Political violence in South Africa and Central America is among the issues being tackled at an executive meeting of the predominantly Protestant World Council of Churches, being held here in overwhelmingly Catholic Latin America for the first time.
The conference, which began Monday, comes at a time of growing preoccupation among the churchmen over the declaration of a state of emergency by the minority white government of South Africa as well as uneasiness about the possibility for direct U.S. intervention in Central America.
"There is a renewed sense of urgency, especially as far as South Africa is concerned," said Ninan Koshy, director of the council's international affairs commission.
The choice of newly democratic Argentina as the conference site was said to signal satisfaction with the regional trend to democracy and respect for human rights as well as a demonstration of solidarity for Third World nations. The WCC is comprised of 303 churches from more than 100 nations, with the Catholic Church enjoying observer status.
Council officials said they expected resolutions to be issued next week in support of majority rule and economic sanctions against the South African regime, as well as the immediate release of all political prisoners in that country and neighboring Namibia. An endorsement of the peace-making efforts on Central America by the Contadora nations of Mexico, Panama, Colombia and Venezuela also was expected.
In what many observers called a demonstration of support for Nicaragua's beleaguered regime, delegates were asked to participate in a fast on Thursday for peace in the Latin region.
The Nicaraguan foreign minister, the Rev. Miguel D'Escoto Brockman, recently went on a hunger strike to protest what he called U.S. aggression against his country. A four-member WCC fact-finding mission visited four countries in the region and issued a report sympathetic to many of the Nicaraguan government's complaints.
Council officials said the group opposed the Reagan administration's policies in Central America and next week the council is expected to approve a pastoral letter for delivery to member churches in the region, urging them to continue their efforts to seek a peaceful solution to the area's difficulties.
"The U.S. [role in Central America] is considered to be indefensible," said Presbyterian delegate William P. Thompson, an American and one of the four who made the trip. "The situation in El Salvador has not changed substantially since the election of President Jose Napoleon Duarte: The army still exercises great power and the government insists on a military solution.
"While it is true that death squad activity is down, they the Salvadoran military are now bombing peasant villages, using old C47s as strafing platforms, causing many more casualties," he said in an interview.
Thompson rejected as "nonsense" recent charges by administration officials that some church groups were using the cover of religion to further their own radicalized political programs.
"The church of Jesus Christ has never shrunk from its duty to apply the gospel to everyday actions, including those resulting from government action," he said. "Reagan's people are doing the same thing they accuse us of doing, seeking the support of one sector of the religious community while ignoring more traditional sectors such as ourselves."