Statement for peace and solidarity with victims and survivors of violence in London, the UK and beyond, during Refugee Week 2017

The Westminster Justice and Peace Commission adds its voice to all those who have condemned the violent events of the last few weeks in London, including the fire at Grenfell Tower, and who have called for peace.  We stand with all those against terrorist attacks and tactics: there is no place for violence in our society.

We commend the generosity of the thousands of ordinary civilians who have helped and are helping those in need, and we are especially grateful for the peaceful actions and dignity of the leaders at Muslim Welfare House in Finsbury Park, in responding to violent aggression.

We further commend the bravery of the civilians who came forward to ward off attacks at the 2 bridges, and to help victims while danger still threatened, as well as the inspiring dedication and courage of the personnel in the emergency services.

To honour all those who have died in these events, we pray for the wisdom to continue to act as peacebuilders, drawing on the courage, generosity, dignity and determination shown by those so closely involved in these tragedies.

We invite all to pray with us in Westminster Cathedral on Friday 23rd June 2017 at 6.30pm in the St Andrew’s Chapel before the Lampedusa Cross, for Refugees, Peace and Solidarity.  We will hold a one-minute silence to remember all those who have recently died in our city and country through violence.

For further information contact Justice and Peace at 0208 888 4222 or justice@rcdow.org.uk

There will also be a talk in the Hinsley Room behind the Cathedral at 7.15pm on Friday 23rd June from the Brothers of St John of God, about their work at Olallo House in Central London, where they care for the sick and destitute with no recourse to public funds. 

May 2017 Events

Tues 2nd May – Catholic Worker Vigil for Refugees (every first Tues of the Month) 12.30 in front of the Foreign Office, King Charles St:  We pray for refugees and call for our government to ensure safe passage for refugees

 Wed 3rd May – Love your neighbour: welcoming others in the face of fear.  A group for Christians of all denominations interested in the work of St Ethelburga’s to strengthen Christian support for and awareness of the mission of the Centre, through prayer, discussion and worship. Discussion led by Canon Rev. George Newton on practicing love for your neighbour and welcoming others in the face of fear.  For more information contact Jane Morton on 0207 496 1610 or jane.morton@stethelburgas.org

 Tues 9/10 May – “Christian Responsibility to Dalits and Caste Discrimination  2-day Conference organised by The Christian Network Against Caste Discrimination. 10 AM – 05 pm, at Amigo Hall, St George’s Cathedral, London SE1 7Y.  CONTACT DETAILS:  Voice of Dalit International:  Email: vodi@vodintl.org.uk , Tel: [0044] 0208 813 2380 / 07919247332, or Mr Jan Janoszka, Email: janj@rcdow.org.uk , Tel: 07572942799. Requested conference donation of £10 per day.

Sat 13th May – Annual General Meeting and Open Networking Day of National Justice & Peace Network at CAFOD, Romero House, 55 Westminster Bridge Road, London SE7 1JB. 10.30am to 4pm . Networking and Updates from around country.  Our Environment Working Party will lead a session to prepare for Creation Day and Creation Time (1 Sept – 4 Oct), looking at ideas and resources.  Tel:020 7901 4864 or  Email: admin@justice-and-peace.org.uk

14-20 MayChristian Aid Week .  Fund raising by membersof various churches to help the needy throughout the world, regardless of religion or race, in over 60 countries, to improve their own lives and tackle the causes of poverty and injustice

Mon 15th MayInternational Conscientious Objector’s Day. Commemoration with short speeches, songs led by Sue Gilmurray, a minute’s silence and flowers laid at the stone, to remember the COs of all countries and all times..  Bring family, friends and a picnic for afterwards. 12 noon in Tavistock Square, Bloomsbury, London WC1 with Guest speakers: Sir Mark Rylance and Nick Jeffrey (Vietnam War draft resister).  Singing from 11am.   Organised by Christian CND.  For further info: mail@coproject.org.uk

Tues 16 May – Catholic Worker Vigil for Refugees (every third Tues of the Month) 12:30pm, by the Home Office, Marsham Street: CW vigil. We pray for refugees and call for our government to ensure safe passage for refugees.

