UK Government Cuts Overseas Aid

Statement from the Fellowship of Reconciliation regarding the cut in Overseas Development Aid and Reiteration of Increased Military Spending from Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer

Richard Bickle, Chair of Trustees, said:

“Today the Chancellor showed where the true priorities of this Government lie. Having removed at least £4billion a year from the poorest communities through cuts in aid he reminded everyone of the increased military spending of £6 billion a year to £24 billion over 4 years.  This decision won’t lay the foundations for peace and tackling poverty. Stopping conflict and building peace is enabled by tackling global poverty, not investing in even more weapons of war. We hope the diverse array of voices speaking against this cut will be heard”

REMEMBRANCE DAY 2020

A Meditation and Prayer for Wincobank Chapel members, Sheffield, from Rev Dr Inderjit Bhogal, Honorary President of the Fellowship of Reconciliation and President of the Methodist Peace Fellowship

Remembrance Day is an annual reminder of the horrors of war, the loss of millions of lives and homes through war.

There are stories of the “fallen heroes”, and we remember that in modern warfare, one in ten of those killed are members of the armed forces, the rest are civilians whose stories cannot be forgotten.

Remembrance Day is on 11 November because it is the day on which World War One ended. A two minutes silence is held to remember all those who have died in war.

11th November also marks St Martin of Tours Day. Martin was an officer in the Roman Army. He died on 8 November and was buried in Tours on 11th November in the year 397.

While stationed in Amiens, Gaul, Martin met a poor man, barely dressed, asking for alms. Martin tore his military cloak in half with his sword, and gave half of it to the man, and draped half of it over his shoulder.

For Martin, the poor man was a manifestation of Christ, he became a follower of Christ, and became a monk, then an abbot, and then in 371 he became Bishop of Tours.

He protected people from persecution and torture, and gave support to marginalised and excluded people of his day.

Martin’s cape became a relic which was kept in a tent. The tent came to be called capella. The priests who said prayers in the tent were called capellini.

The English words Chapel and Chaplain are said to derive from these terms. The words refer to compassion and protection from harm.

St Martin is central to the Christian commitment to compassion and non-violence.

Wincobank Chapel is draped with poppies, almost a cape made from poppies.

Poppies are an enduring symbol of remembrance. I have the traditional red poppies, white poppies, black poppies, and poppies remembering Sikhs.

In the world of 2020, we remember the huge number of people who have died and are dying from the menace of Covid-19.

We are called to remember and honour people who front the ministry of compassion and protection, NHS staff from cleaners to consultant surgeons, and all who offer care in so many ways.

Remember is an important word.

It appears almost 9,000 times in the Bible.

Frequently the one who is doing the remembering is God.

Human beings remember. Most importantly, God remembers. Everything and everyone, including you, is enfolded and held forever in the memory of God.

“Memory is a teacher. If we are wise, we learn from experience as we reflect on it, we grow in wisdom, and don’t repeat mistakes”.

Words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks to me on Remembrance Day 2000, as we waited to join the service at the Cenotaph in London.

Jonathan Sacks died on 7th November 2020. I remember him and his wisdom with thanks.

Memory itself has to be used with wisdom, because it can conceal as well as reveal.

Memory can build mythology which enlarges some bits and forgets other bits.

Memories of battle do this.

It elevates and build up glorious moments. It belittles and buries inglorious details.

Stories of victorious battles don’t always tell of the misery of the scene.

We need to pay attention to what and who is remembered and how. 

There are the fallen “heroes”, and there are those who are massacred.

There are also those who refused to pick up weapons and kill.

Ninety percent of all refugees in the world had to leave their homes to seek sanctuary elsewhere because of the destruction of war and violence.

I asked two teenage refugees from Syria what their future hope is. They said they hope to return to Syria. I asked what would make that possible. Without hesitation they said, “when the killing stops”.

When I was a teenager I recall helping to carry to the top of Ben Nevis, a granite stone with a message of peace and forgiveness from people in Hiroshima. It was a stone representing the prayers of people still living with the memory of the Atomic Bomb that obliterated their City killing 80,000 and injuring 35,000 people.

When I was a young Minister in Wolverhampton in the early 80s the mothers of British Soldiers away in the Falkland War used to come daily to have a few minutes of prayer in the Church, to pray for an end of the war, and for the safe return of their sons.

We remember them and all who are in our mind.

Every life is precious.

People throughout the world pray for peace.

This is the prayer today in the USA, with the announcement of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the new Presidential team announced yesterday.

I want to conclude with a prayer written by the Rev Dr Ray Davey, founder of Corrymeela Community.

