The Relevance of the Cross – press release

Wombourne Good Friday procession 2016

“The relevance of the cross”

WOMBOURNE METHODIST CHURCH
PRESS RELEASE
For immediate publication

On Good Friday (25th March), thirty Christians from churches in Wombourne (in South Staffordshire) walked their witness to Christ. Starting from Wombourne Methodist Church they walked towards the village center as some of the group also carried protest banners such as “Justice for Palestine”; “The Wall must Fall”; “Make Peace, not War” and “Books not Bombs”. The Rev’d Christopher Collins said: “the cross is a very political symbol that is the result of Jesus’ stand against the empire. The banners made a link between the protest of the cross of Christ and modern day issues for which we still crucify Christ on earth today.” Importantly, the banners bore witness that the cross is for the very real issues that people face today.

As the procession reached the village center they were joined by many families who had been taking part in children’s banner making sessions in other churches in the village. The procession culminated in an open air service which attracted its largest crowd for some years.

END

Notes
1. Contact: The Rev’d Christopher Collins 07791 651418 / 01902 687635 / Christopher.collins@methodist.org.uk / 34 Bellencroft Gardens Wolverhampton. WV3 8DT

2. The caption for the photograph should read “Some of the group walking their witness outside St. Bernadette’s Roman Catholic Church. Photograph: Rev’d Nadene Snyman)

Peace Prayers

Have you got a favourite prayer for peace? Please share it here and mention where you found it.

To start us off, the Beatitudes

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Matthew 5:3-12

Add yours in the comments box below.

As they come in, they’ll be added to the “Pray for Peace” page in the Resources section.

White poppies

Photo: FoR

Photo: FoR


Remember all the victims of war, and wear a white poppy this year.

Order yours below. Suggested donation of £1.50 each (including p&p), then 60p for each additional poppy.

For orders under £5, send a cheque payable to “Fellowship of Reconciliation”, to the address at the bottom.

For orders of more than 25, it’s best to get them directly from the Peace Pledge Union.

White poppy order form

 

Verification

No Faith in War

Steph Neville, an FoR member living in Birmingham, reports on her experiences resisting the arms trade this month.

On Tuesday 8th September, the second anniversary of Pope Francis’ denunciation of the evils of the arms trade, Christians gathered outside the ExCeL centre in London as it prepared to host the world’s largest arms fair. Travelling from across the country and representing diverse denominations and groups, they maintained a presence at the gates throughout the day.

Peacefully, prayerfully, many of those present stepped out into the roads, successfully preventing access to the entrances to the centre where preparations for next week’s exhibition are underway. Multiple blockades through the day were part of a whole week of creative action to disrupt the set-up of the DSEi Arms Fair. Informal prayers sat in front of a growing tail-back of lorries and a funeral procession for the unnumbered victims of the arms trade were among the powerful moments which took place in the approach roads to the ExCeL gates.

Supported by those maintaining prayerful vigil on the surrounding verges and pavements, the atmosphere remained one of respectful peace and of passion steeped in gospel values: a stark contrast to preparations for an event which will contribute to the continuing escalation of instability and conflict; the human cost of which is becoming increasingly evident.

DSEi takes place every two years and brings thousands of arms manufacturers and dealers together with representatives of global governments including those from some of the world’s most repressive regimes . As the refugee crisis in Europe draws our attention to increasing global conflict and instability, there is an almost sickening irony in knowing many of those conflicts are fuelled by a trade which being encouraged here, in our capital.

The theme of the Beatitudes reverberated through the day, with different groups independently choosing their inclusion in their liturgies. The power of Jesus’ words, spoken to an audience living under a military occupation, resonated through acts of repentance and resistance, in the face of a system which continues to perpetuate violence and oppression.

The sense of joy and community, which pervaded the day, even in the seemingly impenetrable face of death and destruction, allowed us to experience the truth of the blessing, that the peacemakers and those who hunger and thirst for justice will know happiness.

Notes
Read more about the actions against the Arms Fair as well as about DSEi itself at
www.caat.org.uk
www.stopthearmsfair.org.uk

To contact Steph, you can request her email address by calling the FoR office on 01865 250781

William Hague new chair of military think-tank

Photo: Lefteris Pitarakis/PA in the Guardian

Photo: Lefteris Pitarakis/PA in the Guardian

A former Conservative Foreign secretary has just become the Chairman of a right-wing military think tank.  William Hague was welcomed into the post at Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) earlier today.  Peace activist have frequently said that “foreign policy” all too often means “war”, but this takes the biscuit in terms of career progression.

