End Hunger Fast. Tomorrow.

Britain isn’t eating.  Ian Duncan Smith got very upset when Church Action on Poverty created this picture, but it’s true.  Food banks are commonplace.  Needing to use a food bank, even more so.

What has this got to do with faith?

Jesus said that we will always have the poor with us.  He didn’t say we should comfortably accept that fact and get on with our lives.  In fact these days, it’s increasingly hard to comfortably get on, given that we could be one massive bill away from poverty and hunger ourselves.
End hunger fast image

Christians cannot sit idly by and watch people starve.  We should be shouting loudly about injustice, challenging it when we see it and asking questions when something seems wrong.

The government spends £2.5bn on fighter jets while ¼ of children in the UK live in poverty.

This has got to stop.

This Lent, people are going hungry.  This Lent, people are going hungry in solidarity with them and to send a clear message to the government that they need to sort things out.  They cannot make devastating cuts to the poor, protect the rich and expect to get away with it.  One person hasn’t eaten a thing since Ash Wednesday and hundreds – maybe thousands – will join them for the day of fasting tomorrow.  Here at FoR we’ve got staff doing the fast and tweeting a picture of their empty plate with #FastApril4th while sustaining ourselves using the facebook page and event for the day fast.

Austerity and hunger will only lead to conflict, more austerity and more hunger.  It’s unjust and it’s an act of violence.

This April 4th, go hungry with the hungry and pledge to End Hunger Fast.

 

Fly Kites Not Drones

If you were in town this weekend in Hastings, Norwich, Tavistock, Bristol, Edinburgh, Leicester, Cardiff, Coventry, Oxford, Brighton, Blackheath, Burlington, London, Southampton, Rochester, Lincoln, Littlehampton, Lewes or Bournemouth, you might have wondered why people were flying kites. That would be understandable.

Nao Roz is Afghan new year. Sadly, Afghans lives are being ruined through drone strikes and the imminent threat thereof. Many of these come from British forces (BIJ 2014).

Susan and child kites

More photos to follow

There are any things going on to resist and remind people of drone warfare. Civil disobedience, an all-party group, a quilt. The weekend of 21st-23rd March is a time to share with Afghans by flying kites in solidarity with them, to let them know that they are in our hearts, our thoughts and our actions.

In Oxford we held an event in the town centre, in Bonn Square by the peace plaque. FoR staff and members, Quakers, Catholic workers and Oxford CND came to fly kites and were met with joyous children. We talked to people, gave them flyers about drones and the wonderful Afghan Peace Volunteers, who talked to those flying kites at RAF Waddington.

For info on the other events taking place around the country, see the Voices for Creative Nonviolence UK website.

Oxford meeting is born

FoR oxford meeting

Thank you to those who came to Peace House last Thursday – our inaugural meeting was a great success. We were delighted to host Rana Salman from the Holy Land Trust, who talked about her experience of living in Bethlehem and what people are doing to resist violence.

We learnt that community, solidarity and planning for the future are key to the prospect of peace in the region. There are empowerment workshops for young women and leadership courses for young people of all genders, teaching how to lead using nonviolence as standard, so that future leaders can work better together and bring about more just systems of power.

Much of the proceeding Q&A session was spent discussing the home rebuilding project HLT carries out. Houses are frequently demolished by Occupation Forces, but a dedicated team, helped by visiting volunteers, can have a new one on the site in a fortnight. It is rare for these new houses to be knocked down again.  What stories of hope!

We are very grateful to Rana for the help she gave FoR throughout her week with us and wish her the very best for her vital work for peace and reconciliation.

Called to be Peacemakers conference

IMGP0483Our annual conference for YPN members, Called to be Peacemakers, was a great success.  It was run jointly with the Student Christian Movement this year and some 50 people attended.
Welcome to our new members!

The theme was Peace, Power and Protest: Prophets for a new world and our contributors included Christian CND,  QPSW and Operation Noah, among many others. Inderjit Bhogal was the keynote speaker, explaining to us how peace isn’t a destination, but the means to achieving reconciliation and to do so we must all have a dream.  That as Christians we are called to look for the good in others and to be different.  We were challenged indeed.

