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British churches join in prayers for peace, justice

3/21/2003 News media contact: Kathy Gilbert · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn.

By United Methodist News Service

The president of the British Methodist Church and the moderator for the Free Churches of Britain issued statements March 21 calling for peace and justice in Iraq and worldwide.

The statements followed a meeting of faith leaders at Lambeth Palace, home of the archbishop of Canterbury.

"On behalf of the Methodist Church, we wish to support entirely the faith leaders, Christian, Muslim and Jewish, who met at Lambeth Palace today," said the Rev. Ian White and Professor Peter Howdle, president and vice president of the Methodist Conference.

"The prayers of the Methodist people are for peace and justice - in Iraq and across the world," they said. "We urge that everything possible will be done to minimize the loss of life in the conflict in Iraq.

"We are especially mindful of all those who are directly involved in the fighting, on both sides, and of their families and friends. Our hearts go out to the relatives of those who have lost their lives in the early hours of military action. Methodist ministers who are serving as chaplains in all three of the armed services are especially close to our hearts as they exercise a particularly demanding ministry."

Saying they "shall not cease to pray" for Prime Minister Tony Blair and all members of the government, the Methodists called for British leaders to:
· Achieve their military aims with minimum loss of life and damage to Iraq's cities and villages.
· Work with the United Nations, aid agencies and all interested political groups to support at the earliest possible time a new administration in Iraq that has the consent of the Iraqi people.
· Declare a renewed commitment on behalf of the government to support the U.N. Security Council.

"The Methodist Church makes clear its continuing commitment to do all in its power to promote good community relations everywhere, and especially where Christian, Muslim and Jewish people live in close proximity to one another."

White is the most senior minister in the British Methodist Church, and Howdle is the most senior layperson. The Methodist Church is the largest of the Free Churches in Britain, with more than 320,000 members attending about 6,100 congregations.

The Rev. David Coffey, moderator of the Free Churches, represented Methodists as well as other denominations at the Lambeth meeting.

In a joint statement, the faith leaders there expressed concern for the British forces, "their families and everyone caught up in this conflict … especially those whose lives or loved ones have been lost."

"As religious leaders from several faiths, we are here to signal the common ground on which we stand and to reaffirm the values we share at this time of tension, conflict and discord," they said. They prayed that God will grant "wisdom, judgment and compassion" to political and military leaders, and emphasized the need to protect the rights of innocent civilians affected by the conflict.

"This is a conflict neither about religion nor between religions," the faith leaders said. "We completely reject any attempt to misrepresent it in this way. As Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders in this country, we believe that it is vital, amid so much uncertainty and turmoil, to resist any attempt to drive our communities apart."

Military action is "a limited means to an end," they said. "We pray that early efforts to achieve a just, lasting and secure peace both in Iraq and throughout the Middle East may follow swiftly in the footsteps of war."

Besides Coffey, the group included the Rev. Rowan Williams, archbishop of Canterbury; Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, archbishop of Westminster; Dr. Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi; Shaikh Zaki Badawi, chairman of the Council of Mosques and Imams UK; and the Rev. Esme Beswick, co-president of Churches Together in England.

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