One of the burdens of having written a blog for some years is that when you stop for a while people read into it something that isn't there. Apparently, silence about urgent world events – or, in my case, developments in the church – means I am a coward or unwilling to commit (despite regular media engagement on these issues). It is always interesting to me that the first (rather than the last) assumption is my obvious lack of integrity.

The real reason, of course, is more prosaic: I have not had the time or head space to hit the keys. Starting a new role in less-than-ideal circumstances, then moving house and settling into a new one (most of which is office or 'public' space), shifts the immediate priorities.

So, here is a bullet point observation on some of the things that have gone on recently, or are going on now:

  • The Gaza crisis will not be solved without Hamas ceasing its indiscriminate rocketing of Israel. Israel's response has been appallingly disproportionate, but responsibility is shared. In the end, a negotiated settlement will be needed, but by then the next couple of generations of mutual enmities and grievances will have been firmly established. In the end, this sort of violence resolves nothing.
  • The UK government should open our doors to those Christians and other minorities seeking asylum from persecution in Iraq and Syria. Numbers won't be great, but we have a moral obligation to rescue those whose situation has been generated by our interventions. Germany and France have led the way – there has so far been silence on this matter from home.
  • Rescuing Iraqis will not address the religiocide in Iraq and Syria. It is staggering that we would invade to oust Saddam, but hold back from stopping the shockingly brutal violence deliberately being inflicted on large communities of vulnerable people.
  • Jon Henley in the Guardian reports a massive rise in antisemitism in Europe and observes: “Across Europe, the conflict in Gaza is breathing new life into some very old, and very ugly, demons.” Interesting use of language. Jesus once exposed the idiocy of cleaning out one demon, leaving a vacuum, then being surprised when the gap is filled by loads of demons – most of them far worse than the one they got rid of in the first place.
  • The rise of antisemitism itself demonstrates that the supposedly rational European societies are neither as rational nor discriminating as they would claim to be. When opposition to Israeli policy is turned into intimidation of Jews in England, Germany or France, there has clearly been a breach in the synapses somewhere. Or, perhaps, it just reinforces the fact that even people who claim to be rational actually react from deeper emotions rooted in unarticulated prejudices.
  • Clear out one demon, leave a power vacuum, and all you have done is clear the way for power-hungry demons to occupy the space. I am taken back to the historian (I think it was Niall Ferguson) who suggested that if you are an empire, you must behave like one and not pretend to be 'nicer'. In relation to Iraq, this means you can't just pop in, proclaim “Mission Accomplished” and satisfy domestic political concern by leaving quickly. He suggests that you have to be prepared to bed down for thirty years, change the infrastructure, let a generation go through, embed systems that work and allow the space for indigenous power to develop. Imperial? Yes. Patronising? Probably. But, the point is: don't do an 'Iraq' unless you are prepared to see it through … however uncomfortable this might make you at home.

And, in all of these cases, the ground will have shifted again by tomorrow.

 

 

Following my post on the resignation of UK Government Minister David Laws (in the light of Bishop Margot Käβmann’s resignation in February), there are two types of resignation in the spotlight today. I had intended to write something funny today, but the news got in the way.

Horst Köhler, President of Germany, has resigned only a year after securing a second term in office. He caused offence last week after suggesting that there can be a justification for Germany’s armed forces being involved in operations away from home in order to secure particular interests. The Left accused him of supporting ‘gunboat diplomacy’ (he doesn’t) and the Right left him to stew in his embarrassment. Today he resigned, saying he regretted that his comments could lead to a misunderstanding about a difficult question for the nation – viz Afghanistan.

So, German politics loses as its figurehead a good man with a good record because people are too stupid to listen intelligently to a comment and debate it seriously. What he said is contentious, but that is no reason for not saying it – even for a Head of State who has the best interests of his country at heart. German military involvement in Afghanistan is a hot potato in Germany right now and Margot Käβmann herself got into trouble in January when, as head of the EKD (Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland), she called for a renewed debate over the withdrawal of troops when there was a lack of vision for the conflict.

Köhler will be replaced in the interim by Jens Böhrnsen (SPD), speaker of the Bundesrat (Upper House). What is remarkably odd about all this is simply that the debate about Afghanistan will still go on, yet Germany will have lost a very good Head of State. And – as I have aksed elsewhere – who has gained what by this resignation?

