Tuesday, 22 June 2010


The Methodist Conference will be debating an excellent report next week entitled Justice for Palestine and Israel unfortunately the report has unfairly come under attack as being biased and damaging to Inter Faith relations. In response to these attacks a statement co-ordinated by the Just Peace for Palestine campaign has been issued in support of the report from Jews and Christians involved in supporting peace and justice initiatives in Palestine and Israel and inter faith engagement. The press release and the statement follow below.




A joint Jewish-Christian statement supporting the ‘Justice for Palestine and Israel’ paper being presented at this year’s Methodist Conference has been signed by 30 organisations and individuals.

The signatories, Christians and Jews from the UK and Palestine/Israel, offer their “wholehearted support” for the “humane and principled conclusions” of the Methodist working group, and criticise those who have “misrepresented and attacked” the report.

Supporters include Jews for Justice for Palestinians, Pax Christi, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions UK, Amos Trust, Friends of Sabeel UK, Holy Land Trust, and the Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between People. A range of Jews and Christians from Palestine/Israel have signed, including Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, Ramzi Zananiri, Executive Director of Near East Council of Churches-Jerusalem, and Michael Warschawski from the Alternative Information Centre, Jerusalem.

The statement notes that as the illegality of Israeli settlements is a “consensus issue affirmed by the United Nations, the UK government, and countless NGOs like Amnesty International”, boycotting their produce is a “refusal to aid a gross breach of human rights and an obstacle to a just resolution”.

The signatories urge the Methodist Church to take “the opportunity to listen to the cry for solidarity of the Palestinian Church as expressed in the Kairos document and respond. A just peace for Palestine will mean peace and security for Israelis – now is a time for action.”

Ben White, Campaign coordinator for ‘A Just Peace for Palestine’, said: “This is a clear show of support from Jews and Christians who understand that a real peace for both peoples requires justice. It stands in stark contrast to the disingenuous threat that listening to the call of Christian Palestinians and upholding international law and human rights will damage ‘inter-faith relations’ – on the contrary, inter-faith dialogue is not facilitated by ignoring serious questions about injustice.”



1. The Conference is an annual gathering and decides Methodist policy. The ‘Justice for Palestine and Israel’ report was produced by a working group and can be found online at http://www.methodistconference.org.uk/assets/downloads/confrep-14-justice-for-palestine-israel-170510.pdf

2. The full statement and signatories:

We, the undersigned, are Christians and Jews who have invested our energies and hopes in working for a just peace in Palestine/Israel. We write to offer our wholehearted support for the ‘Justice for Palestine and Israel’ report being submitted to this year’s Methodist Conference.
Disappointingly, the working group’s humane and principled conclusions have been misrepresented and attacked by those who empty powerful terms like ‘coexistence’ and ‘reconciliation’ of their true meaning.
Coexistence is not advanced by the bulldozer’s blade as it demolishes Palestinian homes and uproots olive trees; nor is reconciliation furthered by segregation and a decades-long militarised regime of control. In opposing such injustices, the resolutions simply affirm international law.
The illegality of the settlements, for example, is a consensus issue affirmed by the United Nations, the UK government, and countless NGOs like Amnesty International; boycotting their produce is thus a refusal to aid a gross breach of human rights and an obstacle to a just resolution.
We do nothing to advance a just peace without being realistic about the structural imbalance between Israel and the dispossessed, stateless Palestinians. In 1963, Martin Luther King wrote that the greatest ‘stumbling block’ to freedom was the ‘moderate’ who preferred ‘a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice’.
The Methodist church has the opportunity to listen to the cry for solidarity of the Palestinian Church as expressed in the Kairos document and respond. A just peace for Palestine will mean peace and security for Israelis – now is a time for action.


Nader Abu Amsha, Director, East Jerusalem YMCA Rehabilitation Programme and Beit Sahour YMCA
Nidal Abuzuluf, Program Manager, YMCA/YWCA Joint Advocacy Initiative (JAI), Beit Sahour
Rev Alex Awad, Dean of Students, Bethlehem Bible College/Pastor, East Jerusalem Baptist Church
Bishara Awad, President, Bethlehem Bible College
Sami Awad, Executive Director, Holy Land Trust
Constantine S. Dabbagh, Executive Secretary, Near East Council of Churches Committee for Refugee Work, Gaza Area
Aaron Dover, Deborah Maccoby, Diana Neslen, Naomi Wayne, on behalf of Jews for Justice for Palestinians
Pat Gaffney, General Secretary, Pax Christi UK
Rev Ray Gaston, Inter Faith Enabler, Birmingham District Methodist Church
Abe Hayeem, RIBA, Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine
Rev Canon Garth Hewitt, Canon of St George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem/Director, Amos Trust
Rifat Kassis, General coordinator, Kairos Palestine
Rami Kassis, Executive Director, Alternative Tourism Group - Study Centre, Beit Sahour
Jennifer Oldershaw, on behalf of Friends of Sabeel UK
The Palestinian Centre for Rapprochement between People, Beit Sahour
Pat Price-Tomes, on behalf of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) UK
Rev. Dr. Mitri Raheb, President, Diyar Consortium, Bethlehem
George S. Rishmawi, Coordinator, Siraj, Centre for Holy Land Studies, Palestine
Dr. Walid Shomaly, Executive Director, Palestinian Centre for Research & Cultural Dialogue (PCRD), Bethlehem
Michael Warschawski, Sergio Yahni, Avital Mozes, Tania Kepler, Yossi Bartal, Connie Hackbarth, Shir Hever, of the Alternative Information Centre, Jerusalem
Ben White, Campaign coordinator, ‘A Just Peace for Palestine’
Mr. Ramzi Zananiri, Executive Director, Near East Council of Churches-Jerusalem

