Remembering to Say Never Again

The 11th November provides the nation(s) a chance to pause and reflect upon the very human cost of warfare. But what images are conjured up in that moment of remembrance? Black and white images of ‘going over the top’? Men and women of the military with horrific wounds (either physical or mental) from a more recent war? Family members known only from fading photos or who rarely speak of what they did?

I found myself walking towards Tavistock Square and the Alternative Remembrance Day ceremony organised by our partners in peace, the Peace Pledge Union (PPU). As I walked along the roads around me we closed off. One of the busiest roads in London paused for a minute or two. Confused tourists looked around to see what was going on. Police personnel directed cars elsewhere.

Suddenly a military cry went up and out of the nearby church marched representatives from the military. Then after they had all filed out representatives of the church and local civic and political society formed their own line.

Does this sound familiar? For members and supporters of the Fellowship, Rememberance day can be difficult. Because we wish to lament the presence of Warfare in the world and remember military personnel and civilians killed and maimed during war. It’s important to pause and lament the presence of war and its human price.

That is why we have worked with the PPU to create the White Poppy for Churches pack. Surveys released near to Remembrance Day 2019 indicated a strong interest in broadening the meaning of remembrance. So watch this space for materials for Remembrance Day 2020 and your chance to Rethink Remembrance as a time of lament, memory and saying a true ‘Never Again’.

FoR Congratulates Rev Inderjit Bhogal on World Methodist Peace Award

Rev Inderjit Bhogal,

President of Methodist Peace Fellowship and Member of Fellowship of Reconciliation

The Fellowship was thrilled to hear that Rev Inderjit Bhogal has been award the 2018 World Methodist Peace Award. His extensive lifetime commitment to living out a witness to peace has been a challenge and inspiration to us all.

Speaking in response to the news Inderjit said

“I am surprised but also deeply honoured to receive the World Methodist Peace Award.

It is humbling to be listed alongside other remarkable recipients of the award. My whole life has been inspired by people around the world who have held up the witness to peace making, challenging war, violence and killing. I am more persuaded than ever that non-violent resolution of conflict is the way forward at all levels and in all human relationships.

It is important to strengthen peace-making, and nonviolence as the way to resolve conflict, and it is important to uphold the witness of peace-making and of nonviolence led by people like Mahatma Gandhi, the Rev Dr Martin Luther King, the recipients of the World Methodist Peace Award, and numerous less well-known people.”

His response went on to include a wide-ranging call to action on the root causes of violence today:

“The primary form of violence and cause of conflict, and the biggest killer is poverty, and increasingly also environmental degradation. We must challenge our governments to divert money and investment from war to the ending of poverty and tackling climate change and pollution. In our personal lives we need to find ways to live with greater grace and generosity with those who are different from us.”

The Fellowship of Reconciliation is an ecumenical movement made up of many different groups and interests. For us, having the The Methodist Peace Fellowship in our network means we have a vibrant heartbeat for social and scriptural holiness. This presence challenges the Methodist Church and the wider Fellowship of Reconciliation to be holistic in it’s call to live out a true witness to peace.

John Cooper, Director of the Fellowship said:

“Inderjit’s award is a welcome moment of global recognition for his prophetic and challenging ministry. In all his roles he has embodied a uniquely Methodist approach to peace-building, centred on listening to marginalised voices for glimpses of where God’s lasting peace is needed today. His message has always been a constant challenge, that peace is never passive, instead to be found during the vibrant march to justice required for peace to be built. We’re grateful to have him, and the Methodist Peace Fellowship, among our membership and look forward to walking the road to peace together for many years to come”

Fellowship of Reconciliation Supports Non-Violent Climate Strike

The Fellowship of Reconciliation, a Christian Peacemaking Charity, today issued a statement recognising the energy and promise on show when the Global Climate Strike happens today, 20 September 2019. The statement, from Richard Bickle (Chair of Trustees) highlights the power of non-violence to highlight injustice and focus global attention on tackling the violence of climate change.

Richard Bickle, Chair of Trustees, said:

“The Fellowship of Reconciliation supports the energy behind the General Climate Strike called for 20th September 2019. As an organisation with historic links to non-violent movements around the world we are blown-away by the powerful example of young people currently standing up for their future. 

It is up to every individual to decide what actions they take in responce to the violent destruction of climate change. The Climate Crisis disproportionately affects the most vulnerable, helping drive displacement and laying foundations for conflict. We have no choice but to act. Like the most powerful non-violent movements, the school students strike will involve personal sacrifice from some and through this confront us all with an injustice, energising all to respond.