However, the second resignation is arguably more serious for the wider world. This is the sense of resignation felt across the globe that Israel can do what it likes and get away with it – that in the end no one will hold Israel to account. They can build their illegal settlements, flout UN Resolutions at will, refuse to cooperate with the wider world (eg. nuclear proliferation negotiations) and commit atrocities against vulnerable people – and apart from a few sharp words, they can then carry on business as usual.

So, today they have intercepted (in international waters) the flotilla of boats taking aid to Gaza and lives have been lost. Ambassadors have been called in to explain events and protests have broken out around the world. Our own Foreign Secretary has issued a call for Israel to stop the blockade of Gaza forthwith. Whistling in the wind?

The tragedy of this is (a) that Israel’s security depends on the security of its neighbours and friends, (b) that original victimhood cannot justify making victims of others, (c) that Israel’s legitimate complaint about the violence of others towards Israel is drowned out by the horrified complaints of those offended by Israel’s own oppressive actions.

That said, however, I guess many people around a horrified world will once again be resigned to the fact that Israel will simply ignore protests and present itself as the aggrieved victim. Others, however, will now find in this action yet another sanction for further violence and less understanding.

Psalm 122.6 implores:

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…

But the peace of Jerusalem is never seen in isolation from the call of the prophets for God’s people to love justice, exercise mercy and walk humbly with God (and, therefore, with everyone else).

The Primates (can we not find a better word?) of the Anglican Communion have been meeting in Egypt and have issued a number of statements during the course of their deliberations. These won’t necessarily come as good news to those who wish to see the Communion fall apart. It seems the big guys have been doing the Christian thing and relating to each other as Christians and adults.

The full Communique can be read on the Anglican Communion website. The Communique reinforces what many people ignore which is that we are preoccuppied with more than sex and conflict. Look at the common statements on Gaza, Sudan (Darfur), Zimbabwe, climate change and Anglican Relief and Development work. These don’t diminish the importance of the divisive matters, but they do put them into context. They also counter the image that all we are interested in is sex and conflict.

One bit that intrigued me, though, was the part of the Communique that reads as follows: ‘The role of primate arises from the position he or she holds as the senior bishop in each Province.  As such we believe that when the Archbishop of Canterbury calls us together “for leisurely thought, prayer and deep consultation”, it is intended that we act as “the channels through which the voice of the member churches [are] heard, and real interchange of heart [can] take place”.’ From conversations during the Lambeth Conference (July last year) with bishops from a number of provinces (especially one or two who formed Gafcon), their primate doesn’t confer with them at all. In one case they were surprised that the primate could speak in their name without consulting them or knowing what their views on certain matters are.

So, I would be interested (simply out of curiosity) to know how the primates can be confident that they do indeed represent their bishops accurately. I guess such an inquiry would lead to the same conclusion as the Lambeth experience itself: what it means to be a province, a diocese or a bishop differs significantly from province to province – that we use the same language to mean different things. I don’t see this as a problem, but I do think it should be acknowledged.

Yesterday I addressed a group of people at a law firm in the City about Zimbabwe. These wonderful people have an ‘austerity lunch’ of bread and cheese and donate to the ‘project’ under discussion – which, yesterday, was Zimbabwe. I was invited because the Diocese of Southwark is deeply involved with the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe and I have been out there on my own and leading a group visit.

It was a good coincidence that I got home in the evening to hear that the Zimbabwean Dollar has been dumped and that foreign currencies are now allowed across the economy. This is only legalising what has been happening anyway – the parallel market has been operating in US dollars for years. Then, today, I heard that the MDC has voted to enter government with Zanu PF. This is precarious and we will have to wait and see what actually happens as plans are taken forward during the next two weeks. The MDC could find itself compromised and then more easily discarded by Mugabe later.

Yet, despite this news, I still get almost daily reports of human rights activists going missing, torture and abuse of prisoners, intimidation of MDC and Church people, and corruption at every level. The vital prerequisite for any improvement in the lives of Zimbabwe and her people is the restoration of the rule of law. Court judgements in respect of ownership of finances, accounts and property made against the ousted Anglican Bishop of Harare, Dr Nolbert Kunonga, have not been implemented  – and Kunonga, with the backing of Mugabe’s men, continues to steal money, retain possession of churches, intimidate anyone who denies him support and makes a mockery of justice.

The law firm people I addressed have asked to donate £1000 towards important projects in Central Zimbabwe. Wonderful stuff that will make a real difference now that foreign currency can be used and we don’t have to do dodgy things with currencies.

