Confronting Religious Violence

Not in God’s Name by Jonathan Sacks is next up on my reading list. I see it is the #1 Best Seller in Christian Theology on Amazon. Which is interesting considering the author’s faith…

I wonder if that is  saying something Christians need to hear. The accusation that religion is not part of the solution but part of the problem, because it leads to war, terrorism, violence, oppression and abuse, is a common one. My natural reaction as a Christian leader is to point out that the religion I follow is absolutely not like that, but incarnates the principle of self-giving; and that religion is easily co-opted into war but it isn’t usually the cause of it. But maybe – and this is the strength of Sacks’ book – we have to fess up to the fact that faith often lets itself down and does choose oppressive options; and is also far too easily co-opted by others into actions and attitudes it should never have adopted. We need to do better.

So here’s a cheer for the Archbishop of York’s response, for instance, to the outrage in Tunisia (see text below); for some decent prayers to use tomorrow about it; and let’s take seriously the Huff post survey that more than half of Britons think religion does more harm than good; and the same Huff post’s new series Beyond Belief on fearless Britons who’ve have used their faith to create positive change within their religion. One of the lead stories at the moment on their excellent webpage is, for instance, about a Christian social worker who is helping protect children from Christian abusers. Sometimes we have been part of the problem and we need to say so – and try hard to be part of the solution – and if there is truth in our faith, then we will not be working alone as we do it.

A Statement of Condolence, Empathy and a Call to Prayer

by the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu

I want to express my deep condolences to the families of those British holiday makers who were brutally murdered in Sousse, Tunisia. At times such as these, words can seem so limited and futile in the face of brutality and horror. To the bereaved and to those who were wounded in the attack – you are in the thoughts and prayers of many of us.

My thoughts also go to the family of the manager beheaded by his driver in Lyon, France; and to those murdered and injured in Kuwait.

There is a yearning amongst so many people to respond to these acts, to respond in a way which builds up rather than destroys.

(Read on below the fold).


In August 2014 I was joined by Bishop Mouneer of Egypt in York Minister for a week long vigil entitled ‘Hope and Trust for Peace and Justice in God’s World’.

In the Chapel of St John, we prayed on the hour every hour using the Kyrie Eleison (Lord Have Mercy), followed by The Lord’s Prayer – praying these prayers in English and Arabic.

At the end of the week we issued a statement which said how much we were “moved and concerned by what has been happening in our world in the last past weeks: the fighting, the shedding of blood, summary executions, displacement of people and the destruction of villages and towns by the insidious, brutal and vicious violence that seemed to be marching on like a Doomsday Machine. Destroying anything in its wake; and we, the citizens of the world made to feel helpless to stop it – as it killed, maimed and devoured our brothers and sisters in our Global Village.”

We asked all disciples of Jesus Christ in our Global Village, in the Name of our Lord, to join us for eight days of prayer and fasting for peace and justice in God’s World.

I know that eight days of prayer and fasting for peace and justice in God’s world are not sufficient. I need, we need, to commit ourselves to prayer and fasting. For the evil we face cannot be cast out except by prayer and fasting – as Jesus tells his disciples in Mark Chapter 9.

The battle we face is a battle against evil powers. So we must be fully clothed in Christ’s righteousness; and the only weapon of attack in St Paul’s list of warfare imagery is “The sword of the Spirit” – that is the word of God (Ephesians 6. 11, 13-17).

For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6. 12).

I invite all who name the Name of Jesus Christ to respond to the brutality at work in our world by prayer and fasting.

Please join me and say these prayers during the day, on the hour, every hour and, if your health permits, to forgo a meal.

Kyrie Eleison

Lord, Have Mercy

Lord, Have Mercy

Christ, Have Mercy

Christ, Have Mercy

Lord, Have Mercy

Lord, Have Mercy

The Lord’s Prayer

Our Father which art in heaven,

Hallowed by thy Name.

Thy kingdom come.

They will be done in earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.

And forgive us our trespasses,

As we forgive them that trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation,

But deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom.

The power and the glory,

For ever and ever,


I invite you, our neighbours of all faiths, and particularly the children of the Abrahamic faiths, to pray for peace, justice and reconciliation in prayers appropriate to your tradition. May we all nurture love, foster courage and seek wisdom, and chose not to accept sentimentality, challenge loathing of the other, and reach out to all our neighbours – those of faith and none.

May these words of W B Yeats (1835-1939), THE SECOND COMING, spur us to a carrying out of that most goodly work: Prayer.

‘Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.’

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