Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Survey of UK Christian Sympathies in Israel/Palestinian Conflict

Embrace the Middle East commissioned an opinion poll to find out what UK Christians thought about the Israel/Palestinian conflict.

Carried out in May 2014, before the current crisis started, 2,467 Christians from a cross-section of denominations answered an online questionnaire.

Key results from the survey:

Twice as many UK Christians (35.4 per cent) say they sympathise more with the Palestinians as say they sympathise with Israel (16.9 per cent).

More than a third (37.9 per cent) sympathise with neither side, or both sides equally, while almost a tenth (9.7 per cent) said ‘Don’t know’.

40.2 per cent of Anglicans, 44.6 per cent of Methodists and 56.6 per cent of Catholics said they sympathised more with the Palestinians than with Israel. Sympathy for the Palestinians was weaker among Baptists (28 per cent), but this was still greater than those Baptists who said they sympathised more with Israel (20.9 per cent).

Only a third of those UK Christians polled (33.1 per cent) strongly agreed or tended to agree with the statement that ‘God gave the land that is now Israel to the Jewish people’, while only 12.4 per cent strongly agreed or tended to agree that the biblical nation of Israel and the modern state of Israel were the same.

Some 70.1 per cent of UK Christians strongly agreed or tended to agree with the statement that the land belongs to both Jewish people and Palestinians.

Download the full story on the Press Release page.

Friday, 4 July 2014

For such a time as this: Sabeel Statement

For such a time as this, what is required?

For the last three months, approximately 200 Palestinian administrative detainees have been on a hunger strike to protest their detention without charge or trial.

On May 15, 2014, on Nakba day, a few weeks before the kidnapping of the three young Israelis, the Israeli army killed two Palestinian teenagers near Ramallah in cold blood.

On Monday evening, June 30, the Israeli army found the bodies of the three missing Israeli teenagers. On Tuesday morning, July 1, the Israeli army killed a 16 year old Palestinian in Jenin and some settlers tried to snatch a 9 year old boy in Beit Hanina, but he was rescued by his mother and some passersby. Early Wednesday morning July 2, settlers kidnapped a 17 year old boy from Shufat, killed him and burned his body. In addition, over the last two weeks over 10 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli army some of them quite young and over 500 detained and hundreds injured.

We grieve with all the families – Palestinians and Israelis. We condemn the killings whether by the Israeli army, the unruly settlers, extremist Palestinians or unknown suspects. We uphold the sanctity of all human life Israeli as well as Palestinian, Jew as well as Muslim, Muslim as well as Christian.

For those who have eyes to see, all the killings that have taken place were senseless and the major culprit is the rightwing Israeli government. Its policy has been a total rejection of peace on the basis of the demands of international law. It refuses to share the land and accept a sovereign Palestinian state on only 22% of historic Palestine that is willing to live in peace next to Israel. The government of Israel believes that it can turn back the wheels of history and create an ethnic/religious state. It believes that it can impose its will on the Palestinians because it possesses the military power and the technology that is needed. This cannot happen. It is on the wrong side of history. History itself is against it, not only the Palestinians. The future of the world is for multiethnic, multiracial, and multi-religious communities living together. History is for diversity and not for uniformity. Israel’s rightwing government is the culprit. It is responsible; it is the offender. It is cheating the Israeli and Palestinian youths of life because it is charting an ethnic and racist course of history that is untenable.

The good people of Israel, Palestine, and the international community must put a stop to this madness. Long ago Jesus quoted the Psalmist saying, “The meek will inherit the land.” The meek are the people of the land and they are the Israelis and the Palestinians, but they are not the arrogant exclusivists of this world. The exclusivists will eventually pass away and someday new leaders will emerge, an Israeli Abraham Lincoln, or an Israeli De Clerk who will lead Israel to peace based on sharing the land where every person – man and woman, Israeli and Palestinian - will live as equal citizens with human dignity.

We call on our Palestinian sisters and brothers to continue resisting every act of injustice with nonviolent action; our religious leaders, Muslim and Christian, to raise the prophetic voice against injustice and oppression; and the Palestinian Authority to remain steadfast in its commitment to a unified government.