As followers of Christ, we are always reminded that it was the disciples who tried to turn the children away from Jesus, while Jesus himself welcomed them for conversation. On the topic of the climate, we see the power of non-violence in the student lead mass-protests and urge individuals, churches and church institutions to welcome the young people into their conversations about how to protect God’s planet and all God’s people living on it.”

The Fellowship of Reconciliation will be encouraging it’s staff and members to attend rallies, pray for the climate and to make space to listen to the voices of young people and their concerns.

Picturing Peace Tour

The Fellowship of Reconciliation is taking to the road this autumn with author and campaigner Tim Gee.

Discover why, if we want to address inequality, tackle the climate emergency, and prevent violent conflict, we need to start taking Jesus’s call to peacemaking seriously.

A white book, titled 'Why I Am A Pacifist' is on a brown table beside a cup of coffee

Tim’s new book ‘Why I am a Pacifist‘ (John Hunt Publishing, September 2019) will be on sale at each event.

  • Note – This list is constantly being updated so please check back

LONDON, Thursday 26 September, 6.30pm 
Friends House, Euston

OXFORD, Friday 4 October, 7pm  
Peace House, 19 Paradise St, Oxford OX1 1LD – facebook event

BIRMINGHAM, Monday 7th October, 7.30pm
St David’s Church, Shenley Green, Shenley Lane, Birmingham, B29 4HH – facebook event

BRISTOL, Saturday 12 October, 11am1.00pm
The New Room, 36 The Horsefair, Bristol, BS1 3JE – facebook event

WALSALL, Monday 21st October, 7.30pm
Pleck Methodist Church, Bescot Road, Pleck, Walsall, WS2 9AD – facebook event

NOTTINGHAM, Saturday 2 November, 3pm 
Nottingham Mechanics, North Sherwood Street, NG1 4EZ
Organised by Five Leaves Bookshop as part of the Nottingham Radical Bookfair 

LONDON, 6 November, 7pm 
Housmans bookshop, 5 Caledonian Rd, London N1 9DY, £3

CHICHESTER, Saturday 9 November, 6pm

Chichester Quaker Meeting House, Priory Road, PO19 1NX. Refreshments will be served at 5.15pm. This is the Annual Chichester Quaker Peace Lecture and is titled ‘Stopping Wars Before They Start’.

EDINBURGH, Thursday 14 November, 5pm. 
Launch of the Edinburgh Radical Bookfair, 2 Roxburgh Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9SU. 

EDINBURGH, Friday 15 November, Lunchtime
Venue TBC

Check back for updates about Huddersfield, Cardiff, Carmarthenshire and North Wales

Christians Call On New Prime Minister to Prioritise Peace

As Boris Johnson becomes Prime Minister today members of the Network of Christian Peace Organisations has written an open letter calling for the new government to work to ensure a peaceful resolution to the current tensions with Iran as well as seeking security throughout the United Kingdom as Brexit discussions continue. The letter was coordinated by the Fellowship of Reconciliation and calls on the Prime Minister to “prioritise the work of authentic peace”.

As Iran continues to hold a British oil tanker in the gulf and tensions between the United States and Iran continue to escalate, there is an increasing chance that Britain could be drawn in to further conflict in the Middle East with disastrous consequences.

John Cooper, Director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation said: “As the new Prime Minister takes office this afternoon we pray for the wisdom, strength, and courage to seek peaceful solutions to the problems our country faces. We believe there is a different way of conducting international relations, focussing on bringing people together and dialogue rather than conflict and division. We encourage the Prime Minister to provide this leadership.”

Annual Council 2019

Our keynote speaker holds the council captivated (Photo Dave Pybus/Fellowship of Reconciliation)

Members of the Fellowship met at Hinde Street Methodist Church on Saturday 13th July for the 2019 Annual Council. Through a varied agenda, mixing conversation, worship and challenge, they explored the activities of the Fellowship and thought about where the work could go next.

The work of the Fellowship was shared via verbal reports. This included news from Scotland, the International Peacemakers Fund, campaign activity and an update on previous and future fundraising plans. Members and supporters asked probing questions and new ideas began to emerge.

The work of the Fellowship was challenged by a wide ranging and deeply personal address from Revd Dr Jongikaya Zihle (pictured above). Mixing together his own personal story with reflections on historical and current sources of division, he opened up topics of conversation including Brexit, racism, and diversity. In the final moments of the talk, we collectively traveled to South Africa as a very personal story was shared of Jongi meeting his Jailer. This occurred as part of the Truth and Reconciliation process and he explained the build-up and impact of the meeting on him and the person he was meeting. The way he told his story weaved together theology and emotion and left the room deeply moved.