Today has also seen the publication of a statement by the Archbishop of Canterbury regarding the launch of the ‘Faiths Working Together’ Fund for rebuilding civilian lives in Gaza and relieving suffering in Israel through the work of Christian Aid, Islamic Relief and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel. This is surely a sensitive and laudable attempt by Christians, Jews and Muslims in this country to address the humanitarian need without regard for causes of conflict, ethnicity or status. The link also gives advice on how to donate.

Why set this up when DEC is already doing the business? Well, I guess it is in order to demonstrate what many secularists prefer to ignore: people of different religions working together for the common good and going beyond the arguments that sometimes appear to sterilise effective action. Good stuff.

Zimbabwe is a disaster: Mugabe and the South African ‘mediators’ claim a deal, but the MDC denies having agreed it and the sorry saga continues. It seems to me that the MDC must not compromise its position or it will be dismissed by Mugabe at his whim.

Meanwhile controversy rages around the UK in the light of the BBC’s refusal to broadcast the DEC appeal for Gaza. Protestors had to be removed from Broadcasting House and we had the bizarre sight of Director General, Mark Thompson, explaining on early morning TV his reasons for the refusal to broadcast the appeal while behind him was displayed a huge backdrop of the appeal poster and all the contact and donation details. This must have been deliberate as well as canny.

There are war crimes trials going on in international courts and Sri Lanka is in violent turmoil again. In other words, business as usual for a world full of hostility and bad news. The financial crisis rages on, four Peers are being accused of corruption and the economic wallpaper looks pretty grubby. So what?

I went to get the train into London this morning and, as usual, picked up the free Metro newspaper. Its front page headline ignored all of this and proclaimed that a bit of an aspirin taken every day can help your liver.

Is it too much to wonder who thought this was top news of the day? I’m not saying it shouldn’t be – just that I’d like to know why it was thought to be so.

Perhaps it is simply that in the midst of all the bad news, we still find refuge in something small, personal and achievable. It could be that it is sometimes easier to shut out the loud noise of all the ‘big stuff’ and focus attention on the stuff of ‘me’.

Well, whatever the reasons behind this odd choice of priority, the evening papers simply led with the remarkable birth of eight babies to one mother in California. Amid the gloom there is a nice story – though I pity the poor mother who has said she will breastfeed all eight of them. I am not sure whether to be full of admiration … or just avert my attention back to the ‘big stuff’.

The BBC website makes interesting reading today. Although ITV, Channel Four and Five have decided to break ranks and show the Disaster Emergency Committee’s appeal for humanitarian relief in Gaza, the BBC is maintaining its refusal on the grounds that it might compromise its impartiality.

“After consultation with senior news editors, we concluded that to broadcast a free-standing appeal, no matter how carefully couched, ran the risk of calling into question the public’s confidence in the BBC’s impartiality in its coverage of the story as a whole.” That was the statement by Mark Thompson, Director General of the BBC. He added: “We will continue to broadcast news about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and, if appropriate, to cover the work of the UK NGOs (non-governmental organisations) on the ground.”

I don’t know the answer to this question, so I’ll ask it directly: does the BBC only broadcast appeals when humanitarian aid is needed because of ‘natural disasters’ (the tsunami, for example) or also when the human need is caused by the political or military action of powerful people? Would the BBC broadcast an appeal for the suffering people of Zimbabwe or would that be considered anti-Mugabe and, therefore, not ‘impartial’. Did the BBC broadcast appeals for support after 9/11 – or would that have been considered ‘partial’?

What worries me about this is the understanding of ‘impartiality’ being held. BBC coverage of the war in Gaza was seriously limited by the exclusion of BBC journalists and cameras from Gaza itself. I cannot now remember if we heard disclaimers on news bulletins that the picture being given was bound to be ‘partial’ because access to Gaza was denied and ‘news’ was managed by the Israeli propaganda machine.

I realise that this is not the same issue as the BBC giving airtime for a humanitarian appeal. But it raises the question of whether the BBC, by denying such an appeal, is actually being partial to Israel and its view of the world.

It is perhaps not surprising that increasing numbers of journalists are questioning the possibility of impartiality on the part of journalists in any situation. The pictures they broadcast, the words they use, the worldview that shapes their perception of what is ‘normal’ (let alone what is seen to be deviating from the norm – which is what ‘news’ seems to be), the assumed criteria they use for editing material in or out (in order to create a meaningful narrative and inform an audience) – all these involve the journalist and editor as committed agents and not impartial observers.

