International Political

The Revd Dr Barbara Glasson, President of the Methodist Conference, has released a statement following the US Government announcement on settlements. 21st Nov 2019

As President of the Methodist Conference I have recently had the privilege of visiting and talking with many people in Israel and the West Bank. Other colleagues from the Methodist Connexional Team and Global Relations  have supported long-term relationships in the region and Gaza.  The many people we have spoken with recognise that compromises will be required of both communities to achieve a lasting peace, but I am concerned that comments by the US government that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are not illegal may cause further destabilisation of the region.

In visiting the West Bank I heard how the expansion of settlements has caused the demolition of Palestinian houses and schools. In Hebron I could see the expansion upwards over the top of Palestinian businesses and houses.  Settlements are cutting off Palestinian communities and further restricting freedom of movement. They compromise the ambition for economic prosperity and a secure future for all. The current expansion of the military occupation of the West Bank apparently pushes the search for a resolution even further into the future.

In 2015, the UN Security Council again insisted that Israeli settlements in the West Bank “have no legal validity, constituting a flagrant violation under international law.” Feeling powerless in their situation, the Palestinians I spoke with appealed for international support to help them live peaceful lives and achieve self-determination. I know there are many Israelis, including some that I met, who are also longing for a lasting peace. It is therefore of great concern to read of the recent actions of the US government in relation to the region.

I add my voice to the many who are challenging the recent actions of the U.S. government. This situation is not simply about international politics but about ordinary people searching for a peaceful means to live together. 

On behalf of the Methodist Church I urge the UK government, along with others, to impress on the Government of Israel that the continued military occupation is unacceptable at both a political and a human level.

 

 

Christmas Statement


Dec 2018      Signed by European church leaders – issued jointly by the Churches’ Commission for Migrants and the Conference of European Churches:
 
In the spirit of Christmas, we ask you to work and pray for a welcoming and inclusive community in Europe.   As Christians prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ, they wait in hope and anticipation, remembering Isaiah’s prophecy: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light”. (Isaiah 9.2)

We call on the nations and the people of Europe, on the political leaders and on our Churches: Don’t allow us to become indifferent to the suffering of others.  Let us rather cherish the dignity of those who need our help and recognise that welcoming the stranger is part of our Christian and European heritage.  

 

May we be courageous and confident in the Son of God, the Light of the World, whose birth we celebrate.  Christ will show us the way for a future life together.  

Today’s world continues to experience the darkness of persecution, conflict and war. According to the UN almost 70 million people have been forced to flee their homes in search of sanctuary and livelihood. More than half of them are children.    

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees states:

No one becomes a refugee by choice; but the rest of us can have a choice about how we help.”

 

As Christians we are guided by biblical teaching and our following of Christ. In this season of preparation for Christmas we are reminded of our responsibility, along with God’s promise of light and life for this world.   Jesus became human: Christmas is the celebration of Jesus incarnate. For Christians the Incarnation is an expression of God’s unlimited love for humanity, the babe born in a manger was to be good news of joy for all people (Luke 2.10).

 

Just as every person is created in the image of God (Genesis 1.27), so Jesus becoming human affirms the dignity of all people. No individual or group of people are ‘problems’ to be dealt with but they are deserving of dignity as people loved by God. We all share a common humanity devoid of distinction between strangers and inhabitants.     

 

Jesus the refugee: He took refuge in Egypt as a child when Mary and Joseph fled Herod’s threat to kill him. Jesus also experienced life under Roman occupation so knew measures that deprived people of their freedom and trampled upon their dignity. Jesus is born homeless and experiences tyranny and suffering. He identifies with the refugee and the oppressed and calls on us to similarly identify compassionately with the vulnerable. 

    

Jesus the stranger: Jesus tells us that our response to the stranger is a response to Jesus himself (Matthew 25.40). When recognising Christ in the stranger’s guise we begin to encounter the divine in the other. Not only do we then move from a situation of ‘us’ and ‘them’ to a new relationship of ‘we’, there is blessing in the encounter and we become human together.   With deep concern we observe current developments in Europe’s response to new arrivals of people. Based on the biblical message and theological reflection and mindful of the statements made almost 20 years ago at the European Summit in Tampere 1999, we state that:
 It is unacceptable that policies of “managing migration” lead to situations where the massive loss of human life on the way to Europe has become normal and exploitation and violence an everyday reality. We need meaningful safe passages (e.g. resettlement, humanitarian visa, realistic labour migration policies) and search and rescue on the way to Europe.  

