Convivencia Alliance Appoints First Chair

The Convivencia Alliance is a coalition of Jewish, Muslim and Christian organisations supporting a just peace in Palestine based on One Democratic State, launched at the P21 Gallery, Euston in London in May 2022. The founding organisations were Jewish Network for Palestine, (JNP), Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) and Peacemaker Trust.  

The Alliance has grown significantly since the launch and the Convivencia Declaration, outlining the aims and objectives of the Alliance, has already been endorsed by an extensive and growing list of internationally known leaders and organisations

Dr Stephen Sizer, who is also the founder and director of Peacemaker Trust, has been appointed the first chair of the Convivencia Alliance. This will be a revolving position shared between the three founding organisations to reflect the joint nature of the Convivencia Alliance. The role will involve representing, publicising and growing the Alliance. 

We are also grateful to our interim Chair, Mr David Cannon, who also serves as the chair of the Jewish Network for Palestine. His conscientious and diligent leadership has been fundamental to the growth of the Alliance and Declaration.

Dr Sizer is convening the first of three international webinars The Convivencia Declaration: Justice, Peace and Reconciliation – Christian Perspectives on Tuesday 25th October 18:00. Speakers include Revd Allan Boesak (South Africa), Mark Braverman (USA) Jonny Clark (Northern Ireland), and Rifat Kassis (Palestine). 

  

When Peacemaking is Controversial

Earlier this year the Charity Commission notified our trustees of ‘regulatory concerns’, presumably arising from a complaint, questioning whether some articles on the Peacemaker Trust website, were ‘in line with the advancement of the Christian religion or promotion of religious harmony’

The trustees responded by pointing out that the Church of England, and many other Christian denominations, define ‘the advancement of the Christian religion’ in terms of the ‘Five Marks of Mission’These include the aim of seeking “to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation.” 

The trustees emphasized that “We understand our charitable purposes in these terms and seek to be catalysts for peacemaking, especially where minorities are persecuted, where justice is denied, human rights are suppressed or reconciliation is needed.”

They referred to a quote by John Stott found on our website

“The incentive to peacemaking is love, but it degenerates into appeasement whenever justice is ignored. To forgive and to ask for forgiveness are both costly exercises. All authentic Christian peacemaking exhibits the love and justice – and so the pain – of the cross.” 

They concluded that “Dr Sizer’s stance in challenging racism, segregation and apartheid, based on non-violence and international law, is intended to advance an orthodox presentation of the Christian religion and promote religious harmony, by supporting justice, peace and reconciliation. This, in the opinion of the trustees, clearly falls within our charitable purposes.”

The trustees are grateful that the Charity Commission responded:

Thank you for the comprehensive response you have provided to our letter; the Commission are satisfied with the assurances provided by The Trustees and no further engagement is needed.”

Rifat Kassis Joins Peacemaker’s Board of Reference

We are delighted that Rifat Odeh Kassis has agreed to join our international Board of Reference.

Rifat is the General Coordinator of Kairos Palestine and Global Kairos for Justice, being one of its founding members. He co-authored the Kairos Palestine documents ‘A Moment of Truth: A Word of Faith, Hope and Love from the Heart of Palestinian Suffering’, ‘Kairos for Palestine’ and ‘Cry for Hope’: A Call for Decisive Action.

Rifat Kassis was born in Beit Sahour and for more than twenty five years has been a leading figure and expert in the Palestinian, regional and international child rights community. 

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Premier Christian News Apologises for Offending Article

“On 14th August 2021 Premier Christian News (PCN) published an article entitled:

Conspiracy theory’ vicar’s new charity receives thousands from his former church

After discussion with Reverend Dr Sizer PCN recognises that elements of the content and tone of the article did not meet the standards to which we hold ourselves to and we accept that parts of the article were inappropriate and sensational.

PCN acknowledges that Dr Sizer has publicly repudiated antisemitism and holocaust denial and conspiracy theories concerning Israel on numerous occasions. We also recognise that there were elements of the article which are contested by Dr Sizer and we should have provided him an opportunity to respond.

PCN apologises unreservedly to Dr Sizer and the trustees of Peacemaker Trust and regrets any distress caused.

PCN extends the same apology to the Rev Dr Simon Vibert, vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water, and their Parochial Church Council, who were also referenced in the article.”

Stephen Sizer statement

For the record, over the years, on my blog I have:

  • repudiated holocaust deniers hereherehere and here.
  • repudiated anti-Semitism herehere and here.
  • repudiated racism and the British National Party (BNP) here.
  • distinguished anti-Zionism from anti-Semitism here. 
  • advocated for the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by peaceful means based on the implementation of international law herehere and here .

To clarify my position in my book Zion’s Christian Soldiers, I wrote the following:

It is true that at various times in the past, churches and church leaders have tolerated or incited anti-Semitism and even attacks on Jewish people. Racism is a sin and without excuse. Anti-Semitism must be repudiated unequivocally. However, we must not confuse apples and oranges. Anti-Zionism is not the same thing as anti-Semitism despite attempts to broaden the definition. Criticising a political system as racist is not necessarily racist. Judaism is a religious system. Israel is a sovereign nation. Zionism is a political system. These three are not synonymous. I respect Judaism, repudiate anti-Semitism, encourage interfaith dialogue and defend Israel’s right to exist within borders recognised by the international community and agreed with her neighbours. But like many Jews, I disagree with a political system which gives preference to expatriate Jews born elsewhere in the world, while denying the same rights to the Arab Palestinians born in the country itself.”

I take seriously the Apostle Paul’s injunction that Christians should not take fellow believers before the secular courts in 1 Corinthians 6. For that reason I am content with the retraction and apology from Premier. 

However, my forbearance does not extend to secular or other religious media who persist in making these allegations, nor those who wilfully and knowingly continue to defame with the intent to cause reputational damage and further their racist political agendas.

I concur wholeheartedly with John Stott. In a sermon entitled The Place of Israel, which he graciously allowed me to include in my book, Zion’s Christian Soldiers, he said, 

“Away then with anti-Semitism! It has been an appalling scandal in the history of Europe, and even the Christian church has been implicated. Christians should be ‘pro-Semitic’, in the sense that we recognize how the people of Israel have been highly favoured by God. We Gentiles are their debtors, Paul wrote (Romans 15:27). We owe them a huge spiritual debt, especially in their bequest to the world of both the Scriptures and the Christ.”