A Covenant of Peace?

We invited Reverend Dr Barbara Glasson, President of the Methodist Conference, to reflect on what the Covenant of Peace could mean today:

Rev Dr Glasson speaks with David at the Tent of Nations (c) TMCP

On a hilltop overlooking Bethlehem, David who farms these olive groves looks out over the settlements that move towards his land  ‘I refuse to have enemies, I refuse to hate, hope is resistance.’ David is increasingly powerless, a pawn in international politics and land occupations, and yet, David is divinely powerful. He will not be made smaller by  what he sees, he will not make himself bigger by rubbishing another.

In politics, in racism, in families we witness all around us people who are belittling others. They do this in so many ways, by sneering, by ridicule, by gossip, by fake news,  as well as by war, politics and tribalism. One person tries to feel taller by making someone else shorter. Ultimately this process is designed to make the ‘other’ disappear entirely. Belittling is an act of violence.

I have been intrigued over Christmas by the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist. Both unexpected children, one to elderly parents who were past hope, the other the surprising first born of a young woman. John who cuts a wild figure renouncing the company of the world, Jesus who mixes with tax collectors and sinners. Different though they were, they both saw in the other one not a threat but a completeness. John knewthat in Jesus something new was happening that will be greater than himself. Jesus knew that John was the ‘Elijah that was to come (Matthew 11:14) These two strange and different men, were not rivals but part of the same story, the story of a Kingdom that was to come. Neither grew bigger by belittling the other but by recognising the need of each other and naming it.

When David refuses to hate and to have enemies it is not a resignation to the events around him. When his olive trees are cut down, he plants more, when his buildings are demolished he pitches tents. When John says, ‘there is one that comes after me that is greater than I’ he is speaking of possibility not resignation. To find the best in someone else, is to find the best in ourselves.

Rev Dr Barbara Glasson

So, hope is resistance, it is a verb, it is a commitment to live differently, it is supremely powerful, not at the expense of someone else but for the transformation of all of us. And hope is not wishful thinking, it is a call to action. In 2020 we are called to hope, and that means to be people who will not rubbish others to make ourselves bigger.

And if this feels like an impossible task in the face of political upheaval and environmental threat, then we need to remind ourselves that it is only possible because we are promised a covenant relationship with God – we are God’s people and we are called into relationship not only with our creator but with the whole of creation. We are never loved any less by God by loving others, indeed the contrary is true. God’s covenant of peace means to see each other as God sees us and to say so!

Fellowship of Reconciliation Responds to Queens Speech

Richard Bickle, Chair of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, said there was a need for accountability and an investment in peace if elements of today’s Queens Speech are to be met.

He said:

“The Fellowship shares wider concerns of the Peace and Human Rights movements that Government plans to tackle so-called “vexacious claims” against British Personnel could lead to abuse being swept under the carpet. If lasting peace and true reconciliation is to be found in situations of former conflict then honesty and accountability from all sides needs to be central.

The announcement of a comprehensive review of the United Kingdom’s Security, Defence and Foreign policies, provides a chance for the UK to focus on security building through peacebuilding, rather than over-investing in weapons of war. We encourage the review to take seriously the need for non-violent conflict prevention and resolution to be a pillar of UK foreign policy and defence.”

FoR Welcomes Appointment of Peacemaker as New Archbishop of York

The Fellowship of Reconciliation welcomed Stephen Cottrell’s appointment as the new Archbishop of York (17 Dec 2019). In particular, it welcomed the appointment of someone with a history of speaking up for peace and defending the right to non-violent protest.

John Cooper, Director of the Fellowship of Reconciliation said:

“We welcome the news of Bishop Stephen Cottrell’s appointment as the next Archbishop of York. His prayerful leadership and willingness to stand up for Peace has been a powerful combination throughout much of his public ministry.

When we heard the news we thought of his interjection in parliament when he spoke about non-violent protest as a way of speaking up for the voiceless.  He suggested that the Stanstead 15 case often centred on any ‘trouble’ they caused. However, he said “Peace makers are often initially perceived as trouble makers”.

We hope the prayerful encouragement of holy troublemakers for peace continues in his new role. We will be upholding him in our prayers.”

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”