RUSI is largely funded by the arms industry, taking huge amounts of money from BAE Systems, Lockheed Martin, Finmeccanica and MBDA Missiles to name but a few sponsors.  These companies sell weapons to many of the countries on a Human Rights Concern list, including Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and to both sides of Gadhafi’s Libya.

Hague, while no longer an MP, was leader of the Conservatives 1997-2001 and foreign secretary 2010-15 and has shown that his party are rather too fond of the arms industry, subsidising it by £700m a year and ring-fencing the “defence” budget, as well as pledging to renew Trident next year at a cost of £100billion and in breach of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty the UK signed in 1968.  Part of his role will be to do with the Strategic Defence and Security Review, which many campaigners are pushing to include Trident, rather than have it seen as a separate issue.

In an article for the Daily Telegraph on 31st August 2010 entitled “Human Rights are Key to Our Foreign Policy”, Hague congratulated the British public and Department for International Development on their support for those affected by floods in Pakistan that year.  He said that their response “…confirms something fundamental about our society’s attitude to the suffering of others, whether that distress is caused by natural disaster, state oppression, or conflict.”  Now, he chairs a group which profits directly from this oppression and conflict.

It seems that William Hague has no shame in admitting that his attitude to foreign policy is to arm dictators and lobby for high military spending – taking funds away from what really keeps us safe, such as the NHS and research into renewable energy to prevent runaway climate change.  He is one of many people to have campaigned hard for an end to sexual violence in conflict.  We applaud him for this, but wonder why he’s prepared to compromise his stance against violence by endorsing companies which fuel conflict and corruption and arm repressive regimes.  As foreign secretary, William Hague gave a talk to RUSI in 2013, repeatedly referring to human rights.  Now it would seem that he’s overlooking the role that RUSI’s sponsors play in human rights abuses.

RUSI attracts many current and former foreign secretaries.  Philip Hammond, the current foreign secretary, addressed RUSI this March and in 2012, during his time as “Defence” secretary, was the keynote speaker at their Land Warfare Conference and also their Chief of the Airstaff’s Airpower Conference, both held at Church House Conference Centre, in June and November respectively.  Politicians should not share platforms with arms dealers or, like Church House Conference Centre, allow their reputation to be used to raise the profile and reputation of weapons manufacturers and thus increasing their sales and profits.

Hague’s Telegraph article went on to say, “It is a sad fact that there are scores of countries in the world where human rights are severely curtailed.”  “Sad” is certainly a starting point, but it is not enough to be sad and then to stand by – let alone collaborate – as companies ensure that human rights abuses continue so they can make a tidy profit.  RUSI may not be an arms company itself, but it could not exist without arms sponsorship, and BAE et al sponsor their events knowing that they will ultimately lead to more weapons sales.

FoR is part of a coalition of organisations campaigning for an end to RUSI conferences taking place at Church House Conference Centre in Westminster.  You can sign the petition here.

Sacrificial Love: a reflection after Lent

Reverend Barbara Calvert is a Methodist minister and a member of FoR.  During Lent, Barbara’s church, Chislehurst Methodist Church, displayed the Drones Quilt and it got her thinking…

Sacrificial love                              

Throughout the Lenten season we at Chislehurst Methodist Church reflected on the theme of peace and reconciliation. We had the drones quilt hanging in our church throughout Lent to remind us of the indiscriminate violence of war – each square of the quilt representing an innocent life lost through weapons of blind destruction.

Each Sunday we explored the lectionary readings to see what God might be saying to us through the scriptures. The reading on the first Sunday of our series was from Mark 8. 31 – 38 where Jesus talks of his suffering to come. We explored the theme of power and suffering and what we mean by speaking of an all-powerful God when there is so much suffering in the world. We struggle to understand as we look at the expressions of power all around us. The power of Putin in Russia that is looking increasingly frightening;  the power of sections of the world  financial industry which feeds the wealthy with good things and robs the poor;  we see the power of international companies avoiding tax, exploiting the labour market and making millions for themselves. This sort of power, we concluded is the power of Caesar.

Our understanding of an all-powerful God is a God of love whose power can never be overcome. This is a very different understanding of power to the power of Caesar. God is love:  that is God’s power….and love can never be overcome. Human power comes and goes. It dies. Evil and corrupt leaders, who seem all powerful one day, will eventually fail, their power will fade, it and they will die. The power of the God of love never dies.