Tues 16 May – “Open Society under Threat?: A warning from history”  6.30pm.  A distinguished panel come to St. Paul’s Cathedral to explore the challenges facing nations and societies today, through the lens of history and the remarkable book Darkness over Germany. Speakers: Dr Rowan Williams, Baroness Butler-Sloss, Professor Maiken Umbach, Progessor Kurt Barling, with a response from Professor Lord Stern.  Register for free tickets at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/open-society-under-threat-a-warning-from-history-tickets-32582733834?aff=eac2

Sat 20th MayAnnual Mass for Migrants The 12th Migrants Mass will be hosted this year by Brentwood Diocese for the first time at St Anthony of Padua, Forest Gate, London E7 9QB. In honour of St Joseph the Worker. Every year, the Dioceses of Westminster, Southwark & Brentwood  celebrate the contributions being made by the migrant workers in the country. Bishop Alan Williams  will be the main celebrant .

Sat 20th May – 32nd Annual Multi-Faith Pilgrimage for Peace in Hertfordshire and North London. Starts at Arnos Grove at 9.15am Gathering at Our Lady of Lourdes, RC Church, 373 Bowes Road N11 1AA. Ends at 6.30pm.at Nanak Darbar – North London Gurdwara, 136 High Road, London N11 1PJ. Travel by coach   Please book early to reserve a seat .(around 100 places available only) Organised by Westminster Interfaith.  Enquiries to jondaldin@rcdow.org.uk , info@londoninterfaith.org.uk or check on the website: http://londoninterfaith.org.uk/

Sat 20th MayReligion in Colombia: Supporting or spoiling peace?  What role might religion play in the future of peace in Colombia? Rodeemos el Diálogo will facilitate a dialogue between ex-Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams and a panel of experts on Colombian politics and human rights in our unique historical space. For more information contact Claire Chou Doran on 0207 496 1612 or claire.doran@stethelburgas.org

Sun 21st MayFaiths In Tune faithsintune@gmail.com   London Interfaith Music Festival, British Museum

Sat 3rd JunePax Christi Annual Gathering 2017 at Maria Fidelis School.  Register for tickets at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/pax-christi-annual-gathering-2017-tickets-33112080123

Fri 9th JuneJ&P Visit to North London Waste Recycling Centre, Edmonton   to see how our household waste gets recycled and why. Time 10.30 to 12.00.   Meet 9.30am. at the Justice and Peace office, 4 Vincent Rd, London N15 3QH,   0208 888 4222

Fri 910th June – Protest, Power & Change is the theme of the 2017 Peace History Conference.  Organised by MAW in partnership with Imperial War Museums. Among topics on the programme will be ‘Fewer Bombs, More Jobs: The Lucas Aerospace Combine Shop Stewards’ Alternative Plan 1976’ and ‘Lysistrata in the Rainforest: the women’s nonviolent campaign which ended the civil war in Liberia’. PHC 2017 is timed to coincide with the exhibition ‘People Power: Fighting for Peace’ at IWM London.   (Exhibition ends 28 August)  The Museum is the venue for the Saturday conference:  IWM Lambeth Road, SE1 6HZ.

Friday 9th June .  Afternoon walk along London Peace Trail (starts 3.30pm  Tavistock Sq) and at 7.30pm the acclaimed play ‘This Evil Thing’ performed by Michael Mears (at Oasis Hub Waterloo, 1a Kennington Road SE1 7QP). e-booking for Conference, with add-on options for Peace Trail and/or Play  http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2911651

Sat 17 June – No Need for Nuclear: the Renewables are Here. CND hosts this one day national conference to discuss how renewable energy can and should replace nuclear energy production. Tickets £10/£5 10:15am-5pm (Registration and refreshments from 9:45am) Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London. Contact enquiries@cnduk.org  / 020 7700 2393

Mass For Migrants 2017

Migrants Mass Poster 2017

The annual Mass for Migrants in honour of St Joseph the Worker will be held in the Diocese of Brentwood, on 20th May at 11am.

