26 June 2006

Church faces the challenge of Peacemaking: A Christian Vocation

Addressing matters of life and death, today the Methodist Conference commended a resource considering the ethics of modern warfare. Produced jointly by the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church, Peacemaking: A Christian Vocation aims to help Christians reflect on Jesus' call to be peacemakers, love our enemies and pray for our persecutors.

Asserting that armed conflict should only ever be a last resort, it asks whether there can ever be a positive use of force in conflict and if so, who has the authority to pursue war? It explores the possibility of non-violent strategies for dealing with conflict and speaks of peacemaking on both local and international levels. It also addresses the economic, social, political and environmental factors that contribute to conflict in communities and between nations.

The book features the stories of soldiers, military chaplains and those unwillingly caught up in conflict. It considers how we can respond to terrorism in a volatile environment and calls upon the leaders of the nations to join Christians in seeking out the way of peace.

Speaking from his own experience of the 7/7 bombings, Steve Hucklesby, Secretary for International Affairs, says: "I was suddenly caught up in an indescribable scene of carnage, death, chaos and fear. I've met again with those who were with me at the time, including some who were very severely injured. In various ways their lives have been changed. I can appreciate the struggle that some have had in coming to terms with the trauma of the experience.

"In the week following the bombing 50 people were killed in explosions in Iraq. Israel experienced its first suicide bombing for many months and in Gaza a young woman was killed as the result of Israeli military action. The danger is that we become so familiar with such images that we overlook the grief of those involved and the trauma not only of individuals but also of whole communities.

"Peacemaking does not mean passivity or indifference to injustice Ð it is an active, creative and challenging task in which we are all called to engage as Christians. It's at the heart of Jesus' teaching, not an optional extra. This report challenges the Church to move out of its comfort zone of familiar debates and mild protest and into real action for justice and reconciliation."

The Conference also voted to oppose replacement of the Trident nuclear weapons system when it comes to the end of its life in about 2025. It urged the Government to take the lead in disarmament negotiations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, working towards the ultimate intention of eliminating all nuclear weapons.

Steve Hucklesby said "replacing Trident would send the wrong message to the rest of the world. The Non-Proliferation Treaty has worked well in limiting the spread of nuclear weapons, and the Government should instead continue its practice of reducing the size of Britain's nuclear arsenal, with a goal of ultimately disarming once the last Trident elements go out of commission."

The Conference welcomed the report, recommending the resource for reflection and study and resolving to produce further resources and to continue to work with other churches and faith groups.

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