The work of the Fellowship was strengthened by the appointment of Trustees. We went into the meeting with 5 Trustees and left with 10 Trustees. This significant increase in interest in a great vote of confidence, as well as challenge, and the staff look forward to an uplifting year ahead as we work together for peace.

The date for Annual Council 2020 will be set soon so watch this space!

FoR Welcomes Government Defeat at Court of Appeal

Christian peace charity The Fellowship of Reconciliation has welcomed today’s court of appeal ruling that the UK government should not have granted licences enabling arms sales to Saudi Arabia.  The case was brought by Campaign Against the Arms Trade and focussed on evidence that the weapons sold by the UK have been used by Saudi Arabia in Yemen.

John Cooper, Director of the Fellowship, said:

“We welcome today’s judgement as a vital step in building peace and ensuring that the UK doesn’t profit from the humanitarian catastrophe happening in Yemen. It should provide a wake-up call to the government that putting profit before peace isn’t a viable principle for a trade policy”

He continued:

“The victory today is marred by the knowledge that thousands of civilians have died in Yemen in the time that this court case has been fought. We lament each life lost and urge the government to use today as a moment to re-focus its energy into supporting a peaceful solution to the conflict in Yemen”

FoR called to Prayer and Protest in response to Donald Trump

Yesterday FoR marched with thousands of other activists, students, retirees and changemakers to protest about President Donald Trump’s state visit to the UK. The atmosphere was lively with mass produced and handmade placards sharing a desire for hope and change. The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FoR) marched with the Quaker Social Witness (QSW) and pacifist and author Tim Gee.

Our call wasn’t just to the streets of London. Supporters around the country joined with other religious leaders in vigils and their own local protests.

It is important for us as a Fellowship of Reconciliation to continue to spread messages of togetherness and unity in the name of Jesus. As we walked in solidarity yesterday, we held banners celebrating the goodness of God.

We felt it was important to be out on the streets because ultimately, we believe that ‘In a world broken by violence and conflict we are called to be peacemakers’

In peace and solidarity,FoR

New Director for FoR

The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FoR), has appointed John Cooper to the new role of Director from 1st May 2019.  In this post, John will provide leadership for the Fellowship in its future campaigning, education work and engagement with churches.

Richard Bickle, Chair of Trustees said:

“We are delighted that John has accepted our offer to take up this new position.  We believe that his experience of church engagement and fundraising, together with a personal commitment to Christian peace-making will enable us to increase the reach and impact of our work.“

The work of the Fellowship consists of projects that deliver education about Christian peace-making, creation and delivery of training in ways to respond to violence, campaigning against the causes of conflict and creating links with other branches of the Fellowship around the world.

John Cooper said:

“FoR is a challenging and inspiring movement to be part of. I look forward to taking up this role and helping the Fellowship bring alive the promise of peace and the power of non-violence.”

John started work for the Fellowship in November 2018 as Development Manager and in that time has laid the groundwork for a podcast, begun to explore questions of diversity in the peace movement, written a strategy for the Fellowship’s campaigning and advocacy work and spent time talking and listening with other groups in the peace movement.

John previously worked for FoR as a fundraiser for their International Peacemaker Fund. His varied church-based career has also included working for Christian Aid, the Joint Public Issues Team and All We Can (then Methodist Relief and Development Fund). He has a commitment to an active church that engages on issues in the public square. He is training to be a local preacher in the Methodist Church and a member of The Cotteridge Church, in South Birmingham.

Gospel nonviolence in action: Conclusion

Corrymeela Sunset. Image by Nick, Creative Commons licence CC BY

Corrymeela Sunset. Image by Nick, Creative Commons licence CC BY

What does Gospel nonviolence look like in action? The Fellowship of Reconciliation held a joint conference with the Anglican Pacifist Fellowship looking at this, and included a talk from the Revd David Mumford. Over a series of 14 blogs, some short and some longer, he outlines the different themes and topics covered in his presentation. 

Christian nonviolence is rooted in a commitment to following Jesus, whether that ‘works’ or not. For some Christians that leads to quietism in which their task is to be faithful whilst awaiting the gift of the coming Kingdom. Such a stance may involve refusal to obey unjust state demands, such as conscription.

Nonetheless, a reflection on ways in which love and nonviolence can be expressed in action will assist pacifists in countering any assertion that to be a pacifist is to be passive in the face of injustice. The renunciation of war and violent methods of settling conflicts can open the way to creatively discover other approaches to conflict resolution which in many ways will deepen people’s spirituality and enable them to walk more closely with God.