Media contact:
Ben White, Campaign coordinator, ‘A Just Peace for Palestine’
T: 02075882638
E: info@justpeaceforpalestine.org; W: http://www.justpeaceforpalestine.org

Friday, 11 June 2010

CHRIST HAS NO NATION ....The World Cup ..Afghanistan and multiculturalism

It's a shame to see Englands' participation in the World Cup being used as an opportunity to promote support for the very contentious, contested and increasingly unpopular occupation of Afghanistan, making a dubious connection between support for the new imperialistic ventures of the 'liberal interventionists' and support for England Football Team. The video below from the anti racism campaign Kick it Out is to my mind a much more positive portrayal of an inclusive vision of support for England in the World Cup that incorporates our multi faith and multi cultural reality and constructs an understanding of national sporting identity that offers a creative alternative to the promotion of militaristic nationalism.

Thursday, 10 June 2010


Congratulations to West Midlands Faiths Forum, Birmingham LGBT and Aston University Chaplaincy for organising today's conference on Listening to Hidden Voices - the Experience of Lesbian. Gay and Bisexual People of Faith. This is not a topic that is often on interfaith agendas - another one of the important hot potatoes that is often avoided within the polite restraint of the more usual interfaith gathering. Today's conference was exceptionally well thought through and planned. It WAS a listening exercise - actors powerfully told the stories of 5 Lesbian and Gay people of faith from different faith communities and we listened and then had the chance to explore in small groups how we felt and how as people of faith we might want to pastorally respond. The stories were deeply moving and often very painful and by the end of the day many of us were emotionally exhausted, but that was also part of the conference's power, we were not able to retreat into easy theological and dogmatic assertion as we were confronted with the humanity and witness of the stories we were told. It doesn't feel right to share details of the stories here, I hope other opportunities will happen for these stories to be shared and their challenge to be heard. I came away from the conference with Jesus' strong words of condemnation on the religious leaders of his time in Matthew 23 ringing in my ears and heard them as a judgement upon all of us in positions of spiritual 'authority' who, either directly, or by silent collusion, tear the liberating heart out of the Revelations God has given us and turn them into burdensome stones to be hung upon the necks of our LGBT brothers and sisters of faith. May the truth of their continuing liberating power be attested to in the lives of LGBT people of faith, who despite condemnation from our communities often witness in their personal stories to the power of God's love, mercy and compassion.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Yesterday saw the launch of an interesting new campaign Inspired by Muhammad check it out it presents a contemporary easily accesible understanding of Islam for the contemporary world
The organisers say:
The Inspired by Muhammad campaign is designed to improve the public understanding of Islam and Muslims. It showcases Britons demonstrating how Muhammad inspires them to contribute to society, with a focus on women’s rights, social justice and the environment. The campaign coincides with a national poll conducted by YouGov which shows that the 69% of people believe that Islam encourages the oppression of women, that just 6% of people associate Islam with justice and that just 6% believe that Islam promotes active measures to protect the environment. Overall, nearly half of all people in the UK believe that Islam does not have a positive impact on British society.

Muslims have been forced by the rising tide of Islamophobia and media misrepresentation to consider creative and interesting ways of presenting their faith in the public sphere. This isn't so much a campaign attempting to recruit people to Islam as an attemopt to present to the wider community a positive and contemporary understanding of Islam in line with the Sunnah (way) of the Prophet.

It provokes me to consider - how do we as Christians present ourselves to the wider community? What would an 'inspired by Christ' campaign look like that wasn't overtly seeking to evangelise but simply to share our stories and our love for the way of the messiah/servant of God whom we call Christ and the imapct that he has on our lives - not assuming any knowledge -not bemoaning the end of so called 'Christian heritage', but freshly and vibrantly articulating the way of Jesus to issues of contemporary relevance.
This campaign also makes me consider what would a poll reveal of what the vast majority of people believe Christians are about?!

Thursday, 3 June 2010


Over 100 people turned up for the Vigil to mark the World Council of Churches World Week of prayer and action for peace in Palestine/Israel during lunchtime at Birmingham Anglican Cathedral today. Our reflections and litany were led by local councillor Salma Yaqoob, Jewish peace activist Barbara Payman and Shari Brown of the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme. Ann Farr from Pax Christi and myself opened the vigil and led the closing prayers. Below is a slide show of photos taken by my wife Annie that really capture the spirit of the occasion. we had good coverage in the local media before the event with Shari appearing on Midlands Today and BBC WM Radio.

Update 6/6
Barbara and Shari were also on the Sunday Morning programme on BBC WM. The following link will take you to the programme. Shari and Barbara's piece starts at 1.03 approx