Convivencia Alliance Launch

New Middle East peace initiative seeks to harness spirit of Spanish Golden Age.

A new initiative to help bring a just peace in the Middle East was launched in London yesterday, invoking the periods of mutual co-existence enjoyed by the three Abrahamic faiths in medieval Spain and the Ottoman Empire.
Convivencia is a cross-faith, international initiative for a just peace in the Middle East that seeks to substitute the current militarised ‘solutions’ based on racist oppression, brute force, denial of rights and colonial dispossession with an approach predicated on shared values and commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The conveners were Professor Haim Bresheeth and David Cannon of Jewish Network for Palestine (JNP), Massoud Shadjareh of the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) and myself.
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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.”

Southampton Peace Vigil for Ukraine Videos

Many people in Southampton joined together at the Peace Vigil for Ukraine in Guildhall Square last Friday evening, 11th March, which was addressed by religious and civic community leaders.

The Mayor of Southampton, Councillor Alex Houghton welcomed people and said “it’s truly humbling to see how the people of Southampton, including those with Polish, Ukrainian and Russian connections, have come together to help the people of Ukraine.”

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Winchester Peace Vigil for Ukraine

More than 350 people from across Winchester came to Abbey Gardens in Winchester on Tuesday 1st March to show solidarity and support at a vigil for Ukraine.

William Brook-Hart from the Southampton and Winchester Visitors Group (SWVG) said what had been witnessed on the TV was horrendous: “I think we’re all horrified by the events unfolding in Ukraine. We’re all very shocked. It feels quite close to home. The cities being bombarded look very much like our cities… and we can empathise very much with what people are going through and feel great solidarity with them really.”

Canon Tess Kuin Lawton of Winchester Cathedral led with a prayer for peace, followed by a one minute silence in respect for the people of Ukraine.

We are #TogetherWithRefugees and with Winchester City of Sanctuary. We call for fair and humane treatment of people who need sanctuary, and safe routes for refugees.

Sources: Winchester Today and BBC News

The Lord’s Prayer in Time of War

Our Father, who art in heaven,
slow to anger, and of great mercy, lover of all peoples of the earth,

Hallowed be thy Name.
Remind us that “all the nations are as nothing before thee,”
their governments but a shadow of passing age;

Thy kingdom come on earth.
Grant to thy children throughout the world,
and especially to the leaders of the nations,
the gift of prayerful thought and thoughtful prayer;
that following the example of our Lord,
we may discern what is right, and do it;

Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.
Help us to protect and to provide for all who are hungry and homeless,
especially those who are deprived of food and shelter,
family and friends, by the tragedy of war;

Give us this day our daily bread.
Forgive us for neglecting to “seek peace and pursue it,”
and finding ourselves in each new crisis,
more ready to make war than to make peace.
“We have not loved thee with our whole heart;
we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves”;

Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
Let us not seek revenge, but reconciliation;
Let us not delight in victory, but in justice;
Let us not give ourselves up to pride, but to prayer;

Lead us not into temptation.
Be present to all thy children ravaged by war:
Be present to those who are killing and to those who are being killed;
Be present to the loved ones of those who are killing
and to the loved ones of those who are being killed;

Deliver us from evil.
Subdue our selfish desires to possess and to dominate,
and forbid us arrogance in victory;

For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

~ written by Wendy Lyons

Convivencia: Interfaith Coexistence

Convivencia simply means ‘coexistence’. It is an academic hypothesis, first proposed by the Spanish philologist Américo Castro, regarding the coexistence of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities during the period of Spanish history from the Muslim Umayyad conquest of Hispania in the early eighth century until the expulsion of the Jews in 1492.

By extension the term can describe the contemporary religious and cultural interaction and exchange fostered by such proximity as a way to challenge the various forms of ethno-supremacism and exclusive religious nationalisms emerging in different parts of the world. 

Professor Haim Bresheeth has written a short introductory article on Convivencia published by Faith Initiative.

The Executive Summary may be viewed on the website of the Jewish Network for Palestine.

In June 2021, The Jewish Network for Palestine invited me to give a short presentation on Convivencia at their annual meeting. JNP have written a significant document on Convivencia to be launched in the Spring, in liaison with Muslim and Christian organisations.

Ramy Taleb – Director of the Foundation for Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Lebanon

We are delighted to commend the the work of the Foundation for Forgiveness and Reconciliation in Lebanon.

“FFRL is a locally led, diverse community of peace-seekers working primarily with the emerging generation in Lebanon. We support young people in Lebanon by caring for their emotional, physical, social and spiritual well-being, with the aim of empowering them as young leaders for peace as they take up their various roles and responsibilities in society, so as to strengthen social cohesion and build a path towards a more peaceful future in Lebanon.”

In this short interview Ramy talks about some of FFRL’s exciting projects. To find out more visit their website