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Archbishop Ends Fast With Call For New Efforts For A Sustainable Peace in Middle East

Posted on: August 21, 2006 2:15 PM
Related Categories: England

The Archbishop of York has today ended his seven-day vigil for peace by calling for the international community to renew its efforts in working for a sustainable solution to conflict in the Middle East.

Speaking at the morning Eucharistic service in York Minster, where he has spent the past week praying, fasting and sleeping in a tent, The Most Revd Dr John Sentamu said:

The events of the past weeks, in the Lebanon, Israel, the United States and Britain have demonstrated that we cannot afford any longer to leave the issues of the Middle East in the pending tray of unresolved business. There is no greater recruiting sergeant for would be Jihadists than the conflict in the Middle East. Without urgent action on our part, for their sakes and our own, the spiral of violence that has lasted longer than the whole of my lifetime - and I am 57 - will continue unabated, as new generations become mired in the enmity of their forefathers.

After seven days of fasting and praying I am more persuaded than ever that wars and violence cannot lead to a long lasting solution.

The road to peace is not an easy one, but we need to stick at it. The dividends of peace are incalculably greater than the wages of conflict which have been paid over decades in the Middle East in the countless widows, orphans and displaced peoples produced by conflict.

The Archbishop also called for the development of a sense of inclusion, safety and civic society in Britain as being required to build peace at home as well as abroad:

We must each and every one of us hold responsibility for seeking peace in our own time, in our own streets and in our own homes as well as continuing to pray for the world& We must look at our own nation, our own children growing in a society which does not always foster inclusion and generosity as our priority. It is surely fear and anxiety which leads to aggression. We must build a sense of safety. If we seek for others an integrity and legitimacy of civil society, we ourselves must strive to think about our own.

Dr. Sentamu also stated that his tent would remain pitched in York Minster as a symbol of the continuing need for prayer until a UN peace keeping force had been placed in Southern Lebanon: I continue to invite people to come and to offer prayers of peace in this place for the Middle East, for our nation and for peace in our own hearts.

Full text of Archbishop's statement follows below

Eucharist Service - York Minster 20/8/06

In our peacemaking efforts the real problem is not one of re-inventing the wheel. The danger is re-inventing the flat tyre. This kills. I have always known that violence is not on and after seven days of fasting and praying I am more persuaded than ever that wars and violence cannot lead to a long lasting solution. Hate cannot defeat hate; the only way to overcome an enemy is to make them a friend.

I have been humbled by the thousands of people - of faith and of no faith - who have supported me over the past seven days with their presence, prayers and solidarity. With all these people I want to raise my voice and declare like the Psalmist that human life is too valuable and fragile. Each of those who have been killed were fearfully and wonderfully made. Why then is their life cheapened by those who control suicide bombers, Katusha rockets, airstikes and gunships.

At the end of one of our hourly prayer sessions a five year old lad visibly upset, came up to me with his mother and said Thank you for what you are doing. I am very upset with all the killings. Why didn't they get it sorted by talking?

A teenager asked, Why didn't God stop it? Where was He when people were killing each other?
He was being violated I replied to her God was being violated. Do you remember Elijah and the wind, the earthquake and fire?
Yesshe said. God was not in them, but in a gentle, still voice.

God's voice is to be heard in the voice of an eight year old Lebanese girl, injured and orphaned who had lost her eye in an airstrike and in the voice of an eighty-five year old Israeli woman, sick, poor and unable to move out of reach of the Katusha rockets.

Where is God? Surely he is being violated with those who are damaged by the consequences of violence and being diminished with those who enact it.

The road to peace is not an easy one, but we need to stick at it. The dividends of peace are incalculably greater than the wages of conflict which have been paid in the Middle East in the countless widows, orphans and displaced peoples produced by conflict.

The continuing tragedy makes demands of us all and underlines the need to find peacemakers and mediators from the international community who will work for conflict resolution.

With the Archbishop of Canterbury I believe that one of the middle-to-long term issues for any UN intervention will be, what kind of peace is expected to emerge now that a cease fire has been negotiated - who takes responsibility for anything that looks like a common security solution preserving the integrity and legitimacy of civil society and government in Lebanon and giving no possible handle to the rhetoric of groups that challenge Israel's right to exist.

The events of the past weeks, in the Lebanon, Israel, the United States and Britain have demonstrated that we cannot afford any longer to leave the issues of the Middle East in the pending tray of unresolved business. There is no greater recruiting sergeant for would be Jihadists than the conflict in the Middle East. Without urgent action on our part, for their sakes and our own, the spiral of violence that has lasted longer than the whole of my lifetime - and I am 57 - will continue unabated, as new generations become mired in the enmity of their forefathers.

The challenge for the international community is to make peace in the Middle East a priority for the sake of us all and to sacrifice their own self-interest in the short term for the prize of sustainable peace.

As in all conflicts great and small, both sides have acquired supporters and protagonists. We as humans are prone to divide into camps named For and Against. Christians must continue to struggle to find ways to create communities which transcend tribalism, where we strive to love one another as God loves us. We must not give in to the fear which is in all of us but must seek to fan the spark of divine humanity which we all possess.

Today marks not an end but rather a spur to continuing prayer that God's peace will come. We must not, however, just look across the water and pray for peace in the Middle East, and peace in the world. We must look at our own nation, our own children growing in a society which does not always foster inclusion and generosity as our priority. It is surely fear and anxiety which leads to aggression. We must build a sense of safety. Our Christian calling is to cry out for those who feel outside and to nurture love within. If we seek for others an integrity and legitimacy of civil society, we ourselves must strive to think about our own.

We must each and every one of us hold responsibility for seeking peace in our own time, in our own streets and in our own homes as well as continuing to pray for the world.

I believe that this is why I have been here in the Minster this week. We must look into our own hearts and at our own demons as well as seek to help others with theirs. We have in our world the ravenous demons of idolatry; materialism, militarism and racism whose food is money status and power. These demons are like the demons in the boy whose story is told in the Gospel of Mark chapter 9. Jesus tells his disciples that these demons cannot be cast out except by prayer and fasting. Some demons have settled deep within us.

We can nurture love, foster courage and seek wisdom, we can choose not to accept sentimentality, leave foolhardiness unchallenged or lapse into cowardice.

My hope and message to all of us is that in a world of short cuts, deception and death may we seek and find the Way which is of Truth and brings Life.


As a continuing symbol of prayer and hope for the Middle East I will leave my tent, my tent of meeting, erected in St. John's Chapel, with my crozier on the altar, until such time as a peacekeeping force is installed in Southern Lebanon. I continue to invite people to come and to offer prayers of peace in this place for the Middle East, for our nation and for peace in our own hearts.

Article from The Diocese of York.