A&B celebrates Justice and Peace Day

Oliver McTernan, David Thomson.  Image:  Jana Bejckova:

Oliver McTernan, David Thomson. Image: Jana Bejckova:

The annual Justice and Peace Assembly took place on 22 January in Crawley. Entitled 'A Call for Action; Together We Make a Difference' the main theme of the Assembly was to help and inspire Catholic parishes in Sussex and Surrey to make a positive difference in the pursuit of Justice and Peace in the world.

In his keynote address to the 120 attendees, International Peace expert, Oliver McTernan spoke of the earlier experiences that had formed his ideological views, particularly during his 30 years as a Parish Priest in London and more recently his experiences as director of Forward Thinking, an organisation dedicated to empowering individuals and grassroots communities across the world to work to build long term, sustainable relationships between various government departments and policy makers. He talked in particular of his work in the Middle East where he was able to bring together those groups previously excluded from negotiations in order to create an inclusive climate where stakeholders in the region could all be heard and involved in improving the prospects for peace.

Highlighting the main causes of conflict as “grievance, greed and creed” and stressing the need to “take daily care to see that each person lives in justice”, Oliver went on to tell the audience that working for justice and peace in the world was not an option but an essential part of faith. Indeed, this view he said was clearly rooted in the Eucharist.

Having inspired the audience, those present then attended each of the four workshops that had been organised to help develop a Diocesan Justice and Peace Plan. The overall theme of the plan will be Human Rights in light of the 60th Anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights (November 3rd marking the end of the anniversary year). The workshops focussed on 4 specific “issues” chosen to help develop awareness of the centrality of human rights to living and preaching the Gospel. These key human rights were Women’s Rights; Peace & the Arms Trade; Environment and Land Rights and Religious Freedom.

Participants gained the knowledge and the skills to help them take action on behalf of those on the margins of society here and abroad.  During the plenary session, Oliver explained how, when faced with criticism and challenges, how he deals with this aspect of his life, counter act it and shrug it off.
David Thomson, Justice and Peace Adviser for the Diocese spoke of his pleasure at the feedback that he had received from participants. "I am absolutely delighted that everyone has been motivated to focus the issue of Human Rights on the Diocesan Plan that we have formed. The feedback that I have received from the 120 attendees has confirmed in my mind that with the level of good will and widespread charity in the area, we are on the way to a society marked by true communion, based on mutual harmony.”

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