If you were there and would like to write a blog post about it, please do!  Send it to Emma and please include any photo you’d like to go up with it.

In the meantime, get involved: do something for the Global Day of Action on Military Spending on 14th April. To find out more about FoR, come to our Oxford meeting on 13th March at 7:30pm.

Visit to Brize Norton

The following was published in the Oxford Mail on Thursday, February 6th, following a protest by FoR and Oxford CND on the occasion of a drones summit between David Cameron and François Hollande.   Online article here.

Oxford Mail: site_logo

Why I stood in the rain for hours outside Brize Norton

5:00pm Thursday 6th February 2014
by Emma Anthony, Membership and Outreach Officer at the Fellowship of Reconciliation, England.

The reason I stood in the rain holding a bed sheet? Drones. There aren’t many topics, save Marmite, where very few sit on the fence. Either people think they’re an appalling invention, killing more people than we realise and terrorising people in Yemen, or they’re great because they save Our Boys (along with MoD money, cheaply training pilots who won’t need replacing).

Oxford Mail:

Protesters outside the main gate of RAF Brize Norton, left to right, Sarah Lasenby, Margaret Downs, Nigel Day and Emma Anthony

The UK and France have this funny relationship, but let’s not get into that. They’ve both signed a treaty to get rid of nuclear weapons but the UK government has already spent billions making the parts to renew Trident, our current nuclear arsenal, despite the vote on whether or not to renew it being in 2016. On top of this, at a time of huge cuts, austerity and job losses especially within local councils, our Prime MinisterDavid Cameron met with French President Francois Hollande at Brize Norton RAF base to make a deal on a new, more autonomous drone, at a cost of £120m to the taxpayer. I stood outside with a banner.

Oxford Mail:

Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Francois Hollande at the summit at RAF Brize Norton

Don’t get me wrong – I work for a non-violence organisation called the Fellowship of Reconciliation so I think we shouldn’t have any weapons, let alone scary autonomous humming killer robots. FoR is about promoting non-violence as the means to transforming conflicts. We campaign in the UK for disarmament, social, economic and political justice, and support groups doing this abroad through our International Peacemakers Fund.

So I was standing in the rain for a number of reasons. I don’t like weapons – they don’t get us anywhere. I don’t like drones – they’re not as accurate as we’re told (just check out our drones quilt – they kill thousands of civilians) and their mere presence over villages in places like Yemen and Pakistan causes huge psychological damage to the locals. They don’t just dislike the noise they make overhead, but they know there is a reasonable chance of getting killed as collateral damage, when buildings are attacked if they contain “targets” – people carrying something which looks like a weapon or acting “suspiciously”.

Huge quantities of money are being directed towards warfare and away from welfare. Developing weapons to fight wars we shouldn’t be having in faraway places is making enemies and reducing our security. Al-Qaeda have tried to justify two attacks in Yemem on the basis of drones being controlled from those compounds, including a hospital. Drones clearly do not reduce terrorism.

I am extremely worried about the actions of the Government at the moment. Not only are they ignoring warnings about catastrophic climate change (we can’t burn more than one fifth of conventional fossil fuel reserves), they are bulldozing ahead with plans to frack the living daylights out of the UK. The recent Lobbying Bill is giving greater power to corporations and less to charities in the year before the General Election. They are renewing Trident prematurely and in breach of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

They constantly invite people back to the London Arms Fair who have been ejected for selling torture equipment, but have the peaceful protesters arrested. And the idea to convict people for “being annoying” – well, soon charities won’t be able to do anything at all.

I stood in the rain with my friends from Oxford Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament because I wanted Mr Cameron and Mr Hollande – and those passing by – to realise that we know they’re ignoring what matters – NHS, peace – and instead chasing profit regardless, and we shall not let them get away with it.

