15 September 2008

Free Churches call on churches to pray, governments to act for peace

The Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church are calling for churches and governments to mark the International Day of Peace (21 September) by praying and working for peace in the Indian State of Orissa and Georgia.

The three denominations, who work closely on national and international issues through the Joint Public Issues Team, are calling on churches to pray for fellow Christians in Orissa who have experienced a wave of persecution and violence in recent weeks from Hindu extremists and for the local authorities in the Indian state to do more to halt the religious attacks.

The Revd Roberta Rominger, General Secretary of the United Reformed Church says, "Our partners report harrowing accounts of the violence in Orissa in which Christians, including priests and nuns, have been killed, raped or tortured. Over 150 churches have been ransacked and over 1,000 homes have been burnt down. We urge the Indian State and national authorities to intervene to prevent any further violence. The state authorities have failed to protect vulnerable people with tragic consequences. People's confidence in the police and justice system needs to be rebuilt. Our thoughts are with those who have fled their homes and those who are living in fear. We also offer our prayers and support to Hindu and Christian leaders who are working to resolve the underlying tensions between communities."

The denominations are also keen for churches to pray on 21 September for relations between Russia, Georgia and the West following the military dispute in South Ossetia in August. They call on the UK government in particular to work for a just and peaceful resolution of tensions in the region.

Graham Sparkes, Head of the Faith and Unity Department at the Baptist Union of Great Britain, says, "Humanitarian aid has already been sent to our partners in the region. But beyond the immediate need for shelter, clothing and medical assistance, is the deeper need for a just peace that will prevent future conflict. Russian and Georgian Christians plan to meet later this month as a sign of their commitment to seek reconciliation and reject violence. We want to see that same commitment from politicians on all sides."

The Revd Stephen Poxon, President of the Methodist Conference, believes praying for peace and reconciliation in Orissa and Georgia is living out the gospel message. "Love is at the heart of the Christian gospel. It should be remembered that Jesus' instruction to "love your neighbour" was given at a time of social conflict and occupation. We see in Orissa, Georgia and elsewhere people of all faiths taking big risks to break down barriers and build understanding. The miracle of the God's love is its capacity to overcome hatred and adversity. The instruction to "love your neighbour" is given to each and every one of us. On the International Day of Prayer for Peace we pray especially for those engaged in the task of peace and reconciliation in some of the more troubled areas of our world."

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