Quilt at Chislehurst methodist church

The quilt above the church’s prayer labyrinth (A. Faulkner)

 

Another Sunday we were led in reflection on Christians who suffer persecution and violence simply by seeking to live as Christians. Sadly there were contemporary events to support the theme of Church attacks in Pakistan and Nigeria.  A third Sunday was a Taizé service with the theme of reconciliation as its focus. The final Sunday in the Lent series was Palm Sunday and after the usual distribution of palm crosses we explored the theme of extravagant love inspired by Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus who poured out her whole jar of spikenard perfume on the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair.

We sought throughout Lent to mirror the approach of Jesus as he faced the brutality of Roman occupation– that is,  not to offer clever arguments on just war theories, or arguments for nuclear disarmament, or arguments for the case of pacifism – although we might have done that but we sought to mirror  the action of Jesus. We simply endeavoured to lay alongside the symbol of war and suffering, the drones quilt, an alternative vision; a vision of nonviolent resistance, a vision of extravagant love, a vision of sacrificial love, a vision which led us into holy week where God is revealed not as some alien force above us, but as a human being, fully alive yet prepared to give of his life in the battle against inhumanity and darkness.

Over and against the events of holy week – the cries of the crowd which turn so quickly from ‘Hosanna, hosanna’ to ‘Barabbas, Barabbas,’  the denials of Jesus friends, the flogging, the mocking , the injustice of the court trial,  the crown of thorns piercing his head, the nails hammered into his hands and feet, the crucifixion…over and against all this violence and hatred and inhumanity is laid the power of love. Love is stronger than hate; Light is stronger than darkness.

 Reverend Barbara Calvert 

Interested in borrowing the Drones Quilt?  There’s more information here.

MP3 of Rowan Williams’ talk + panel

If you couldn’t make it to our centenary conference but want to hear what Rowan Williams said in his keynote address, then you’re in luck!

We recorded Rowan’s talk onto a dictaphone and it’s taken a while (and a miracle) to get it onto a computer.
We’ve separated it out into his talk and the Q&A which followed, so you can listen to the bits you want. Apologies for the fuziness – we had to drastically reduce the file size to get them onto the website.

Full talk:

 

Q&A session afterwards:

Note:  If the Play buttons are hidden, click on the black bit next to the time on the left.

Both files are available at a higher quality if needed, just call us on 01865 250781 or email emma@for.org.uk

In addition, thanks to the recording skills of Jon Kwan, you can now watch the Q&A after the panel session with Dr Zaza Johnson Elsheikh, Rabbi Prof Marc Saperstein, Dr Marcus Braybrooke and Lelung Tulku, chaired by FoR trustee Donald Reece:

Thanks again to everyone who made the day a success, particular thanks here to the tech team and of course to Rowan for allowing us to record his excellent talk.

Come to our next conference, Channels of Peace: exploring our call to action, on 17-19 April.

Pancakes for peace

Stuck for inspiration this Shrove Tuesday? Look no further.  We’ve created a little resource to help get your party started.  We’ve pulled together a recipe, made a little quiz and even written a prayer just for you (and God).

If you’re already making pancakes on Tuesday, invite your neighbours and share the fun!

It’s free to download, just let us know if you’d like any extra FoR resources by emailing outreach@for.org.uk
There are Gift Aid forms on the second page – please print out as many as you need.

Happy flipping!

Pancakes for Peace resource – PDF

Address causes of war, says Bishop

We rounded off our centenary last Saturday, 17th January, with a service to remember the witness of FoR members and supporters over the last 100 years and to give thanks to God for guidance and strength. The sermon was delivered by David Walker, Bishop of Manchester

A copy of the press release, which has been sent around to various media contacts, is available here.

People were very moved by David Walker’s sermon and as people have been asking for a copy, we’re posting it on our website. He’s happy for it to be distributed, but please mention who said it and that it was on this occasion. You can read it online below, or download as a PDF


Sermon by David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, at FoR centenary service
St Mary the Virgin University Church, Oxford on 17th January 2015

Our reading from St Luke a few minutes ago described Jesus entering into Jerusalem. He wept over a city that even though its name described it as a place of peace didn’t know what would really make for its peace. I was in Jerusalem myself just a few weeks ago, for the first time in my life. Whilst it was wonderful to visit so many holy sites, it was no more peaceful in 2014 than it was 2000 years ago. We took refuge in a Franciscan church one morning whilst we heard the noise of firecrackers and military weaponry just a few metres away from us, as young Palestinians clashed with the Israeli Armed Forces. Later that same day I breathed in teargas for the first time, when I was caught up in an attack at a tram stop in the centre of the city. Into other incidents that same day people simply waiting for their tram to arrive were killed when vehicles were driven into the queues.