  • To find out more about FoR, go to our website at for.org.uk or come to Peace House at 7.30pm on Thursday, March 13, for a talk, Q&A and tea.
  • For more information on drones, visit dronewars.net

© Copyright 2001-2014 Newsquest Media

Conference blog #8: Taking the Plunge

Amanda Kuehn is from Lincoln, Nebraska and studies creative writing at St Mary’s University in California. Read her reflections on daring to be a peacemaker; how it’s not that daunting really, and that we’d be surprised how things add up.  

“Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” Psalm 34:14

I am not a peacemaker. Sometimes I’d like to be (and maybe that is a start), but often the idea of becoming a peacemaker strikes me as sort of extreme – like becoming an environmentalist or a vegan. It seems to require actions and commitment that I’m not quite ready to make, that I’m not even sure I’m capable of making. Midweek meetings to discuss pro-active demonstrations. Weekends of attending conferences and leading seminars. Summers spent asking for donations and soliciting volunteers. Scary stuff if you ask me.

Now sometimes I want to be the sort of woman who soothes babies and comforts the heartbroken; who leads food drives, tutors at-risk teenagers, and raises money to stop human trafficking in her spare time. Truth be told, I probably have more spare time right now than I ever have or will at any other point in my life. I have no children to raise, no husband to care for. I don’t even have a full time job demanding that I be in one place from 9-5, five days a week. And yet I do not know if I can commit to this peacemaking business.

I feel like peacemakers are the people on the front lines, singing songs and picketing in protests, passing out pamphlets on street corners and donating all of their spare change to non-profit organisations based in countries I can’t even spell. That sort of perception is what keeps me from jumping into the deep end of the peacemaking pool.

But maybe peacemaking isn’t an all-or-nothing kind of thing. Maybe it’s something you can ease into, one choice at a time. I hear that’s the best way to make a change – little by little. Maybe pursuing peace doesn’t start by spending three months in the middle of Africa. Maybe it begins by forgiving my sister for hurting my feelings, by keeping an extra pair of socks in my car, or foregoing my morning coffee once a week and giving that $2 to the man standing on the central reservation.

Peace, like love, is a habit that is formed and re-enforced one choice at a time. By opening a door, offering a “thank you,” giving up a seat, talking to a stranger. Peace begins with the small things, the close things, the easy decisions that prepare us for the hard ones. I may not yet have the strength to host a stranger in my home, but I do have the capacity to buy her a sandwich. I may not be ready to quit my job and work for a non-profit, but I am capable of being a conversation partner once a week. This is how we prepare to plummet the depths of making peace, by opening our hearts and looking for opportunities, easing us in one step at a time.

For more of Amanda’s writing, visit her blog.

Why not book your place at conference now?

Conference blog #7: Living out Peace

The seventh instalment of your YPN conference blog series is brought to you by Sarah Hine from the Darvell Community in Sussex. Here she describes every day protest for God and challenges us to live out the peace of Jesus.

Living Out Peace

It is easy to talk about peace when you live in a safe neighbourhood and have continual access to
food and water. But what if you have only known war and can’t remember the last time you ate a
good meal? Can peace be a reality in our world torn by war and emptied of hope? God is always in
control, despite the terror and catastrophe splashed across the headlines each day, He has a great
and wonderful plan for this earth.

True and lasting peace is not brought about by our human efforts but by God’s Spirit. Does that
mean we can relax and live our lives in heedless indifference while we wait for this to happen?
Absolutely not! If we consider ourselves to be followers of Jesus we must spend every day of our
lives working for peace in whatever way we can.

Jesus tells us: ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.’
(John 14:27) If we want that peace we must be willing to live like He did. We have to follow Jesus’
example of unconditional and sacrificial love. It can be as simple as visiting an elderly neighbour,
giving a cup of water, feeding the poor or caring for a child. It may be forgiving someone who has
wronged us, speaking up for the oppressed, going the second mile when we would rather not budge
an inch, or simply saying sorry. The power of this world is built on selfishness, so every unselfish
deed we do is an act of protest. These actions must be rooted in a life of prayer, prayer for true
peace which is indeed the Kingdom of God on this earth. In fact, anything we do for others can be a
prayer, whether we realise it or not.

