From the Pen of Rev Steve

Recent copies of the minister's letters from Rev Steve. These are reproduced from the monthly Newsletter.

November 2023: Dealing with Conflict

Yet again society waits for an escalation in the conflict between Israel and its opponents in Gaza. The atrocities inflicted by Hamas on Israel have been witnessed by people across the world, killing 1400 Israelis and taking some as hostages over the border. However the death toll in retaliation in Gaza has already exceeded that figure with in excess of 3000 Palestinians becoming victims of the aerial bombardment.

There has been tension in this area for around 100 years, but what is commonly referred to as the six day war meant that the two areas designated for the Palestinians, Gaza and the West Bank with Egyptian and Jordanian oversight, were seized by Israel in 1967. Ever since Palestinians have had a level of control over them, some describing the area as the largest open prisons in the world. Since 2006, Hamas won elections overthrowing the Fatah party from control. They do not recognise Israel as a legitimate state and are committed to forming an independent Islamic state in historical Palestine.
We all know the complexities of the situation, including the limitations on the Palestinians and the original motivation behind a Jewish state following the atrocities of the Hitler regime. As a result of all that when heads of state enter into the fray, it is crucial that they choose their words well. Therefore I was appalled to hear that Rishi Sunak was reported as saying to the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu that “we want you to win”, it sends shivers down my spine.

The inherited hurt and mistrust mixed with the death of relatives in recent days is a cocktail that seems determined to offer a long and heavy hangover of revenge. In such circumstances I sometimes look to our own situation and specifically the lessons learnt from Northern Ireland. There too violence escalated to more violence, and you wonder whether the world will ever learn. Well in the context of Northern Ireland there was and is an organisation called Corrymeela that worked across the divide to bring reconciliation. For a period the person in charge of that group was called Padraig O Tuama who is a poet and a theologian. I had the good fortune to meet him whilst in Exter and he once said, “In Corrymeela we talk about living well together; that that is the vision we have, to live well together. That doesn't mean to agree. That doesn't mean that everything will be perfect. It means to say that in the context of imperfection and difficulty, we can wind the capacity and the skill, as well as the generosity and courtesy, to live well together.”

If world leaders, whether locally or internationally can tilt the compass in any small way towards peace and reconciliation then it can potentially have a huge effect. The phrase revenge is sweet….. but it can never satisfy. We know in our own world that when we feel that we have been wronged or that we have been dealt an injustice then our immediate response is retaliatory. Yet if we do not have a knee jerk response then that reaction can dissipate. Indeed if we enlist the skills of an arbitrator such that we sit down with the one who inflicted the injustice, then steps towards peace can be achieved.

It seems all the more tragic that in the land where Jesus walked, and ultimately showed an alternative way to the world of selfless sacrificial love, innocent people are being killed. It was Jesus himself on a mountainside north of Jerusalem that declared “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”. My prayer is that the wisdom of the Messiah may prevail today.

Every Blessing

From the Pen of Rev Steve
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”