Church faces the challenge of Peacemaking: A Christian Vocation

Addressing matters of life and death, today the MethodistConference commended a resource considering the ethics of modernwarfare. Produced jointly by the Methodist Church and the UnitedReformed Church, Peacemaking: A Christian Vocation aims to helpChristians reflect on Jesus' call to be peacemakers, love ourenemies and pray for our persecutors.

Asserting that armed conflict should only ever be a last resort, itasks whether there can ever be a positive use of force in conflictand if so, who has the authority to pursue war? It explores thepossibility of non-violent strategies for dealing with conflict andspeaks of peacemaking on both local and international levels. Italso addresses the economic, social, political and environmentalfactors that contribute to conflict in communities and betweennations.

The book features the stories of soldiers, military chaplains andthose unwillingly caught up in conflict. It considers how we canrespond to terrorism in a volatile environment and calls upon theleaders of the nations to join Christians in seeking out the way ofpeace.

Speaking from his own experience of the 7/7 bombings, SteveHucklesby, Secretary for International Affairs, says: "I wassuddenly caught up in an indescribable scene of carnage, death,chaos and fear. I've met again with those who were with me at thetime, including some who were very severely injured. In variousways their lives have been changed. I can appreciate the strugglethat some have had in coming to terms with the trauma of theexperience.

"In the week following the bombing 50 people were killed inexplosions in Iraq. Israel experienced its first suicide bombingfor many months and in Gaza a young woman was killed as the resultof Israeli military action. The danger is that we become sofamiliar with such images that we overlook the grief of thoseinvolved and the trauma not only of individuals but also of wholecommunities.

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

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

Steve Hucklesby said "replacing Trident would send the wrongmessage to the rest of the world. The Non-Proliferation Treaty hasworked well in limiting the spread of nuclear weapons, and theGovernment should instead continue its practice of reducing thesize of Britain's nuclear arsenal, with a goal of ultimatelydisarming once the last Trident elements go out ofcommission."

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