Though we should not rejoice in it, this is our moment. So is this nation visible in its Christian witness to peace and reconciliation, to the defence of the helpless and innocent at the hands of those who would do them harm and would kill them? I’m afraid not.
True, the House of Bishops of the Church of England has issued an unequivocal statement on the last day of October, calling for a kind of peace. It calls for the release of Israeli prisoners held by Hamas; for “humanitarian pauses” in the conflict to allow for the evacuation of suffering civilians; for safe areas for them and for the observance of “international humanitarian law”.
But it stops short of calling for ceasefire. Why? Is there not a gospel imperative that the killing has to stop? But, anyway, the truth is that these are just words. We are called to action too.
The organisers of the pro-Palestinian protests in the UK to date have called them peace marches. From what I’ve witnessed so far, I’ve no doubt that the vast majority of participants are doing just that – marching for peace.
The Church should either join them, or organise its own peace marches, led by the cross, alongside people of all faiths and none. We should confront in peace, though firmly, those who chant racist and hateful slogans. We should be visible in our demand for peace; that demand made to our polity, to our people and the United Nations.
Perhaps it is too much to hope that this leadership comes from our bishops. It may need to be a movement from the base up, the way Christian witness has been most effective throughout its history. Last weekend, a friend of mine visited a town-wide church celebration, “flags of all nations on the walls, 500 folk… a mix of elderly 1980s Charismatics, trendy Anglicans, plain Baptists and independents, African diaspora Pentecostals, young hipsters of all ethnicities”.
This is where the hope will come from, (in every sense) the peaceful mass. So, when the estimable Mr Goodman asks rhetorically “who is this saviour?”, our answer should be clear: It’s ours.