 

We reaffirm the notions of the Tampere summit, in particular the “absolute respect of the right to seek asylum” and “the full and inclusive application of the Geneva Convention” as guiding principles of asylum policy today. This would include effective access to a procedure for asylum seeking persons irrespective of how and through where they came to Europe. 

 

Protection in the region of origin and improvement of conditions in countries of origin remain important, so that people are not forced to move. However, as long as reasons for migration exist, Europe should accept its obligation to welcome and protect - as one of the richest and most developed regions of the globe; instead of coercing third countries into stopping migration into Europe.   

 

Solidarity should be the guiding aspect when governing migration and particularly refugee reception. Solidarity means that the stronger shoulders accept more responsibility than the weaker ones, but also that everyone contributes what they can. We renounce the notion that a welcome to newly arrived is at the detriment of those presently living in Europe. Policies should address the specific needs of new arrivals in Europe and encourage their potential to contribute, while at the same time honouring the traditions and needs of inhabitants alike.  Discussions on migration and refugees should be characterised by dignity, respect, and where possible compassion. Spreading of inaccurate, unverifiable and divisive messages only makes the challenge of living together more difficult. 

 

Conflicts will inevitably arise where people of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds are living together, particularly under rapidly changing circumstances. Living together in diversity can be both enriching and challenging. We ask for a spirit of tolerance and goodwill and a commitment to constructive engagement.
 
We commit to more fervently articulating and working towards our vision of an inclusive and participatory society – for newly arrived and all inhabitants.

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Gaza – praying for peace 

Rachel Lampard, Ex-Vice-President of the Methodist Conference and Leader of the Joint Public Issues Team (JPIT) was in Israel and Palestine recently.             

Today I held my Methodist prayer handbook alongside my newsfeed, and I almost wept.  Two weeks ago I was in Israel and Palestine, and as I prayed I pictured the people I met.

With the killings of at least 60 Palestinians in Gaza yesterday, and the killing and wounding of many others over the past few weeks, and the deliberate forestalling of any final status peace negotiations with the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem, I prayed for Jews, Muslims and Christians in the Holy Land.

I pray for peace, but sometimes the bright spots of peace look as if they will be overwhelmed.

Just two weeks ago I saw something of the grinding reality of the occupation of the West Bank – the separation barrier, the checkpoints, the permit system, the military incursions, the expanding settlements.  I heard the Israeli Defence Force spokesperson talk about how Gazan protesters were legitimate targets because they were Hamas supporters.  And I heard the Palestinian Authority representative defend the speech by Mahmoud Abbas denying the nature of the Holocaust.  I left the country feeling pessimistic and today it looks worse

And yet…I was also privileged to meet people committed to peace – the Hand in Hand school where Arabic and Hebrew are taught together and narratives of Israeli Independence Day are told alongside the stories of the Nakba 1.  The Abraham Fund which finances initiatives which make encounters between communities more possible and equitable.  Individuals committed to the dialogue which is a pre-requisite for peace.  The family at the Tent of Nations with their patient, welcoming non-violent resistance against settlement encroachment in violation of international law.

The prospects for peace look grim today.  But I find challenge in the words of Martin Luther King:

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.”

Unarmed truth and unconditional love.  Isn’t this the way of Jesus, who walked the roads of the Holy Land, and teaches us the ways of justice and peace?   As we “seek peace and pursue it” what does it mean to listen for the truth needed for justice and peace, and to let it be heard?  How do we overcome the starless night of violence and injustice with the bright daybreak of unconditional love?

Today, all I can do is to pray for those who have been killed or injured, for those who are violent and those who are peaceful, for those who are striving for dialogue, for those who have the power and responsibility to negotiate for change, and for those who feel powerless.  I will give to one of the charities working to pick up the pieces in Gaza.  And I will read, listen and discuss with others how to act.