The Kingdom of God is not just a glorious future when the whole world will be at peace. It can break
into our lives at any moment, filling our hearts with unexplainable peace even in the most difficult
circumstances. A life of forgiving, loving and caring for others is prophetic because it exemplifies the
Kingdom of God.

Find out more about community at Darvell on their website.

Book for the conference.

Conference blog #6: Reflecting on Francis’ message

Matt Jeziorski is the education coordinator for Pax Christi, a Catholic peace organisation actively educating and campaigning for a more just and peaceful world. Here are his reflections on the message Pope Francis gave on New Year’s Day and how we might accept the challenge of peace.

Reflection on Pope Francis’s message for World Peace Day 2014

In his message for World Day of Peace (1 January) Pope Francis reflects on what peace is and how it is to be built. In placing fraternity as the foundation for peacebuilding he imagines a world where, recognising one another as brothers and sisters, indifference is impossible and we become deeply concerned with the sufferings of others. Other people, nations, and communities are not commodities to be exploited in order to maintain or promote one’s own power and prestige. They are our neighbours and helpers in building the common good.

A natural consequence of this is that violent conflict becomes impossible when we see a brother or a sister to be loved where once we saw an enemy to be beaten or conquered. Yet Pope Francis goes further than dealing solely with armed conflict and also considers the ‘less visible but no less cruel war fought in the economic and financial sectors’ which are similarly destructive of lives, families, and businesses.

His call is that every interaction with the other, every transaction, every relationship be rooted in love and service in order that the foundations for peace are secure.

This is a message that challenges how we live from day to day. If we are serious about loving and serving all other people then not only does it demand that we work for the ending of the crime of warfare and the sinful arms trade but it demands plenty of us with regard to the smaller things.

The cost of my food and clothing says a great deal about the value I place on the people and planet that produces it. The welcome extended to the asylum seeker and the economic migrant will differ if they are seen as family rather than a threat to our jobs, culture, and way-of-life. And the delight in what I own will only be enhanced as I remember that the right use of my wealth and possessions is in serving my poorer, weaker, and more vulnerable sisters and brothers.

The Catholic Church in England and Wales celebrated Peace Sunday last weekend (19 January), where we reflect particularly in our liturgy on this peace message of the Holy Father. It may cause some discomfort in the pews.

If I am to heed this call to lay aside selfishness so I can truly respond to Pope Francis’s call to love and service – which simply echoes Christ’s own commandment that we are to love one another – then I must be willing to consider how I, daily, can love and serve my neighbour however near or far she may be. Then I can be confident that I am helping lay the foundations for peace.

Find out more about conference and book your place here.

Conference blog series: #5, “We interrupt this war…”

Andii Bowsher is the co-convenor of the Newcastle’s joint universities Martin Luther King Peace Committee and Anglican chaplain to Northumbria University. He explains why peace is more inherent to life than violence, particularly for Christians.

We interrupt this war …

Christmas Eve 2014 sees the centenary of the unofficial Christmas truces. They commonly began with German soldiers and officers putting up Christmas trees, shouting Christmas greetings, and singing songs recognisable to ‘Tommy’ such as Stille Nacht.
I’m involved in some local projects to make something of remembering the Christmas Truces because they represent a moment of sanity and tell us something important about war and peace.
WWI was a war arising from Imperial ambitions clashing. At the heart of it were supposedly Christian nations mirroring each other’s official ‘theologies’ of war and nationhood and painting their opponents demonically. But how did supposedly Christian countries with good civilisational credentials end up demonising each other and slaughtering one another and claiming it was God’s will?

Let’s start with the creation stories of the Ancient Near East. Though these varied in detail of character and plot, the stories portray order created out of chaos by violence. Human beings are not shown to be high in the value and dignity stakes -we’re almost afterthoughts made from disrespected defeated enemies in order to slave for the gods and their representatives on earth (royal elites). In this scheme the created order is violently produced and maintained: ultimate reality is violent, ‘agonistic’.

So it’s interesting to read how Genesis 1 looks against this background. We see a counter-story: emphasising that creation is founded in original peace rather than original violence, and that we humans have a dignity since we all image God -a view which automatically flattens hierarchy and delegitimises kingly and priestly claims of privilege. We are also created for rest as well as to participate in the work of God.

