Peacemaker Mediators (www.peacemakers.ngo) was launched on Saturday May 6 at Christ Church Virginia Water. It aims to be a catalyst for peacemaking, especially where minorities are persecuted, where justice is denied, human rights are suppressed or reconciliation is needed. The director, the recently retired vicar of Christ Church, the Rev Stephen Sizer, wants to work with other peacemaking charities, with a specific role of dealing with causes not consequences.
Patrons of the charity are Archbishop Mouneer Anis (Jerusalem and the Middle East) and the former Archbishop of Uganda, Henry Orombi.
The Panel of Reference includes Bishop Michael Langrish, former Bishop of Exeter.
Speaking from this Sunday’s lectionary he noted that Ephesians 2: 14 reads “Christ is our peace who has broken down the dividing wall to make peace”. The cross which was a priestly and prophetic act is not a victory over hatred, Bishop Langrish said. Jesus was not winning a conflict but putting an end to conflict. Pouring millions into peacekeeping only keeps warring parties apart. The Christian community struggles to keep reconciliation alive. “This charity is committed to keep that witness alive,” he said, “a vocation to which Christ calls us and for which he gives us the grace.”
Stephen Hofmeyr QC spoke of his experience of being brought up in Cape Town where he lived “under the horrors of a majority who were persecuted.” His experience taught him that reconciliation and true peace only come from God. This involves truth, dealing with the realities and all the issues, not sweeping them under the carpet.
“God works when people pray,” he said, noting that at a final meeting to secure peace in South Africa, agreement failed at the last hurdle. Chief Buthelezi left and boarded a plane. After take off the plane developed a fault and had to return. Chief Buthelezi was asked to go back into the meeting, where finally the deal was done. People had been praying.
Canon Garth Hewitt, the founder of Amos Trust, and a trustee of the charity, gave a concert with guitar and harmonica. His songs had lines such as
“In the tents of God mercy all are accepted., God is still waiting with wide open arms”
“I believe in the way of peace, I believe in the way of freedom
Oh in my heart I do believe, In the way of peace and the way of Jesus”
And referring to the Bethlehem Wall, “No injustice will last forever, one day the wall will fall”.
“When we do not speak up so the truth dies, It’s the devils moment. Kyrie eleison.”
A painting called “The Devil’s Moment” was auctioned in aid of the new charity.
Several members of the panel of reference referred to the courage that Reverend Sizer had shown under significant pressure, from people one contributor noted, who were afraid of what he was saying.
Canon Chris Sugden welcomed the launch of Peacemaker Mediators as timely for the UK because from a Christian perspective, making peace and achieving reconciliation depends on truth. “Truth is the only defence the powerless and marginalised have against the powerful. If morality is reduced to personal opinion and preference, and if criticism of any position is taken as unacceptable offence, then all we have is a power-game and those in the minority are judged to be sick and suffering from some phobia or other. We must ensure the freedom to speak and seek the truth in the public square in our own country. Some will be pressing the parties in the forthcoming election to include the provision of conscience clauses in many of the current and contentious articles of legislation already on the statute book and envisioned.”
Article written by Canon Chris Sugden, and published in the Church of England Newspaper, Peacemaker Report 11 May 2017, p. 7.
The photograph shows L to R Canon Garth Hewitt, Bishop Michael Langrish, Rev Dr Stephen Sizer and the painting The Devil’s Moment by Daniel Burnell
Bishop Michael has written to the CEN to clarify his comments reported above. He writes:
Thank you for your very full coverage on the launch of this very important new initiative in this week’s CEN, in which you cover a number of remarks made by me. However among them I am reported as saying that ‘the cross is not a victory over hatred’. Far from it. In one sense we can say that it was hatred which put Christ on the cross, and his resurrection is very much a victory over it and the attitudes and actions which flow from it. What I did say was that Christ didn’t come merely to win a conflict – there’s no great merit in that. It was about giving people the means to end the conflict, the hatred, the enmity, the strife, with a new way of living instead. When someone wins in a conflict there are still victors and vanquished – them and us. When a conflict is overcome there is just ‘us’ – one new community in Christ. National governments and international organisations today pour huge resources into ‘peace-keeping’ which generally amounts to little more than keeping warring parties apart – with often the most vulnerable continuing to suffer in the ensuing gap. The calling of the Church is to peace-making – at every level of human life. So, Peacemaker Mediators is committed to tackling the causes of conflict, recognising that wherever the Church is under-resourced, marginalised or persecuted in its work for reconciliation it needs our support. Those of us who serve on the international Board of Reference share a commitment to this end.
+ Michael Langrish