Statement from Churches Together in Luton Executive

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20 October 2023

Blessed are the Peacemakers for they will be called children of God.

 

The land where Jesus made this incredible statement is now defiled with the blood of Palestinians and Jews. The places where his commands to love neighbour and to love enemy were heard now resound with the tormented cries of children, women, men, people suffering the most horrific deaths, mourning loved ones, held hostage by cruel captors, witnessing the destruction of everything around them.  In the land, as well as around the world, the agonies of those face to face with such evil are played out on our screens and media and provoke us to respond with yet more passionate support for Israel or Gaza.

In the face of such violence on all sides – violence of action and violence of words – to be a peacemaker is to first choose to be still in the face of such provocation.  It is to not follow through with quick reaction, to not quickly drive the cycle of violence through yet one more rotation. It is not our natural response to be still, to step aside from our instinctual responses, and to think again. But it is the way that builds justice and sustainable peace for all.

Blessed are the Peacemakers for they will be called children of God.

At such times when under enormous pressure to act, it may seem the obvious thing for us who are bystanders to encourage those we identify with in the conflict to fight on, to widen and strengthen their support base.  But often our greatest gift will be to urge restraint and reflection, to weigh the impact of our support.  We believe this is just such a time.

Around Luton as well as the nation there is much anger. People are dividing, both in support of Israel or of Gaza and the Palestinians, and in how we respond to the events of the past two weeks. It is totally understandable.  But we do not believe it will help our town, or Israelis or Palestinians, the people of the Holy Land.

We know the complexity of the conflict that has torn the Holy Land apart for decades is considerable.  Its resolution in the land is made harder by the extensive networks of kinship and support internationally.  The deep disparity of power between sides both in the nature of the conflict and its resolution cannot be overstated. And strongly held views on the Holy Land have very deep roots.

As Christian leaders in Luton we would call first for churches and church leaders to join together at this time and unite in calling for a sustainable and enduring justice and peace in the Holy Land. As Christians we acknowledge we hold different views on the nation of Israel, on the Palestinian cause, and on what a solution should look like. We consequently differ on what a Just Peace might look like.  However we must seek to stand in unity as we pray for the people of the Holy Land themselves to consider what that looks like.

To Palestinians and Jews in our Luton community we extend our prayers for your loved ones in the Holy Land. We cannot imagine the pain you feel at this time.

For our Muslim friends and neighbours we hold you in our deepest prayers.  We understand deeply and identify with your support for the ummah, your extended community of faith. When our fellow Christians suffer we grieve in just the same way.  We want to walk with you in this quest for a Just Peace.

To our community leaders and especially our politicians, locally and nationally, you too are in our prayers.  We urge you, for the sake of our own community to stand together for a Just Peace in this 75 year long conflict.  We sincerely call you to remember the impact of your words, your policies and your actions here in Luton, in our nation – as well as around the world. In recent years we have stood together in the face of international events that would divides us, and especially previous events in the Holy Land. And we have stood together in the face of those in our town and nation who would stir up hatred and division. We have stood together for the peace of Luton.  That was the call of Luton Council of Faiths last week and we want to repeat it again here.

To all in our community who are angry we understand your anger. We too are angry at what we see. We would ask you to join us in our call for a Just Peace. It is our deep hope that once again we can show our nation that we do things differently in Luton.  And that people might say of us as Lutonians:

Blessed are the Peacemakers for they will be called children of God.

 

Signed:

Tony Thompson, Hope Church and Chair, Churches Together in Luton

Michael Singleton, Vice Chair of Churches Together in Luton

Rev Mike Jones, Vicar of St Marys, Luton and Chair, St Marys Centre for Peace and Reconciliation

Mgr Kevin McGinnell VF Holy Ghost Catholic Parish

Revd Canon David Kesterton Vicar All Saints with St Peter’s., Luton Area Dean of Luton

Rev Patrick Gbanie Kandeh MA, BA (Hons), CTM, CTPS Superintendent Minister South Bedfordshire Circuit

Revd Heather Whyte, United Reformed Church minister to Newland Church (Luton and Dunstable Cluster), Heartland Local Area Group.

Rev Josias De Souza, Vicar of St. Francis, Luton

Peter Adams    St Marys Centre for Peace and Reconciliation

Cathy Nobles.  St Marys Centre for Peace and Reconciliation

Sue Penn, member of Churches Together in Luton Executive