11 November 2001

A pastoral letter to all Methodist Churches in Britain

11 November 2001

A pastoral letter to all Methodist Churches in Britain

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, 11 November, we honour the memory of those who gave their lives in the two great wars of the twentieth century. For most of us in recent years, though we have wanted to continue our remembrance, war has been something remote. This year, because of an 11th day that is only two months away, war is at the forefront of all our minds. We hope that on this Remembrance Sunday we may rightly respond to the present as well as to the past, and that is why we are writing this letter to you.

Remembrance has always been a way of acknowledging the cost of war to those who have fought on our behalf. As we honour those who suffered and died in the two World Wars, we invite your prayers also for those of us on whom today's conflict makes most demands: our political decision makers, members of our armed forces involved in the military action, and their families.

Remembrance has also rightly acknowledged the cost of war to forces who have opposed us, as well as to those on both sides of wars who have suffered through no choice of their own. We cannot forget today the innocent victims of 11 September, or of the action that is being taken in Afghanistan. Nor should we exclude from our prayers those we see as the enemy in the present conflict, however hard it may be to pray for them.

For some of us, who have thought that war was never justified, Remembrance Sunday has always been a time of repentance. For many of us, particularly when we have remembered the defeat of Nazism in World War Two, war has seemed sometimes to be the lesser of two evils, for all its cost to combatants and non-combatants alike. But no-one who takes the cost of military action seriously can avoid the question of whether it is justified. In Afghanistan at present a humanitarian crisis of frightening proportions is developing. There is understandably much public debate about whether the current military campaign is the right way to counter terrorism; yet all of us are clear that it must be countered somehow. We hope that our people will take part in the debate about the right response.

Finally, we have consistently used Remembrance Sunday as a time to pray for peace. We have rarely in recent times felt our peace more threatened than when we were faced with the hatred and rage of 11 September. We have watched what followed with apprehension and distress: the displacement of tens of thousands of refugees, more death and destruction in a country already ravaged by war, increased tension between different racial and religious groups far beyond the borders of Afghanistan. Peace-making in such a situation will require great wisdom, energy and courage, and it will be a very long task. Yet Christians are not to give up hope. In Christ there is unlimited peace-making, and with him his brothers and sisters can be peace-makers too.

It is not for us to say what practical response you should make, though we do want to underline the need we see to talk with - and listen to - our Muslim neighbours wherever we can. Our concern is that in our remembering together we should be as open as possible to what God waits to do now to heal and help our troubled world.

We join our prayers with yours, and greet you in the name of the Prince of Peace.

Yours sincerely,
Christina Le Moignan, President of the Methodist Conference
Ann Leck, Vice-President of the Methodist Conference

Note to Methodist churches - preachers are welcome to read all or part of the letter during the sermon or at another appropriate moment on Remembrance Sunday. Alternatively churches might wish to hand out a copy of the letter to members of the congregation before the start or after the end of the service.

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