And so this day of all days I pray: “May true peace be found in the Holy Land, with Israelis and Palestinians understanding each other’s needs….For all who live in the Holy Lands of sacred scriptures, we pray.”

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President Trump and Immigration - United Methodist statement

Minneapolis: Bishop Bruce R. Ough, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, issued a statement regarding President Trump's executive order on immigration at a press conference sponsored by the Minnesota Council of Churches. The 'event, held at Hennepin United Methodist Church, gathered faith leaders to discuss the topic of immigration. Bishop Ough participated in today's event in his role as resident bishop of the Dakotas-Minnesota Area of The United Methodist Church. The statement maintains The United Methodist Church's unity in standing with other faith traditions to denounce the order, as well as calling all to remember Jesus' words from Matthew 10:40: "Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me."

"I call upon the people of The United Methodist Church to see the face of Christ in the refugee," Bishop Ough said. "Say 'no' to the walling off of our country and our hearts and say 'yes' to their hope - our hope - for new life. Let us unite and work together to bring the soul of this country to a living birth!"

The full text of Bishop Ough's statement follows:
Today, I stand with colleagues representing several faith traditions to strongly denounce President Trump's widespread attack on immigrants and refugees. President Trump's reckless, ill-conceived executive orders will divide families, impose a religious test for Muslims facing forced migration, penalize communities providing sanctuary and wall off the United States from our neighbors. These actions are expensive, unnecessary and profoundly antithetical to our values of compassion, dignity and justice for all individuals regardless of nationality, religious affiliation or legal status.

The biblical witness is clear and unambiguous. Walls are unbiblical. Hospitality is biblical. Denying one's neighbor is unbiblical. Welcoming the stranger is biblical. It is not surprising that Judaism, Christianity and Islam teach the reign of God as a banquet to which all peoples are invited. We are to welcome the sojourner, love our neighbor and stand with the most vulnerable among us. These very values from our sacred texts and faith traditions are currently reflected in the mandate of the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program and must not be usurped by any executive order. Orders, legislation or administrative actions that would have the U.S. State Department disqualify refugees from protection and resettlement based on their nationality or religion are a denial of the very principles this nation was built upon, contradict the legacy of leadership our country has offered the world, and dishonor our shared humanity.

Jesus was explicit in his teachings. In Matthew's gospel Jesus says, "Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me." (Matthew 10:40).

Refugees and immigrants arrive among us, not only with their needs, but also bearing gifts of energy, resourcefulness, love of liberty and hope. These gifts have always contributed to the renewal of our society and the church.

Above all, these strangers bring to us the Christ. When we welcome a stranger we welcome Jesus, and when we welcome Jesus we welcome our creator. Refugees, immigrants, those yearning to be free-these are the ones whom Jesus spoke about when he said, "I was a stranger and you welcomed me" (Matthew 25:35).

Repeatedly Jesus tells his disciples:

"For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it." (Matthew 16:25)

The original Greek language is far more poetic, powerful and prophetic. In finer translations of the Greek language, we hear Jesus saying:

"Whoever seeks to build a wall around their soul shall destroy it; whoever tears down the wall (around their soul) shall bring their soul to a living birth."

The very soul of our country is at stake. When we abandon strangers who are at risk of bigotry, xenophobia and violence we not only destroy their hope, we destroy our own souls. When we fail to assist the refugees fleeing danger, we not only place them in harm's way, we do harm to our own souls. When we build walls of concrete, or walls of divisive rhetoric, or walls of fear, or walls of immoral immigration policies, we build a wall around our own souls.

Christ calls us to tear down the walls around our souls that we might live fully and abundantly. Thus, I call on the Trump administration and the U.S. Congress to rescind the harmful executive orders and save the soul of our country. I call upon the people of The United Methodist Church to see the face of Christ in the refugee. Say "no" to the walling off of our country and our hearts and say "yes" to their hope - our hope - for new life. Let us unite and work together to bring the soul of this country to a living birth!

Bishop Bruce R. Ough, President
Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church
January 30, 2017

         


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