If the Israeli government wants peace, it must be transformed. It needs to believe in the power of peace that is based on justice and equality. For such a time as this, Israeli leaders need the courage and the will to do the following:

1. They need to realize that violence can only beget violence and that despair can only beget desperate actions. Therefore the state must stop the cycle of violence and the cycle of vengeance.

2. They need to address the root causes of the problems: racist laws, the military occupation, and the illegal settlements.

3. They need to stop all collective punishments, arbitrary killings, and extra judicial executions and let the rule of law take its due course. It is unjust to punish innocent persons for the actions of a suspected few.

4. They need to work with the United Nations and the Palestinian Authority to find the resolution of the conflict on the basis of international law that will guarantee the needs of peace and security for both Israel and Palestine.

We lament the inaction of world leaders in the face of the entrenchment of the occupation. They need to realize that ultimately the resolution of the conflict requires outside intervention. World powers helped create the conflict and world powers must help resolve it.

For such a time as this, “He told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8)

The Rev. Dr. Naim Ateek
Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center, Jerusalem

July 4, 2014

Friday, 20 June 2014

Awareness Foundation: Catalysts for Peace

The Annual Lecture of the Awareness Foundation, held at St. George's Bloomsbury on Tuesday 17th June 2014 was a great success. Before an audience of more than 70, Ruth Gledhill interviewed Canon David Porter, the Director of Reconciliation for the Archbishop of Canterbury, and The Revd Nadim Nassar, Director for the Awareness Foundation, on 'Catalysts for Peace.'

Canon Porter drew on his great experience of the Troubles and his involvement in the peace process in Northern Ireland, while Nadim spoke about the seven years he spent in Beirut during the Lebanese Civil War and the current conflicts in the Middle East.

Canon Porter made six controversial points about reconciliation:

1. It is always about politics
2. Bad religion always trumps good
3. We are all responsible
4. History matters
5. Peace is offensive
6. Reconciliation is illusive

The message was clear: peace is difficult and the road to reconciliation is a long one, but it can be attained when all elements of a society support it. They agreed that when religion must be freed from political manipulation before faith can shine as a beacon of peace and forgiveness.

The event began with a warm welcome from the Rector of St. George's, The Revd David Peebles, and some brief introductions to the Awareness Foundation and especially its work in the Middle East.

View more photos here 

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Tesco Sells Palestinian Dates?

Without saying so explicitly, Tesco is admitting the dates are packed in Palestine. So where are they grown? In Israel and then shipped to an illegal Israeli settlement in the Occupied Palestinian West Bank? Unlikely.  More likely, they are grown and packed on the settlement, which makes them Palestinian dates. If so, Tesco is not only mis-labelling the dates but supplying stolen goods.

Friday, 13 June 2014



Friday 11th and Saturday 12th July 2014

The Loyola Room, Heythrop College, University of London Kensington Square, London W8 5HN

Michael Prior (15 March 1942‐21 July 2004) was a priest of the Vincentian Congregation, Professor of Biblical Theology at Saint Mary's College (now Saint Mary's University Twickenham), liberation theologian and well‐known figure in the Catholic Church in Britain. This July will mark the tenth anniversary of the death of Michael Prior and a number of international scholars and speakers will engage on topics raised by Michael in his work and publications. These will include: the Bible and Colonialism; the Bible and Liberation Theology; Zionism and Christian Zionism; the current situation of the Christian churches in the region and the future of Christianity in the Middle East.

Speakers who have already agreed to participate include:

Naim Ateek, Ilan Pappé, Perry Gildea CM, Michael Kirwan SJ, Peter Miano, Anthony O'Mahony, Huda Nassar, Don Wagner, Michael Marten, Sr Bridget Tighe, Suha Rassam, Mariam Tadros and Peter Colwell.

Details of other speakers and of conference programme and arrangements will be available soon.

