“We watch with increasing dismay and sorrow, the escalating situation of conflict in Israel, Palestine, Jerusalem and across the Israel-Gaza border. As this region, so sacred to many of the great world faiths, drifts perilously towards all-out war, we call on all people of faith in Birmingham to pray that peace may prevail.
It is particularly abhorrent that this destruction is taking place at this moment, which is among the most sacred in the whole calendar, for the major religions of that region and this city. Today, Muslims mark Eid-ul-Fitr and the end of the Holy Month of Ramadan, whilst Christians mark Ascension Day. In a few days’ time, Jews will celebrate the Feast of Shavuot. It will be difficult for any of our faithful to celebrate, knowing that the current conflict is growing remorselessly.
We implore all people of faith in Birmingham to pray for repentance, forgiveness, reconciliation and peace. We call upon all to recognise injustice, terrorism and inhumanity where they have occurred and contributed to the building of conflict, and to seek instead to build bridges of hope and understanding.
We call upon everyone here in Birmingham to not allow situations abroad to infect and undermine the good relationships which we have carefully built in this city. We give thanks for the good and life-giving inter-faith relations, exercised, day-in, day-out, by people of faith, in Birmingham. We denounce any attempts to attack or harass anyone here because of the faith they profess, or events taking place elsewhere, and completely outside their control.
We have always opposed and rejected the singling out of people on the basis of their faith, and we continue to do so even more strongly in this most difficult of periods. The true sense of religion is mercy, compassion, love, forgiveness, honesty, humility and accountability. We must seek global religious solidarity.”
The Faith Leaders’ Group was formed in 2001 in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers in New York, when the leaders of the city’s principal faith communities came together to show solidarity, proclaiming that religious faith is a unifying, not a dividing force. They have continued to meet together on a regular basis, normally every second month, to build positive connections between people of faith across the city. The Most Rev Bernard Longley, Archbishop of Birmingham, is a member of the group and represents the Roman Catholic faith.
The Columbans in Britain support inter-religious dialogue within the city and are involved in many initiatives that aim to unite people of different cultures and faith traditions. We stand in solidarity with the people affected by the recent conflict and encourage you to join us in praying for peace.
Ecumenical prayer vigil for peace in Gaza
Spirit of the living God, come afresh on your holy land.
Help your people to restore broken relationships.
Give them patience to break down barriers of suspicion and mistrust;
ability to discern personal prejudices and the courage to overcome fear.
Teach them to respect each other’s integrity and rights
so that your kingdom may be established on earth.
For Jesus’ sake.