I wrote this down on 11/11/2010, 11am in the presence of Ray and Alison (his daughter) from Ray’s war diary. Ray wrote this while he was a prisoner of war. He was not released till May 1945.

It is an appropriate prayer for today also.

RAY DAVEY PRAYER DATED 10 JUNE 1944

O God of all ages, we know that we live in momentous days, days of destiny and change.

Today we look to the world, we think of all that happens there.

Humbly and in faith we commit our cause to thee.

We confess our wrongs and evils, as a nation and as individuals.

We admit our part, and we accept our blame for this disordered and shattered world.

Be with all who take part in the struggle, endue them with patience, courage and crown their efforts with success.

May all the nations learn the folly, uselessness and senselessness of war.

And in thine own good time may a just and lasting peace be born from the ashes and destruction of so many lands and lives.

Give us the determination to live in patience and faith until the day of our freedom.

Breathe in us anew the burning resolve to fashion a society that shall think more of the things that bind men together than those that keep them apart.

Give us the will to raise a new community, God centred and God controlled.

Give us the practical willingness to plan the remaking of our own homes and the rededication of our lives, so that our land may be built on the solid basis of love and trust.

O God of our captivity, whose hand has held and sustained us through this weary journey,

Be with us now in these days of suspense and waiting.

As thou hast been our guide and strength in the past strengthen us now.

Give us the quiet mind of patience and confidence.

We remember thou hast said, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee because he trusteth thee”.

Father who hast created the nations as all members of the great human family, cause the terrible strife to cease.

And when it comes to an end may reason. Justice and foresight prevail.

Cleanse our hearts from the spirit of revenge and hatred and reprisal.

Give us the spirit of charity and forgiveness.

We would reaffirm our belief in love as the centre of life.

Give us the determination and faith so to live as individuals and nations that wars may be outlawed forever.

Amen.

Inderjit Bhogal

8 November 2020

FoR welcomes Nuclear Test Ban Treaty

The Fellowship of Reconciliation, which has been inspired by the life and teachings of Jesus to work and witness for peace for more than a century, is delighted that the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty has passed the final hurdle towards becoming international law. 

Director of the Fellowship, John Cooper, said: 

The 50th signature to the Nuclear Ban Treaty is a positive moment for the world. It is testament to the global network of campaigners, faith groups and organisations that worked hard to make a nuclear free dream a reality. 

The treaty will set the future direction of the world away from the sin of nuclear weapons and closer towards a world of peace.  Our celebrations, in this country, must be muted by recognition that we need to face our own nuclear history – including testing weapons in the pacific region –  as well as calling for a nuclear weapon free future. 

Dunbar holds Vigil for Peace to mark 75 years since the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

The coastal town of Dunbar was the setting for a special service of remembrance to mark 75 years since the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Covid19 restrictions meant attendance was limited for outdoor gatherings and worship.

Many different church traditions were reflected throughout the service. It was lead by Rev David Mumford, an FoR Trustee, retired Priest and member of St Anne’s Scottish Episcopal and Methodist Church in Dunbar. The first Bible lesson was read by the Rev. Fred Harrison from Dunbar Parish Church and the words of Pope Francis were read, calling on humanity to reject war forever and to ban nuclear weapons.

This year reflections were shaped by a special reading. The granddaughter of Rev John Dorward, a Church of Scotland missionary in Nagasaki at the time of the bombing, worships at nearby Belhaven Parish Church. She had permitted his eyewitness account of the devastation at Nagasaki to be read.

Prayers offered included thanksgiving for the recent United Nations Treaty countries outlawing nuclear weapons and that all nations would sign up to the Treaty.

Finally, the vigil ended with prayers for peace between countries.

Revd Dr Inderjit Bhogal Appointed Honorary President of FOR

Inderjit Bhogal Methodist Conference 2018
Photo copyright Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes

The Revd Dr Inderjit Bhogal OBE has been appointed Honorary President of the Fellowship of Reconciliation England and Scotland. The appointment was agreed by members of the Fellowship who attended the recent Annual Council, held on 20th June 2020.  Inderjit is already active as President of the Methodist Peace Fellowship, a network of Methodists within the FOR. 

His appointment to the newly-created role will last for three years from the Annual Council of 2020 to the Annual Council of 2023.  It is a voluntary role that will provide opportunities for the Fellowship and Inderjit to spread wider a message of peace, reconciliation, and justice to churches of all denominations.