Please register your interest by e‐mail 

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Jesus and the World Cup

If you are fed up with the amount of media coverage devoted to the World Cup, it may just be because:
a. you hate football.
b. England has already been kicked out.
c. you are not English and your team has been kicked out too.
d. any combination of the above.
On the other hand you may be utterly ecstatic because:
a. football is your thing.
b. England is still in there with a chance.
c. You’re not English and your team is still in with a chance.
d. you hate football and England has already been kicked out.
e. any combination of the above.
For some, football is their life, indeed it is their god. Their football pitch is hallowed ground. Apart from the bathroom, it is the only other place on earth where they will sing at the tops of their voices.
Many think that Church and football are in competition.  Comparisons are common, although Sunday church attendance in Britain still far exceeds Saturday football attendance, its just you would not know it given the pages devoted to football in the Sunday newspapers.
Dave Roberts has written a brilliant article in Christianity about the origins of football in the UK, showing the profound impact local churches had in the formation of many of the leading clubs of today.
The association between Church and football is actually much closer than most people realise.  As organized football grew throughout the 1860s and 1870s, it was actually church based teams which took the initiative to form the Football League in 1886. Tired of friendlies against inferior local opposition and the occasional thrill of the cup, William McGregor of the Aston Villa (Wesleyan) Football Club decided to see if there was interest in a league structure. Ten of the other teams joining Villa during that first decade of the league were church affiliated, with Methodists and Anglicans at the fore.
One of the founders, HS Yoxall, found large numbers of young men playing football on Sundays. He persuaded them to come to Bible class and provided a field for them to play on, on Saturdays. The same mission started cycling, rambling and angling clubs, and offered classes in arithmetic, writing, shorthand and music. They had a gymnasium, games room, lounge, library and refreshment bar. As this distinctive mission work went on, the Aston Villa (Wesleyan) Football Club grew from humble beginnings in 1874 to winning the FA Cup in 1887. McGregor had worked hard to curb the drinking of team members, and called a team meeting every Monday in a local coffee shop to help the players discover other social outlets.
John Henry Carwell, the vicar of St Andrews in Fulham, turned to the then 15 year old Tom Norman to recruit players for what became Fulham FC. He felt people needed to belong before they could believe. The church fed 160 poor local children daily with free hot dinners, while at the same time opened a gym to encourage fitness and sport.  Southampton FC, similarly was founded by the curate of St Mary’s Church in the town.
Two other notable clubs founded by parish churches were Barnsley and Manchester City.  Vicar’s daughter, Anna Connell started a men’s club at St Mark’s, West Gorton with around a hundred local young men to dissuade them from organised fighting. A football club was formed to help ‘deepen the bonds’ between them. The first match in 1880 of the team that would become Manchester City was against Macclesfield Baptist.
Queens Park estate in West London was another community in which the church initiated a football team. Christ Church Rangers eventually became Queens Park Rangers. Tottenham Hotspur similarly grew out of a young men’s Bible class at All Hallows, Tottenham. And teetotal Everton players associated with St Domingo Methodist Chapel actually provoked the formation of Liverpool FC when a small number of members formed the new club on Everton’s old ground at Anfield following a dispute over alcohol.
So maybe the Christian origins of the Street Child World Cup that has preceded the World Cup in Rio should come as no surprise after all. For more information see Umthombo.

Does God want you to be rich?

Does God want us to be rich? from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

This week's most popular sermon. Read it here 

Sunday, 8 June 2014

An Open Letter to the Jewish Chronicle

Marcus Dysch,
Political Correspondent,
Jewish Chronicle 

8th June 2014

Dear Marcus,

I am extremely disappointed by your latest article about me, in this week's Jewish Chronicle, the more so since I had taken your concerns very seriously, and promptly removed comments from other people on my Facebook you regarded as offensive. I thanked you for contacting me first rather than writing about it and asked you to advise me if you found other comments offensive in the future. You even thanked me for my response. So why then turn it into yet another non-story replete with innuendos and aspersions?

It is increasingly clear to me that the Jewish Chronicle is motivated solely by a determination to misrepresent me on every occasion. I am therefore at the moment disinclined to respond to any further communications from the Jewish Chronicle or yourself. Whether I change my mind or not, I will very likely make any further correspondence from you public.

My experience so far convinces me that your enquiries are never made in good faith. The readers of your paper deserve better journalism.

Yours sincerely,