The BBC’s dilemma is an uncomfortable one and it is not hard to see the problem they face. But I hope the BBC will broadcast the appeal along with other broadcasters. Not because sides should be taken with either Israel or Hamas, but because people are suffering enormously and no one can remain ‘impartial’ in the face of it, whatever its cause.

This matter is not unconnected to the myth of neutrality espoused by uncritical secular humanists whereby (a) there is a neutral/impartial way of seeing the world and events (which, of course, is where their own assumptions are – conveniently – thought to lie and (b) there is a dangerous loonyland where religious or other ‘committed’ people load the agenda and conspire to destroy. It is a philosophical battle that needs to be fought rationally in the public arena. It is a debate that is important because we see this nonsense working its way out when a film crew covers up a cross in a church when filming a soap opera ‘in case it causes offence’, when government departments see ‘community cohesion’ as the absence of tension between faith communities and their leaders, and when media people decide what is ‘news’ and what counts as ‘impartial’.

Some people clearly just don’t get it.

A year or two ago I was reading the Economist on a flight from somewhere I can’t remember to somewhere else I can’t remember when an advert grabbed my attention. It was by Barclays Bank and depicted a blonde on a white horse riding off into the sunset away from the reader. The caption underneath read: ‘It’s being able to tell the world to get lost.’ Underneath in blue were the words: ‘Wealth. What’s it to you?’ This advert featured in loads of sermons thereafter as an example of a culture that was finally exposing itself unashamedly in all its sad individualism.

I recalled this today because Barclays announced today that it was cutting 2,100 jobs globally of which over 500 would be from its Wealth business. I am sorry for those whose lives will be disrupted by this, but any business that can brazenly advertise itself as in that series of adverts has lost its way.

The drive for personal wealth and security that has characterised the consumerist society has been rooted in an individualism that idolises the self at the expense of society. Now, I was a student of the Soviet Union and am no stranger to Marxism-Leninism and its appalling corruptions of the human being. Yes, I understand that the individualism that values every individual person and refuses simply to subsume the individual into the mass is vital and noble and indispensible. But the individualism that reduces other people to commodities or obstacles is corrupt. My own fulfilment or security (financial or otherwise) is not the ultimate good.

What really upsets me about this sort of culture is that it runs counter to the ethic of Jesus according to which we are called to lay down our life in order that the world might see who God is and what God is like – the God who lays down his own life for the sake of the world. The Gospel pleads that we find ourselves in serving other people and is rooted in a God who in Jesus of Nazareth opts into the world and does not (as in the advert) run away from it. Presumably, Christians are to be christ-ian and opt into the world, rejecting the sort of Barclays fantasy that thinks one’s own security can be ensured in isolation from that of others.

That remains (by extrapolation) my fear not just for individual people, but also individual states. Wherever one stands in relation to the Israel-Gaza crisis, at a pragmatic level it is hard to see how this obscenity will perpetuate anything other than insecurity for Israel. A short-term war will feed the hatred and guarantee the thirst for revenge for generations to come.

Which I guess puts job losses at Barclays into perspective.

Like many other people, my mind is preoccupied with the horrors of Gaza and, despite the current lack of media attention, the appalling situation in Zimbabwe. Israel-Palestine is somewhere I have visited several times and will visit again next year. Zimbabwe is a country I have grown to love because of a strong link between the Diocese of Southwark and four of the Zimbabwean Anglican dioceses. The Croydon Episcopal Area is linked with the Diocese of Central Zimbabwe and we know Bishop Ishmael Mukuwanda and his people very well.

I have been to Zimbabwe several times and Ishmael and his wife have stayed with us several times during the last five years or so. It is in this relationship that we learn to see through different eyes and think through different frameworks. If my theology only ‘works’ in Wimbledon, but would be embarrassing if expressed in Harare or Gweru, then it is not a theology worth having. And to go to such places is to have your theology seriously tested.

And yet even in places of suffering and injustice there is a sense of deja vu – of seeing played out a situation that has been experienced many times before in the long history of humanity. Powerful people become paranoid and oppress others in order to compound their own security. Mugabe is trapped in his own weakness and paranoia – and they will lead to his undoing. As I observed in an earlier post, history teaches us that empires come and go and that power is a gift, not a right.