The Ancient Near East stories are essentially myths of redemptive violence: a way of proposing that violence is what effects important change and brings about good; the goodies must employ violence to make sure that their ‘good’ values prosper and prevail. It is a myth that is propagated in many -most- Hollywood films. It encourages us to think that means are not necessarily or inherently related to ends; that we can create good by doing harm.

Our societies are held captive by the Myth of Redemptive Violence. The Judeo-Christian traditions question that. Jesus’ teaching strongly undermines it. Our faiths have been co-opted by the Myth and our imaginations colonised by it. The Christmas Truce reminds us that our imaginations can be challenged and awakened to more peaceful and just dreams and our faith can fund another way of relating beyond the reinforced enmities we’re socialised into. It allows us to glimpse a truth: that peace is more fundamental to the order of the universe than violence.

Find out more about the conference and book your place here.

#PeaceProphets14

Conference blog post #4: In Sight of Peace

Fourth post in our conference blog series: Amelia Sutcliffe, divinity student at Edinburgh university, worked at a photography exhibition last summer; she shares her reflections on how some unexpected photographs can be powerful witnesses for peace.

#InSightOfPeace

This August I worked as an intern for the Centre for Theology and Public Issues (CTPI), in Edinburgh, on their summer project ‘In Sight Of Peace’. I was initially unsure about taking up the opportunity but, having found out more, I decided to take the plunge in the name of fun and experience.

My role was to help with the day-to-day running of their exhibition, “In Sight of Peace”, its associated events at the Just Festival and social media. “In Sight Of Peace”, by Magnum Photographer Ian Berry, shows South Africa from 1960 to 2005 and its move from segregation to equality and reconciliation. Although I assumed from its title that it would be emotive and interesting, I could not have estimated the impact it would have on me or its many visitors.

And what photos they were, from one of the only pictures taken at the Sharpeville massacre of 1960, (which was used in the trial against the police), to those of school children in newly integrated primary schools. As I oversaw the exhibition I got to know each image and although each held a shocking and heart-breaking story, the power of Berry’s photography allowed visitors to see and understand without a word of explanation. I believe this was the reason CTPI wanted to show it, not just for the public to see Berry’s skill (though this would be reason enough), but for them to think, question and wonder the place of photography in sharing a story without using words. And not just any story, but a story of Peace building: while some of the images depicted appalling violence, many showed great joy and, critically, change. Ultimately this was what ‘In Sight Of Peace’ was about: portraying change and, as part of CTPI’s wider discussion, questioning whether the media can represent and play a part in building-peace when usually it chooses to portray or incite violence. Largely without knowledge of this wider question, visitors’ comments showed that it can, describing both “how far we’ve come” and “how much more we must do for true peace”.

Seeing peace is difficult, as mostly it happens under the surface. Although some may question how an exhibition which includes images of violence and injustice could possibly show peace, I would argue that it does, albeit perhaps unconventionally. It shows peace in the reactions and emotions it draws out of people when they desire that peace. It shows peace by bearing witness to horrific events, teaching that it’s wrong and that there must be something else. And most of all, the set of photos shows peace as a journey of development, change and hope; that peace is not stagnant but something fluid to work towards, hence “In Sight Of Peace” not “a concrete peace point”.

This project, the visitors’ comments and the further discussions of CTPI had a great impact on me – as did reflecting on it now – because they made me think (which in a long student summer can be a challenge!) and they made me see; think and see peace and peace-builders in more things/people. While Ian Berry may not call himself a peace builder – he believed he was just doing a job bearing witness to an event for others to see – his witness created peace-builders, rendering him one too and showing that we too can be peace-builders even if our talents do not fit the usual idea of the “actions” of peace-building.

As you can see, I loved my internship (although it was not without its stresses), so I thoroughly recommend taking up any random interesting opportunities!

If you would like any more information on the project or to see some of the pictures visit:
https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/8422396/ISOP/In_Sight_of_Peace_GS_site/Photos.html