Peacemaking needs to start in our playgrounds

 Canon Paul Oestreicher challenged British and Irish churches meeting at London Colney this week, to respond to the World Council of Churches' Decade to Overcome Violence. "If love is what the heart of the gospel is about, we cannot escape the demands of Jesus to love those we like least," he said. The former director of international ministry at Coventry cathedral said it was time to put human rights at the heart of all activities. "We have perfected the art of destroying creation. How can human nature be changed so we do not destroy ourselves?" he asked. "Peacemaking needs to start in our playgrounds. Then there will be hope." As an example he described an Indian headmistress in Coventry who has transformed her school into a place of peace and reconciliation, "The children explained to me how they keep the peace and mediate in playground fights," he said. He quoted Ghandi's words: "If we refuse to confront evil when we see it, we surrender our humanity. If we confront evil with weapons of the evildoer, we embrace our humanity. If we confront evil with weapons of God we embrace our divinity." He said we have glorified war and the ancient debate between pacifists and non-pacifists must give way to new ways of peacemaking in which all may participate. "Both the weak and the strong are perpetrators of violence," he said. "There is a difficult tension in pursuit of justice, violence sometimes happens. If we insist on peace we may need to put up with a degree of violence." Representatives from many churches shared ways in which their communities are responding to the Decade to Overcome Violence, and explored ways they can work together. Stories from Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales were shared, raising many issues including domestic violence.

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