This might seem an odd diversion, but yesterday I was reading the speech by Franklin D Roosevelt on 4 March 1933 after being sworn in as President of the United States of America. I read it in the Guardian’s Great Speeches of the 20th Century. The introduction is written by the Prime Minister Gordon Brown who in retrospect must surely wish he hadn’t agreed to do it. Roosevelt, speaking of the dire economic straits of 1930s America, could have been writing today. Try this, for example:

‘…we face our common difficulties. They concern, thank God, only material things. Values have shrunk to fantastic levels: taxes have risen; our ability to pay has fallen; government of all kinds is faced by serious curtailment of income; the means of exchange are frozen in the currents of trade; the withered leaves of industrial enterprise lie on every side; farmers find no markets for their produce; and the savings of many years in thousands of families are gone. More important, a host of unemployed citizens face the grim problem of existence, and an equally great number toil with little return. Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment.

And yet our distress comes from no failure of substance. We are stricken by no plague of locusts. Compared with the perils which our forefathers conquered, because they believed and were not afraid, we have still much to be thankful for. Nature still offers her bounty and human efforts have multiplied it. Plenty is at our doorstep, but a generous use of it languishes in the very sight of the supply.

Primarily, this is because the rulers of the exchange of mankind’s goods have failed, through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence, have admitted their failure, and have abdicated. Practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men.

True, they have tried. But their efforts have been cast in the pattern of an outworn tradition. Faced by failure of credit, they have proposed only the lending of more money. Stripped of the lure of profit by which to induce our people to follow their false leadership, they have resorted to exhortations, pleading tearfully for restored confidence. They only know the rules of a generation of self-seekers. They have no vision, and when there is no vision the people perish.

Yes, the money changers have fled from their high seats in the temple of our civilisation. We may now restore that temple to the ancient truths. The measure of that restoration lies in the extent to which we apply social values more noble than mere monetary profit.

Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. The joy, the moral stimulation of work no longer must be forgotten in the mad chase of evanescent profits. These dark days, my friends, will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves, to our fellow men.

Recognition of that falsity of material wealth as the standard of success goes hand in hand with the abandonment of the false belief that public office and high political position are to be valued only by the standards of pride of place and personal profit; and there must be an end to a conduct in banking and in business which too often has given to a sacred trust the likeness of callous and selfish wrongdoing. Small wonder that confidence languishes, for it thrives only on honesty, on honour, on the sacredness of obligations, on faithful protection, and on unselfish performance; without them it cannot live.

Delivered almost 76 years ago, his words resonate powerfully even now in a world of economic embarrassment and moral fickleness. Roosevelt was writing of America, yet while he was speaking on his side of the Atlantic Ocean Adolf Hitler was enjoying the first months of his rule of a Germany that had no idea what it was walking into.

America re-grew its economic, military and political power and ultimately became the ultimate superpower. But those days are passing even now – just as the thousand-year Reich collapsed after only a decade and a half of catastrophic hubris.

Empires come and go. The Bible tells us so. We’ve seen it all before. Time to learn the lessons. (But I doubt we will.)

In the summer of 2008 I went to a day of lectures at the University of Cambridge to commemorate the ecumenical visit of a group of Germans to England in 1908 (reciprocated in 1909). The morning lecture was just brilliant: the retired German theologian Jurgen Moltmann giving an overview of German theology from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century. Now this might not sound the most exciting way to spend a hot summer day, but this elderly academic, speaking in superb, faultless English, was interesting, funny, wise and perceptive. To anyone interested in theological development in the last century it was a unique opportunity to hear the great man do his stuff.

Over lunch I mentioned to him that I would like to read his autobiography, but wanted to read it in German and not English. I immediately forgot the title of the book and thereafter kept forgetting to order it.

A couple of months later I was with a group of bishops at Lambeth Palace for a theology day with the Archbishop of Canterbury – another brilliant, stimulating and challenging day. After lunch I approached the Archbishop with a query I had been too embarrassed to ask Moltmann in Cambridge. During his lecture Moltmann had suddenly quoted something that sounded deep and ‘old’. I wanted to ask where it came from, but thought I would look conspicuously ignorant among a load of keen Cambridge academics. So, I asked Rowan if he knew where this had come from – the Desert Fathers perhaps? It went like this:

God is our happiness. God is our torment. God is the wide space of our hope.

Rowan thought about it for a moment and then said: ‘I think he was probably quoting himself.’