The mass will be preceded by a banner procession of representatives from London’s diverse communities, occupations and civic organisations (gather at 10:30am).

The mass takes place at St Anthony of Padua, Forest Gate, E7 9QB.

You can download a poster here.

 

Westminster Justice and Peace deeply disappointed by US environment backtracking

The Westminster Justice and Peace Commission is deeply disappointed by the actions of President Trump regarding energy and climate change, which cuts across all the endeavours of Pope Francis and the Catholic Church towards a new way of caring for creation.

On 29 March 2017 Donald Trump signed legislation – an Energy Independence Executive Order – which has undermined all Barack Obama’s policies to combat climate change by reducing emissions from fossil fuels. Central to the changes is a review of Barack Obama’s clean power plan – a pledge to cut US emissions by 26-28% by 2025 – which paved the way for the Paris agreement on tackling climate change involving 195 countries

Through this action, he has swept away green legislation at a stroke of the pen, and has enforced his statement that global warming was a ‘hoax’ invented by the Chinese. Crucially, the Paris accord of 2015 has been seriously undermined on greenhouse emissions and his actions also threaten to derail the worldwide fight against global warming. His plan will therefore make it impossible for the US to meet its Paris obligations.

Yet the US is the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases – behind China, and most of the world looks to the US for leadership and shared responsibility when it comes to saving our planet for future generations. When leaders of poorer nations see the lack of resolve on the part of the US they are likely to think twice about investing cash into schemes that will not produce immediate results in their political lifetime.

To be committed to climate change means that one has to be there for the long haul and work to pass on a sustainable world to future generations. There is NO ‘quick fix’ which is what many people would like in life. Environmental groups and all who are concerned with the care of our planet need to unite together in a sustained plan of action. We need to proclaim the message of Laudato Si, Pope Francis’ letter on ‘the care of our common home’, as never before. We must not be diverted by those who either deny or are indifferent to the task in hand. Now is the hour for renewed efforts.

Fr Joe Ryan (Chair) and Barbara Kentish (Fieldworker)

On behalf of Westminster Justice and Peace Commission

For further information contact the Commission on 0208 888 4222

justice@rcdow.org.uk

April 2017 Events

Wed 29th Mar Solidarity & Remembrance 14.15 As a sign of solidarity and to remember those who lost their lives, Londoners are to come together a week after the attacks. Meet at Park Plaza Hotel, South side of Westminster Bridge organised by Faiths Forum for London

1 to 30 April 20 millisieverts per year: An exhibition about Fukushima. Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, Holborn, London. Contact Conway Hall before visiting as opening hours vary: 020 7405 1818.

Tues 4 April Catholic Worker Vigil for Refugees (every first Tues of the Month)12.30 in front of the Foreign Office, King Charles St: CW We pray for refugees and call for our government to ensure safe passage for refugees.

Wed 12th April Envisioning a post-Brexit future together: an intergenerational dialogue. 6-8.30 pm at St Ethelburghas Centre, 78 Bishopsgate London EC2N 4AG, This participatory dialogue event investigates and challenges our understanding a post-Brexit future together, and explores the call for change in all its guises. We invite participants to join us to listen, share and understand diverse perspectives through a generational lens. For more information contact Claire Chou Doran on 0207 496 1612 or claire.doran@stethelburgas.org

Tues 18th April Catholic Worker Vigil for Refugees (every third Tues of the Month) 12:30pm, by the Home Office, Marsham Street: CW vigil. We pray for refugees and call for our government to ensure safe passage for refugees.

