because a stance nearly always has to respond to current developments, the time for deliberation is very limited, which could easily lead to frictions with or within churches represented in the IKV. Finally, the IKV wants to spend most of its time, energy and means on the more fundamental education work, namely starting up local branches.

In the documentation and action models, provided by the IKV to the broader groups in our society, however, positioning clearly does appear, albeit more implicit.

Some examples:

  1. Following the start of SALT, the IKV wrote to the churches about nuclear weapons:

“These negotiations are of enormous significance for the increase of security in our threatened world. Because technological developments make it possible that a new, mad chapter in the arms race will begin in the 1970s. The mistrust between the great powers will increase; large financial amounts and human energy, so needed to make the world livable, will be spent on the expansion of insecurity and discontent in the world.

The Interchurch Peace Council agrees with the observation that SALT signifies a critical phase in the history of our time. It is about a decisive choice: either both parties succeed in ending their military competition, offering more favorable chances for a worldwide reduction in weapons and primarily for a non-proliferation of atomic weapons, or their negotiations will fail, which will not only lead to a new round in the arms race between these countries, but also in a strengthening of that kind of politics that lets itself be guided by weapons and arming, with all implied dangers.

In our times, effective action is needed against the view and way of thinking that an increase in weapons serves our security. As long as the arms race is not brought to a stop, maintaining what one calls the balance of power rather means a continuous pursuit of military superiority

Churches may not support the further intensification of armament in the world, neither openly nor quietly. Initiatives such as the SALT-talks in Vienna, that aim for a curbing of the current arms race, should get wide attention and should be supported vigorously. When these talks succeed and the balance of power is frozen, this balance of power should only be tolerated when it is used gradually to replace the present system of nuclear deterrence with a different system better able to promote peace and justice.

So far, many within the Dutch Churches have in this context accepted the balance of nuclear deterrence. When the willingness to make the decisive choice in favor of a different security system does not increase in the world, the moment has come for the Christian to reevaluate his stance towards the present security system and the politics based on it.

  1. With regard to Dutch policy concerning the United Nations, during the Peace Week in 1970, the IKV invited everybody to underwrite four demands to the Dutch government and parliament:
    1. parliamentary confirmation of the Human Rights treaties;
    2. unite all nations in the UN;
    3. realization in policy and legislation of the UN-resolutions accepted by the Netherlands;
    4. donation of twenty-five million guilders to the UN, to cover the UN deficit

    (That year the IKV collected 35,000 guilders for the UN, as an enheartening advance on the requested government contribution).

  1. In the Peace Week of 1971 we argued:
    1. in favor of support for liberation movements (especially via the anti-racism program of the World Council of Churches);
    2. in favor of a conscious choice concerning military conscription;
    3. in favor of help for victims of the American bombings in Vietnam;
    4. against purchases of Siemens products, which collaborates in the Cabora Bassa Dam in Southern Africa.
  2. In the Peace Week of 1972, the IKV wants (following its leaflet about SALT, the Peace Week of 1968, and the Report on nuclear weapons of the Dutch Reformed Church) to criticize the system of deterrence on which the European security is based, as an immoral system. At the same time, it wants to voice a vision for Europe’s future and to suggest the possibility of concrete steps that could break through the current deterrence thinking.

The explicit (through declarations) and implicit (through documentation) positioning of the IKV raises the question with some people (especially opponents of this church-based peace work): “On behalf of whom does the IKV speak?”

Mr. G. Ruygers[3] (IKV-member until his death in February 1970) in its last article in the IKV-pamphlet Faith and Politics answered this question as follows: “What exactly is the place of the IKV in the structure of the Dutch churches. This is a somewhat unpleasant question. If one disagrees with someone, the question always rises: on whose behalf do you actually speak? Formally, it is primarily a question for the ecclesiastical authorities and not for me. Materially, I consider every Christian peace movement today, IKV as well as Pax Christi, as a rebellious current in the church.

Not totally separate from the official church, because the church authorities have recognized that there should be a place within the totality of the churches for something like the IKV. That is already quite something. One should not expect more. The Christian peace movement may hope that its engagement in the matter of peace will be the engagement of the entire people of God in the future. Then it will have accomplished the maximum result, namely making itself redundant. Today that is not yet the case. That is why she should not pretend to speak on behalf of the entire church. That conceals reality. In today’s political reality, engagement for the sake of peace is, also among Christians, a controversial issue. In such a situation the cause of peace is served more with clear dividing lines than with external facades of unity.”


The peace week is the most important activity of the IKV. The themes of the peace week were:

in 1967: Proliferation of prosperity, no proliferation of nuclear weapons;

in 1968: Europe, reconciliation, peace, security;

in 1969: Working on peace, Prosperity for the World (development work as work at home);

in 1970: Unite the Nations;

in 1971: Peace! At all costs?

in 1972: The power of Europe (NATO and EEC) (provisional title)

This week functions more and more as starting or final point of long-term projects and short-term actions. For many people the peace week is a first point of contact with peace issues. As a model it also draws attention more and more internationally.

  1. the action groups
  2. priests and pastors
  3. the teachers
  4. news media

are the four channels through which the peace week reaches a larger group of people than was possible previously.



[1] Met Pacem in Terris Onderweg, 1965.

[2] Site of the offices of the World Council of Churches.

[3] Geert Ruygers was a Labour politician and parliamentary spokesman for Foreign Affairs of that party. He was a member of both Pax Christi and IKV.


It appears your Web browser is not configured to display PDF files. No worries, just click here to download the PDF file.

Click here to view the PDF file in a new window.

PDFs cannot be printed inline in the page. To print a PDF, you must first download the file and open it in a PDF viewer.