Was I embarrassed? Of course I was! But at least I learned something. Anyway, I finally got a copy of the book when I was at a theological conference near Dusseldorf last November. And the German title of the book? ‘Weite Raum’ – Wide Space. Rowan was right… and I am hopelessly ignorant.

But I love the description of God that Moltmann gives. We often try to narrow God down so that he reflects our own limited experience, expectations or prejudices. But God, as can be seen in the biblical narratives, occupies the wide spaces which offer uncertainty and threat as well as the fearful hints of his presence. It seems that God strides about in the wide spaces and won’t be pinned down by our own small-mindedness. But it also chimes in with the stuff I wrote a couple of weeks ago about Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’ which refuses to hold back from God the contradictory realities of human/Christian life from God: we offer both the ‘broken and the holy hallelujah’ (missed out in the Alexandra Burke version).

Perhaps it is only people who are open to the wide spaces that truly enjoy God. Perhaps it is only such people who can find the wide spaces for seeking imaginative and bold potential resolutions of conflicts such as that in Israel and Gaza. Perhaps the frenzied protection of narrow self-interest is the natural and unavoidable fruit of abandoning the ‘wide space’ of God.

Mark B still hasn’t addressed the questions I put!

I am not going to get drawn in to a discussion of the etymological or ideological roots of anti-Semitism – Mark and I will clearly disagree. I will simply rebutt the notion that ‘Antisemitismus’ and ‘Judenhass’ are synonymous.

The Archbishop of Canterbury and others have made statements – links are:

Archbishop’s statement on Gaza

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has made the following statement regarding the current situation in Gaza:

The spiralling violence in Gaza tragically illustrates the fact that the cycle of mutual threat and retaliation have no lasting effect except to reinforce the misery and insecurity of everyone in the region. I want to express my grief and sympathy for the innocent lives lost in this latest phase of violence.  People of all faiths in this country will want to join their voices to the statements of the Christian Muslim Forum and the Council of Christians and Jews in urging a return to the ceasefire and efforts to secure a lasting peace.  We must unite in urging all those who have the power to halt this spiral of violence to do so. 

Those raising the stakes through the continuation of indiscriminate violence seem to have forgotten nothing and learned nothing. It must surely be clear that, whilst peace will not wipe out the memory of all past wrongs, it is the only basis for the future flourishing of both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. The recent statement by the Patriarchs and Heads of Church in Jerusalem reflects a clear awareness that there can be no winners if the current situation is allowed to persist.  Its continuation can only condemn ordinary Palestinian and Israeli citizens to the prospect of another year of fear and suffering.

Urgent humanitarian needs have arisen through the attacks on Gaza and Israel and they demand a generous response to local appeals for support, such as that issued by the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem for its hospital in Gaza.  But this humanitarian response, both local and international, needs to be matched by redoubled efforts in the political sphere.

The prophet Zechariah declared, “Not by might and not by power, but by my spirit says the Lord of Hosts”.  The New Year is an opportunity for a new initiative that will set the tone for what lies ahead. Religious leaders, most particularly those of the region, have an urgent responsibility in supporting the search for peace and reconciliation.  But it is the political leaders and opinion-formers who hold the key to implementing the necessary changes that can bring hope.  Can they not agree a period of truce as the New Year begins, so that the communities of the Holy Land may once again explore how common security might at last begin to replace the mechanical rhythms of mutual threat?  Might the outgoing and incoming Presidents of the USA combine to make such an appeal and pursue its implementation?  

The Anglican Communion worldwide stands alongside other religious communities and humanitarian organisations in its commitment to supporting any such initiative. Without such a sign of hope, the future for the Holy Land and the whole region is one of more fear, innocent suffering and destruction.

The statement by Imam Dr Musharraf Hussain and The Rt Revd Dr Richard Cheetham, Co-Chairs of the ‘Christian Muslim Forum’ is available at: http://www.christianmuslimforum.org/subpage.asp?id=325

The statement by The Rt Rev Nigel McCulloch, Chair of the ‘Council of Christians and Jews’ is available at: http://www.ccj.org.uk/

The statement by the Patriarchs and Heads of Church in Jerusalem is available at: http://www.lpj.org/newsite2006/news/2008/12/gaza-message-en-headschrches2008.html

The statement by the Anglican Bishop in Jerusalem about Al Ahli Arab Hospital is available at: http://www.j-diocese.org/newsdetail.php?id=3386