Thurs 20-23 April Global Campaign on Military Spending organised by Pax Christi. A great opportunity to raise the issue of military spending – asking the question, “does it make us safer”. Help others to think about this with a stall in your town centre or church. Highlight the opportunities that are lost when governments spend money on the military rather than on health, education, development, climate change and more…Ideas on how to run stalls here… https://demilitarize.org.uk/day-of-action/top-tips-for-planning-actions/

Fri 21st April Sharing our stories: How can storytelling bring peace? Where discussion and dialogue fail, stories have the power to build bridges between people and ultimately transform even the most complex conflicts. This workshop supports participants to integrate narrative and story-based approaches into the work we are already doing, and adapt responsively to our unique communities. For more information contact Claire Chou Doranon 0207 496 1612 or claire.doran@stethelburgas.org

Tues 25th April Blackamoores and Tudor England- The Untold History of an Influential Era The Library at Willesden Green, 95 High Road, Willesden, London NW10 2SF. To book, visit: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/blackamoores-and-tudor-england

Sun 30th April Shakespeare’s other countryment: Blackamoore wenches’ and Barbary African ‘king children’ in Tudor England. 2-3.15pm Phoenix Cinema – 52 High Road, East Finchley, London N2 9PJ

Mon 15th May International Conscientious Objector’s Day. Events around the country organised by Christian CND. For further information: mail@coproject.org.uk

NOW BOOKING: Annual Justice & Peace Conference 21-23 July 2017
“A Sabbath for the Earth and the Poor: The Challenge of Pope Francis”
Booking forms from NJPN, 39 Eccleston Square, London SW1V 1BX
020 7901 4864   admin@justice-and-peace.org.uk or download here
Some assistance may be possible for families. Please contact NJPN to discuss.

The Secret of Romero: Passion for God and Com-passion for the Poor

The following is an address given by Martha Zechmeister CJ for the annual ecumenical service for Romero Week 2017 at St Martin-in-the-Fields, London. Many thanks to the Archbishop Romero Trust for making this text available for us to share.

Over these ruins of ours the glory of the Lord will shine

MarthaZechmeisterArchbishop Oscar Romero spoke these words that we heard just now in his cathedral in San Salvador on the Feast of the Epiphany in 1979. It was in the midst of a desperate situation, prior to the outbreak of the civil war: people were being sacrificed on the altar of wealth, they were being cut down in their struggle for a life of dignity and they were exposed to cruel and barbaric violence. They were expelled from their homes and their land, living in a nightmare of torture, of overnight escapes and separation from their loved ones.

Romero describes the atmosphere of his home country at that moment without any illusions, using the words of Isaiah: “there are only ruins here, there is nothing more than pessimism, a tremendous sense of frustration.” And so what the prophet was saying about Jerusalem, Romero is applying to the situation of El Salvador. He continues in his own words: “our human strength can do no more… we are stuck in a dead-end alley … … Politics and diplomacy achieve nothing here, everything is destruction and disaster, and to deny it is madness.

I think many of us here are beginning to feel the same way with respect to our actual global situation: we are stunned by the interminable vicious circle of war and violence in the Middle-East and in other conflictive zones of our world. The tentacles of terror are reaching out to the capitals of Europe. (We are shocked by the attack in the heart of London: 5 dead and over 40 injured. And this atrocity was carried out exactly on the first anniversary of the Brussels killings when people were mourning those victims).

There are more than 60 million refugees worldwide, driven from their homelands by violence, hunger, poverty and climate change – and the “First World” seems to be riven with the fear of being overcrowded by the migrants and becoming ever more vulnerable. In consequence Europe is seeking to convert itself into a fortress constructed against “these invaders”. But as we know there are also still more marginalized and excluded people in the midst of the rich “developed nations”, who feel themselves betrayed by the political establishment. And finally we are confronted with the seemingly unstoppable rise of irresponsible populists and nationalists all over the world.

It seems that our world is getting a little bit out of control, that it is falling apart – and we are in danger of being overwhelmed and paralyzed by fear and anxiety. Here and now we are sharing with the people of El Salvador the awful experience that our world is in a great mess and that we are stumped – and that sometimes we are tempted to despair.