You don’t need to be caught up in armed and violent conflict to understand the urgent need for peacemaking, but it helps!

The Fellowship of Reconciliation began 100 years ago just as Europe was plunging itself once again into war. My grandfather, though he must’ve been extremely young at the time, fought in that war. Some of my earliest memories are of him as an old man, suffering from serious mental illness, as the effects of what he had seen, and what he had taken part in, so many years previously, came back to haunt him. A large part of the final year or two of his life was spent in a mental hospital somewhere near Stockport. I remember visiting him there with my grandma and my parents.

You don’t have to see the life-long damage caused by war in your own family members, in order to understand the urgent need for peacemaking, but it helps!

The UK, it has to be said, remains a pretty safe country for most of us most of the time. Whilst there may be a heightened sense of risk from terrorism, I can recall as a teenager living through the height of the IRA bombing campaign in mainland Britain. Nevertheless, what happens here, now just as much as in the 1970s, is attributed to what has been done by way of military action, in the name of our country and its perceived allies, elsewhere. Whether it be Ireland just across a short body of water, or the Middle East, much further away.

You don’t have to make that link between what is done in the name of our country far away and what then occasionally is brought home to our own streets in order to understand the urgent need for peacemaking, but it helps!

So thank you for what you are, thank you for what you do, and thank you for having done it consistently for 100 years, often in the teeth of public opinion. A radically pacifist approach has never been at the mainstream of British public life, and may never be so, but you hold an important part of the debate. You keep all of us thinking about both the impact of conflict and the urgency of making peace. You challenge what G K Chesterton famously spoke of in his hymn as, “the lies of tongue and pen” to which most human beings for much of the time remain enthralled.

So let me encourage you to go on with the task of radical peacemaking as you begin your second century. And as I do so, let me draw upon the privilege you have given me in allowing me to address you today, to suggest some of the key aspects of that peacemaking which will be necessary for the 21st-century.

Tackling the causes of war

The twentieth century saw the causes of war shifting from imperial ambition, to economic markets, and then on to natural resources, in particular oil. A few months ago I met with the Chief Fire Officer for Greater Manchester. First he showed me the latest technological advancements that would allow his officers to put out fires faster, and with less risk to their lives and safety than ever before. Then he explained that less and less of his firefighters’ work is about putting fires out. Their primary focus has moved to preventing them from happening in the first place. He would rather have staff fitting smoke detectors in people’s homes and reminding us to be careful with the chip pan than extinguishing blazes.

Seeking to prevent wars happening may well continue to include time honoured methods. There will always be a place interventions like the mass marches that attempt to forestall specific conflicts, as people did in their millions during the run up to the disastrous Iraq War of 2003. But how much better it is to come into the debate earlier. If the wars for access to natural resources in the last century focussed on oil, it is likely that in the current century the attention will shift to safe and secure supplies of water. A few weeks ago I walked down to the shores of the Dead Sea. It’s a slightly longer stroll than it was historically. The level of the sea has dropped alarmingly over recent years, as an increasing amount of the water that used to reach it is now being extracted further up the river, in order to irrigate recent settlements.

I know that you are keen to make Climate Change a thrust of your work this year. I would wish to endorse that as strongly as I can. It is also a major focus of the Ethical Investment Advisory Group of the Church of England, on which I sit.

Challenging the methodology of war

We are sold a myth about war nowadays. We are encouraged to see it as something that, even when it involves our own nation’s military, is more akin with a computer game than real life. Guided missiles and drones take out targets with apparently no cost on our side. And if occasionally the wrong target is hit, then that is written off in the weasel words “collateral damage”. Yet when our casual attitude to the consequences of our warfare are cited by terrorists as the grounds for their radicalisation and their atrocities, we act shocked and surprised.

Nuclear weapons have, to pick an ironic metaphor, largely dropped off the radar in recent times. But that doesn’t mean the fight for their elimination needs to be slackened. The same goes for biological and advanced chemical weaponry. The public narrative may be have moved away from these towards the much more low technology battles fought with Kalashnikovs and suicide bombing attacks, but the challenge to advanced weaponry needs to remain firm.

