As I write this letter, the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is drawing to a close for another year. The theme for 2009 has been “Reconcile Your People”, and has drawn on material from the Korean Church, whose people worship and serve against a background of division. Korea is split into North Korea and South Korea. Will they ever be one again?
At the moment the conflict in Gaza is over, with both Israel and Hamas having declared a ceasefire, but for how long and what does the future hold? There is a need for both humanitarian aid and also the work of reconstruction, but while medical supplies and food are being allowed in, Israeli forces are at present refusing to allow totally open borders and building materials are not being allowed in, the fear being that more open communication channels could allow armaments into the country and they might be used against Israel. Fear rules their behaviour.
The prayer of many is that a new man in the White House and a seasoned peace campaigner like George Mitchell, who as a Senator did so much to bring the parties in Northern Ireland closer together, might make a difference. There is certainly much to overcome. But Northern Ireland, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of East and West
Germany give grounds for hope. So too does the presence of somebody like President Obama, something Martin Luther King Junior could only have dreamt of considering the state of race relations in his day, which is not that far back in my lifetime.
All these thoughts brought to mind the words of a hymn:
“We turn to you, O God of every nation, giver of life and origin of good;
Your love is at the heart of all creation, your hurt is people’s broken brotherhood.
We turn to you, that we may be forgiven for crucifying Christ on earth again;
We know that we have never wholly striven, forgetting self, to love the other man.”
Divisions are not just elsewhere. Fear governs behaviour and attitudes much closer to home, in our town and churches I would suggest. There is a very real sense in which the solution to many of these problems begins right here with us. As individuals and churches we can set the model and standard.
“Let there be peace on earth – and let it begin with me!”
With much love,
Your Minister and friend,