Exactly into this situation come those prophetic words of Oscar Romero: “Over these ruins of ours the glory of the Lord will shine. That is the great mission that Christians have at this critical moment: keeping hope alive.

But – if actually we face up to the crude facts, what is it in the end that can justify our persistent confidence? What can strengthen our tenacity, to pin all our hopes on God and on the “transcendent salvation” that Romero evokes? As an attempt to answer that, I will offer you my experience with El Salvador and with Archbishop Oscar Romero.

El Salvador and Oscar Romero taught me what it truly means to be a Christian

Romero became really meaningful to me through an experience I had in “La Chacra”, a slum area in the suburbs of San Salvador. It was during the all-night vigil celebrated on 24 March 1999, the anniversary of Romero’s assassination. On that night one family after another described, in front of the whole assembly, how their relatives and friends had disappeared and had been tortured and murdered during the years of the civil war.

The martyrs of El Salvador were truly present there to testify to resurrection and as witnesses not only to God, who does not allow these victims to vanish in death, but also as witnesses to a life that takes the risk of ‘making a stand against death’ here in this place and now in this time. That was a night of many tears and great distress, yet it also brought us into the ‘real presence’ of radiant humanity and the authentic experience that Romero’s death was a source of life for us. A source of life that helps us to resist despair and can give staying power – perseverance – to our hope.

El Salvador, with its martyrs who sealed the Gospel with their blood, became for me a “Holy Land”. It became for me a privileged place where I was confronted with the drama of Jesus in a frighteningly current way – and it was the first time in my life I understood what it truly means to be a Christian.

It‘s not sophisticated, it‘s very simple: Christians are those people who follow Jesus, and who do what he did. They risk their own lives by taking sides – without any ifs or buts – alongside the vulnerable, those in danger and those excluded. But in spite of the simplicity of this message, we all know that we are unable to cope with this essential challenge of the Gospel. When it really happens, it is not our merit, it is not the result of our ethical efforts – it is the unexpected irruption of God`s grace and mercy.

With Archbishop Romero, God‘s grace irrupted into the midst of the cruel reality of El Salvador. So, the theologian, Ignacio Ellacuria, far from reciting pious platitudes, declared at the moment of the assassination of Romero: “With Archbishop Romero, God passed through El Salvador”. Yes, Oscar Romero is a true incarnation of God’s mercy and love in that historic moment; he is a “sacrament of Jesus Christ”, the real presence of the whole drama of the life of Jesus. His assassination confronts us with the cross of Jesus – as a consequence of his Jesus-like way of living. Therefore, Romero`s life and Romero`s death – like the life and death of Jesus – become an unfailing source of Christian hope and joy.

Living this core of the Christian life with such integrity, Romero also had a very clear view of what is the essence of the Church and what has to be her mission. The Church, as the community of those who follow Jesus, has to make the Gospel present, here and now, as a liberating and redeeming reality in the midst of whatever is oppressing and enslaving people. In the words of Romero himself:

A Church that does not join the poor in order to speak out on behalf of the poor and against the injustices committed against them, is not the true Church of Jesus Christ… The voice of the Church has always been the voice of the Gospel — it can be nothing else. Many times this Gospel touches the open wounds of society and it is natural that it should sting and cause pain.”

As he took up this vocation Oscar Romero was transformed into one of Christianity’s outstanding prophets. He himself defines what it means to be a prophet:

The prophet is the watchman who keeps vigil. When God tells the evildoers to be converted, the prophet has to sound the trumpet of God and tell the evildoers to repent. …”

As a bishop, Romero considered himself as the guardian of his brothers and sisters, called to protect and defend them. Certainly it was a highly risky task to sound the trumpet, to bring to public light, that evildoers were threatening and damaging the lives of his people, motivated by greed or other egocentric interests. Romero by his natural temperament wasn`t a “trumpet”; in fact he was a calm, peaceful and shy man. But he accepted the hazardous burden of confronting the oppressors with their crimes. And most of them had the benefit of great wealth or high office with political or military power behind them.