Inderjit responded to the appointment saying:

“I am deeply honoured and humbled by this appointment, and hope to fulfil my responsibilities well. I value the work of FOR, especially the insistence on the centrality of reconciliation. All of us are called to share in God’s continuing ministry of reconciliation.

In this ministry of reconciliation we dare to hope for and dream of a different society. A decent society where “widest extremes” can be joined, all people can be safe and have equal opportunity. They can flourish and enjoy the fullness of life. It will be a society where different parties agree to be in an open and honest relationship in which they share openly and honestly in difficult conversations.

A reconciled society, congregation or church will not be one without differences and disagreements. It will be one where division is not destructive. Instead, there is a shared commitment to listening to each other and the enhancement of life for all.

I am committed to working with all FOR members and partners and others in this ministry”.

FoR Statement on Merging of Foreign Office and Department for International Development

Richard Bickle, Chair of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, released the following statement, following the announcement from the UK Government that they will be merging the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with the Department for International Development:

“Today’s announcement by the UK Government should be a matter of concern for all peacemakers.  A strength of the Department for International Development, and its funding decisions, was its independence from the foreign policy objectives of any one government. Instead, it linked its focus to the globally recognised Sustainable Development Goals, including a need to build peace in fragile states.

The Prime Minister, in his statement to the house, made clear that the launch of the department was months away. We will be paying close attention to see how the DFID strategic aim of promoting peace by working in insecure nations to tackle the root causes of conflict will translate to the new department”

Hymns for Peace? #MPNN

How often has a hymn taken your breath away as you have sung it? Today’s call to ‘Make Peace the New Normal’ is a chance for us to turn into song our shared commitment to Peace.

Earlier this year, Peacelinks, our newsletter, carried a fascinating analysis of the work of Shirley Murray and Graham Maule, both of whom had died. Hymnwriter Andrew Pratt explained the power of their work:

Their significance cannot be underestimated. How far
hymns will be useful in the future we cannot tell,
but corporate song binds people together, enables
us to express thoughts, emotions and convictions
that are more difficult to communicate in prose.
We remember songs and they can motivate and
reinforce communal action. Murray and Maule
have both written in a way that underlines peace
and justice.

As our day of ‘Making Peace the New Normal’ draws to a close why not draw your thoughts together by writing a hymn? Our current situation, locally and globally has much to say about what it means to be a disciple today.

Gary Hopkins, a Midlands Hymnwriter, offered the following yesterday as his reaction to the world today:

(Note: It can be sung to the tune(s) Abbotts Leigh or Scarlett Ribbons )

  1. God, our anger at injustice
    swells from deep within our core:
    anger at decision makers
    for oppression we deplore;
    anger at the ones who lead us
    for indifference to the poor;
    anger at the lies, deception,
    selfishness that we abhor.

2. Systems made to serve the privileged,
tightly gripped by those with power –
stripping others of life chances –
edicts from an ivory tower.
God our anger fires within us:
bring your justice, liberate;
come and shatter worldly systems;
take the least and make them great!

3. Channel grief and anger in us;
let us be your voice and hands.
Spirit, guide our justice-seeking,
take us where your love demands.
Christ destroys the powers and forces,
chains of bondage, unjust strife,
not by might and raging violence
but a sacrificial life.

4. How long, Maker, Word and Spirit,
till such evils are reversed?
How long till your reign is finished
and the last become the first?
Hear us God, we pray for justice,
hear our cries for those oppressed,
hear our voices, never silenced,
till the least are truly blessed.

© Gary Hopkins 2020
Suggested Tunes: Abbot’s Leigh or Scarlet Ribbons

Statement on #VEDAY75

Today the nation marks the end of the fighting in Europe. As a Fellowship we know it will remind us all of many different memories, stories and thoughts.

Our Chair, Richard Bickle, released the following statement:

“We will join people throughout the UK and around the world as they reflect on the end of fighting in Europe during the Second World War.

As we do so, we remember that there are no real winners in war, casualties occur on all sides and conscript armies are forced to fight one another. Many of those who returned as heroes brought with them deep wounds from all they had seen and done.

There are few people still alive who remember the relief felt at the end of the war in Europe, however the need to build lasting peace is as needed today as it has ever been.”

Trustee Thoughts – This #VEday75 What Are We Remembering

Rev Christopher Collins, Trustee of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, shares his thoughts, dis-ease, and prayers for VE Day 75

If I’m honest, the upcoming VE Day commemorations had largely slipped me by, buried under Covid-19 life and ministry. Lockdown means it will feel like any other day. This changed when someone asked me what the church was doing to celebrate VE Day. My dis-ease of doing anything was greeted with shock. “We should do something” I was counselled, “because that’s where the zeitgeist is.”. Buoyed by the prospect of homemade bunting and socially distanced street parties, it seems to be the implied that it will keep our spirits up as lockdown continues.

