Friday, 12 October 2007


The armed forces memorial in Staffordshire being dedicated today is certainly an impressive structure. I was interested to hear the Air Chief Marshall Sir Jock Stirrup on the BBC this morning, who said he hoped it would be "a chance for the British public to reconnect with the military". Well, possibly. I could be predictable, and say it simply underscores the futility of war. But it mostly helps me connect with a deep sense of sadness for the lost lives, each one an individual, family member, friend, lover etc. It does not help me connect with the military as an institution.


Monday, 8 October 2007

Iraq actions, speaking out and dilemmas of dialogue

Whilst the Stop the War Coalition and its supporters attempt to continue their demonstration in Trafalgar Square today, with a march towards the Houses of Parliament, on the other side of the Atlantic is a rather difference form of protest: an Interfaith Fast to End the War in Iraq, with the following appeal:
We call on all Americans to join in fasting from dawn to dusk on Monday, October 8, to call for an end to the Iraq War. On this day, people of faith in local communities across our nation will act as catalysts to transform the meaning of the day from one of conquest to community and from violence to reverence.

Anglican archbishop Rowan Williams, meanwhile, is quoted by Ekklesia (who in turn are reporting on his comments to the BBC) as saying:

"we do hear talk from some quarters of action against Syria and Iran" but that "I can't understand what planet such persons are living on, when you see the conditions that are already there."Dr Williams continued: "When people talk about further destabilization of the region and you read some American political advisers speaking of action against Syria and Iran, I can only say that I regard that as criminal, ignorant and potentially murderous folly."

His fellow Anglican, archbishop Desmond Tutu, has obviously also been more outspoken than some are comfortable with. Read the news piece here ("Minnesota College Bans Nobel Laureate Tutu From Talk On Peace and Justice") about the puzzling decision to prevent him speaking at an American college ...

And whilst Iran's president Ahmadinejad was allowed to talk but not exactly warmly welcomed at another US academic institution at the end of September, he did have a rather less-widely reported encounter with a sizeable group of church-related people ... "Religious Leaders Dialogue with Iranian President Provides Glimpses of the Road Ahead", reported on the FCNL website

They conclude:
"While much of the press coverage of the president’s visit to the United States has focused on the confrontation and exchanges of angry words in other venues, in our conversation this September at the Church Center at the United Nations we had some serious discussions, we disagreed on many points, but we had a respectful dialogue. "

Monday, 1 October 2007

There are other ways

It's very good to see that the Oxford Research Group's book "War Prevention Works: 50 Stories of People Resolving Conflict" is now available online as a PDF file, 6 years after it was first published. At 4MB it's not small, but well worth looking at if you've not come across it before. The blurb on the website says...
This book aims to raise awareness among government policy-makers, the media, potential funders and the general public of the extraordinary cost-effectiveness of those working non-violently at the front line of conflict. It is intended as an introduction to the field of conflict prevention and resolution, from the perspective of what has actually worked in the field, using concrete examples.

Faith in action and in words

A few interesting bits and bobs to do with Churches and other faith groups…

Firstly, on the Guardian’s Comment is Free pages, Pankaj Mishra writes under the heading …
The Burmese monks' spiritual strength proves religion has a role in politics,
arguing that Buddhism and its values have inspired a tradition of non-violent protest more powerful than secularists understand - and lots of passionately expressed comment in response

A new publicity effort apparently begins today, organised by, which "aims to address the negative perceptions and stereotypes of Islam and British Muslims. We intend to do this through media engagement to reach out to the wider community across the United Kingdom."

And on Ekklesia read that a church group has been blockading a Total petrol station in protest at that company’s involvement in Burma. The church in question is Just Church - an interesting radical faith-based initiative in this constantly innovative community.

Ekklesia also notes that Incitement to religious hatred will today become a criminal offence in England and Wales with the commencement of the Racial and Religious Hatred Act.

Meanwhile, the World Council of Churches has been meeting in Armenia and has written a minute about Iran and the Middle East, and a statement on the tragic situation facing Iraqi refugees and internally displaced people.

And finally on CommonDreams, Stephen Zunes, reflecting on a meeting with Iran’s President Ahmadinejad writes:
Both Ahmadinejad and George W. Bush have used their fundamentalist interpretations of their faith traditions to place the world in a Manichean perspective of good versus evil. The certitude of their positions regardless of evidence to the contrary, their sense that they are part of a divine mission, and their largely successful manipulation of their devoutly religious constituents have put these two nations on a dangerous confrontational course.