Even so he encouraged his priests, his fellow pastoral workers – and every one of us to take this risk: “Do not be false in your service to this ministry. It is very easy to be servants of the word without disturbing the world: a very spiritualized word, a word without any commitment to history, a word that can sound in any part of the world because it belongs to no part of the world. A word like that creates no problems, starts no conflicts.”

Remembering Archbishop Romero, remembering the martyrs, and celebrating them, is a dangerous thing to do. It obliges us, like them, to let ourselves be touched in our innermost being, by the anguish that the victims of exclusion, discrimination and impoverishment suffer today. It obliges us to risk what seems like self-destructive insanity: in Bonhoeffer’s words, to throw ourselves, with all of our existence, against those systems that crush and exclude the vulnerable. To remember the body and blood of the martyrs, among them, the proto-martyr Jesus of Nazareth, does not allow for any kind of diluted celebration. It either draws us into following those martyrs, or the celebration is a lie, and carries within itself “its own judgment” – as Corinthians tells us.

To be faithful to the legacy of the martyrs of El Salvador, we are obliged to practice a patient exercise of contemplation, of paying close attention to the situation in which the crucified people live today. If we do it well, it will hurt. Only from such pain can a new pastoral word and action be born, pastoral action that is effective and hope-giving.

In an audacious and courageous way, Romero identifies the cross of Jesus Christ with the horror that the people lived through in his time. They were exposed to violence, cruelty, and humiliation. He affirms the inseparable connection, between the crucified people and the crucified Christ. They are one single flesh and cannot be separated.

When we Europeans are speaking about martyrs we are always in danger of provoking depression and feelings of guilt. This is not the Gospel and it is not Oscar Romero! However paradoxical it may seem, the most vulnerable, the marginalized people of El Salvador and the poor all over the world, can teach us, what it means to celebrate the martyrs. To follow in their footsteps is not forcing ourselves into some kind of moral and ascetic performance, but rather something that enables us to become more human and fully alive. Following in their footsteps we become liberated from our paralysis and depression and we are empowered to joyful action. ‘Whoever loses his or her life . . . will gain it.

Hope – as a “divine virtue”

Christian hope is not the starry-eyed confidence that somehow everything will go well – it is not the pious variant of “positive thinking”, the self-centered autosuggestion that: “nothing bad will happen to me”. Christian hope is far more radical, it does not trivialize these forces that have the power to bring suffering and to destroy the lives of others. The meaning of Christian hope reveals itself only as we face the victims. If there is no hope for them, then certainly there is no hope for us.

Christian hope is the vigor of the heart, capable of resisting and rejecting the imposition of the “law of the strongest” as the inevitable “law of nature”. Hope is stubborn enough not to accept, that the victims are the inevitable collateral damage of human history.

Our God is the solemn promise that the evildoers of this world WILL NOT HAVE THE LAST WORD. This confidence, that GOD will have the last word, transformed the shy man of El Salvador into a courageous prophet. With him the saving and life-giving love of God passed through El Salvador, and was present amongst us.

Blessed Oscar Romero, servant of God, faithful follower of Jesus Christ, friend of the poor, voice of the voiceless – Pray for us.

Tragedy at Westminster Parliament Wednesday 22nd March

We on the Westminster Justice and Peace Commission extend our prayers and sympathy to all affected by the tragic events at Westminster. We express our sadness at the loss of life and concern for those injured and all affected by this tragic event.

Our congratulations to all who responded in an amazing fashion, emergency services, paramedics, police and the public who tried to help in every possible way.

It shows how vulnerable we are and how difficult it is to maintain security without turning our city, or any public place, into an absolute fortress. Even then, security could not be total, because when evil intentions are intended it is very difficult to contain.

How do we learn from this tragedy? What is it that motivates individuals or groups to take lives indiscriminately? Maybe this is not the time or the place to look at the origins of hate and violence in those cases, but it is still a burning question. Reaching out to others, to all the communities that make up London, making links of trust and friendship can be a beginning. Again our thoughts with all suffering from this tragedy.