I’m not comfortable with the idea of “celebrating” because I am not convinced we are sure about what it is we are celebrating. If it’s a moment in history then is it because we vanquished our enemy? If so we should remember that history is written by the victor, therefore it feels insensitive to the memories of the millions who were killed in the conflict no matter which uniform – or non – they wore. If we celebrate our military prowess in battle, it suggests that invasion and combat are always the ways we should settle our international disputes. We parade our troops and hardware but where do we celebrate our non-violent reconcilers who bring conflicts to an end? It’s only been a few weeks since the twentieth anniversary of the Good Friday agreement in 2018 largely passed us all by, without its own bank holiday to mark that creation of peace.

If we are honest with ourselves, do we live differently because of VE Day? Or is our human nature still drawn into the ways of living that rake the seed bed of conflict: our distrust of other nations (perhaps even more so now because of Covid-19), our covetousness of what other people have, greed which exploits, our indifference to refugees and homeless and our pride which leads us trust in ourselves.

For me, stepping back from sepia toned celebrations and, instead, turning to prayer is a more appropriate way of marking VE Day. I am going to pray for peace. My go to prayer for peace is Coventry Cathedral’s “Litany of Reconciliation”. This prayer, formed in the ashes of a cathedral flattened by bombing, puts the seedbed rake in our hands. It does not ask God to forgive “them”, but to forgive us all because we are all complicit at some level. It reminds me, in the litany of prongs to the rake, that the way I can attend to peace-making is to take care of the hatred, covetousness, greed, envy, indifference, lust and pride which builds in me. Only then can we challenge the world around us and build real and lasting peace.

So, today, I will be pausing and leading others in praying the litany recognising our continuing need for peace 75 years after VE Day.

Coventry Cathedral Litany of Reconciliation:

All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

The hatred which divides nation from nation, race from race, class from class,

Father, forgive.

The covetous desires of people and nations to possess what is not their own,

Father, forgive.

The greed which exploits the work of human hands and lays waste the earth,

Father, forgive.

Our envy of the welfare and happiness of others,

Father, forgive.

Our indifference to the plight of the imprisoned, the homeless, the refugee,

Father, forgive.

The lust which dishonours the bodies of men, women and children,

Father, forgive.

Father, forgive.

Be kind to one another, tender hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you[1]


[1] http://www.coventrycathedral.org.uk/ccn/the-coventry-litany-of-reconciliation/

A joint statement from the Network of Christian Peace Organisations

The Network of Christian Peace Organisations brings many different Peace Groups togehter

António Guterres, Secretary-General of the UN, called for a global ceasefire in light of the coronavirus, saying: The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war. The threats we face as a planet, health pandemics and climate change among them, demand a coordinated international response with no room for continuing to waste resources on armed conflict.

The Network of Christian Peace Organisations urges our government to robustly support this call by discontinuing the sale of arms during this crisis and calling on all involved in current conflicts around the world to lay down their arms.

We are encouraged by the prompt, creative response of British manufacturers to the urgent need for new ventilators and the London ExCel Centre which hosts the DSEI Arms Fair, being used instead for a socially productive purpose as the Nightingale Hospital.

This crisis is teaching the world much about the values of compassion and fairness, and the ability of societies to care for the most vulnerable as the basis of security. All our efforts now are rightly focused on preserving life and we have been heartened by the huge efforts made to this end, and by the strengthening of community bonds across the nation. The coming weeks will be painful for society. We will need time to grieve and to reflect.  We hope that the bonds of common humanity, coupled with the compassion and imagination being deployed today can create a lasting legacy for future generations.

  • Sue Claydon, Chair, Anglican Pacifist Fellowship
  • John Cooper, Director, Fellowship of Reconciliation
  • Theresa Alessandro, Director, Pax Christi UK
  • Martin Tiller, Co-Chair,  Christian Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
  • Andrew Jackson, Paul Maxwell-Rose, Co-Directors, Christian International Peace Service
  • Oliver Robertson, Head of Worship & Witness for Quaker Peace & Social Witness
  • Philip Austin, Coordinator, Northern Friends Peace Board
  • Andrew Fox, President, Community of Christ (British Isles)
  • Roger Stuart, acting Chair, Congregational Peace Fellowship
  • Lydia Funck, General Secretary, Church and Peace
  • Helena Ripley, Trustee, Student Christian Movement
  • David Rice, Chair, Methodist Peace Fellowship