And let me invite you to consider a new priority. It was announced very recently that the latest joint war games between the UK and the USA are to focus on cyber attacks. The two countries will simulate attacks on each other’s systems and then seek to defend those assaults. They will learn a great deal about their defensive capabilities and robustness. They will also learn to hone their skills for potential future attacks against others. Don’t be fooled for a moment into imagining that cyber warfare only has virtual casualties. If major computer systems go down then lives, many lives, are put at risk.

Highlighting the human impact of war

A few years ago friend of mine was working as the chaplain at hospital ward which was the main UK location for treating service personnel who had been injured on the battlefield. It was a posting that nobody was expected to remain in for more than a maximum of about eighteen months, because the demands of spending every day with young military casualties and their families was just too much. Many of them had experienced life changing injuries. Some wished they had died on the battlefield rather than come home as badly and permanently scarred and maimed as they were. The distress, frustration and anger reached deep into their families: parents, fiancées, friends. The chaplain was often the only person on hand to soak up this emotional tidal wave.

UK squaddies are not the enemies of the reconciliation movement, more often they are the victims of war. In a few months’ time we will commemorate in Manchester Cathedral the centenary of one particular day when many hundreds of young men from Salford were killed going over the top of their First World War trench. Today, as it was a hundred years ago, most young people don’t join up because they want to kill and maim others, and certainly they don’t join up because they want to be maimed or killed themselves. They come from the poorest communities, where the life choices are the most limited. Military service offers them the potential of a way out.

Their stories need to be told and heard. Many of us are old enough to remember the attempts made by political leaders to prevent those who had been wounded in the Falklands Islands from marching in the end of war commemoration. I was honoured to be present at Manchester University recently when Simon Weston, who suffered disfiguring wounds in that conflict, was awarded an honorary degree. Try to make alliances with the charities and bodies that support wounded service personnel on issues you can work together on. At the same time you can respect the fact that you may have profound differences from these organisations on other issues.

A final word from my schooldays

The Grammar School I went to in Manchester took a very unusual line. All boys were taught history but none of us was ever entered for the O Level exam. The school didn’t like the examination curriculum offered. We learned about the history of our city and its people. We discovered how, in 1819, when the men who had returned from the Napoleonic Wars to massive unemployment went with their families to plead with the city authorities, they were mown down by the militia in what came to be known as the Peterloo massacre. When we came to study the First World War we paid no attention to the dates and places of battle, nor to the generals who commanded and their tactics. Instead we learned the songs of protest and lament that the men in the trenches composed and sang. And we learned the poems of men such as Owen and Sassoon. We discovered something of what the experience of war was really like. Those history lessons helped me to understand what my grandad had been through. Why the final years of his life had been as they were.

And why peacemaking remains as urgent today as when his generation were being massacred in Flanders fields.

Bishop to address peacemaking service

9/1/2015 – For immediate release

Fellowship of Reconciliation

Contact: Emma 01865 250781

BISHOP OF MANCHESTER TO LEAD NATIONAL CELEBRATION MARKING 100 YEARS OF CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKING

Christian peace charity the Fellowship of Reconciliation (FoR) will conclude its centenary year with a service led by Bishop of Manchester David Walker at the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Oxford at 2pm on Saturday 17 January 2015.

The ecumenical service will include contributions from FoR members and supporters, as well as stories from the UK and around the world. The service is open for anyone to attend and a retiring collection will be taken for the work of FoR.

Chair of Trustees, Richard Bickle said:

“As we reflect on the hundred years since the outbreak of World War One, the vital work of reconciliation has rarely enjoyed a higher profile featuring as it did in the Queen’s Christmas Message, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Christmas sermon and the Pope’s New Year address.

The service provides an opportunity for members and supporters to give thanks for the work of Christian peacemakers and commit ourselves anew to work for peace and reconciliation.”

The service will include a presentation to retiring FoR Director Millius Palayiwa.

Richard Bickle said “Millius is retiring at the end of our highly successful Centenary Year, after four years of service. We recognise his significant contribution over this period and thank him in particular for the successful co-ordination of the Centenary celebrations and the raised profile of our organisation.”

ENDS

Notes for Editors:
– The Fellowship of Reconciliation is a Christian peace charity. It was formed in 1914 to support people who held a belief that war in all its forms was morally wrong.
– Today the Fellowship works to support grassroots peacemakers in areas of conflict through its International Peacemakers’ Fund and equips its members to campaign, act and pray for peace.
– FoR in England is part of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation.
– Further information is available at www.for.org.uk