Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby joined faith and community leaders from the Jewish, Muslim and other communities along with bereaved families outside Downing Street for a vigil to commemorate the loss of civilians on all sides of the Israel-Gaza conflict.
The faith leaders, who kept a minute’s silence and lit lanterns, also spoke out against rising antisemitism and Islamophobia in Britain. Archbishop Welby said, “There is no good ever in the death of an innocent Israeli, there is no good ever in the death of an innocent Palestinian.” He said fighting brings “agony to the families, fear for the future and it drives peace far away”.
Earlier, Pax Christi England and Wales focused on prayers for peace across the world at the charity’s Advent service at Pimlico parish in London. Partners joining online from around the world included friends in Bethlehem. The Pax Christi Prayer “Blessed are you peacemakers” was recited at the end.
Advent Carol Services this week where themes of justice and peace were highlighted included that of Pact at Kensington Parish in Westminster Diocese, presided over by Bishop Richard Moth, liaison bishop for prisons, with a reading by poet Roger McGough. An interfaith Service for peace was held in Birmingham. Next week will see services in London organised by Aid to the Church in Need, Stella Maris and Friends of the Holy Land.
Edinburgh was among the cities where marches for peace took place over last weekend. This Saturday, Justice and Peace Scotland will be joining a gathering at the Scottish Parliament as part of the COP28 Global Day of Action for Climate Justice.
Glasgow will join Christians in Bethlehem in a joint ecumenical Advent service to be streamed online on Saturday when there will be two large marches in London, one in support of a ceasefire in Gaza and the other to lobby COP28 in the final days of the climate summit in Dubai. Cafod, Columban missionaries and Jesuit Missions will be among those joining the COP28 march demanding climate justice for all with some marchers meeting before the march for a service at the London Jesuit Centre at Farm Street.
In his Advent Message, the parish priest at Farm Street and Chair of Westminster Justice and Peace, Fr Dominic Robinson SJ, spoke about the importance of Christian action. He said, “We see it in the food banks and pantries, night shelters, refugee vigils, climate vigils and marches, and in the attempt to deliver aid to Gaza and to campaigning for a just and peaceful resolution to this terrible conflict.” He described Advent as “a season of renewal, of hope in a new age to come”, adding, “My prayer is that this Christmas we spread something of that hope in the Kingdom to come to those around us and so proclaim the prophetic vision of true and lasting peace.”