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Bible Readings for September

Bible Readings for August

Bible Readings for April

Bible Readings for January

Bible Readings for December

Robert's Letter
Robert's September Letter
Robert's July & August Letter
Robert's April Letter
Robert's December / January Letter
Robert's November Letter

Robert's Letter for November


Dear Friends,

There are times when it feels that the world is getting darker. I'm the sort of person who longs for the light, so as the nights draw in I have a problem when the time comes to set the clocks back. Sure we have an hour extra in bed for one day, but then we wake up to six or seven weeks of darker nights. Once the light is growing again I feel better, but November is definitely my least favourite month of the year. It is not the seasons though, but the way the world is that creates a problem for me. We are used to the machinations of politicians within and between nation states always desiring fairness. The problem about fairness is it rather depends on your perspective; one side wants to maintain things as they are, the other sees current situations as unfair and so wants to change. Who is right and who is wrong in that sort of situation? Balance is fine but who says that we have the right balance at any given time?

Over the summer and into the autumn we have been watching the development of three rather worrying situations, all of which involve conflict of various degrees. In each situation there has been the inevitable involvement of outside parties as each conflict spills over from the location in which it is fought. It would seem that for most wars these days, there will be international consequences. Most notable in this is the civil war in the Ukraine. What we might have hoped would have been a short lived conflict suddenly became an international crisis when the Malaysian plane was shot down. In a similar fashion the clash between Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza was thankfully short, once international pressure was brought to bear. Even so, resource rich Israel was able to inflict far greater damage on the people of Gaza.

Which side do you take though? In both these conflicts there are arguments on both sides as to where to draw the line of balance. Although there was little choice, I felt it was perhaps best that Ukraine let the Crimea go, for the sake of peace. On the other hand, I think that the Russians should accept the boundaries of the Ukraine and help them make proper peace with appropriate accommodations to the ethnic Russians within the Ukraine. If Ukraine is difficult then Gaza is nigh impossible. What does a nation like Israel do when they are under constant bombardment from missiles? What do a people like those of Gaza do when their nation is landlocked and bound in by their big neighbour? All of this of course is pretty much a small part of an ongoing issue, which has been going on in this way since 1947 when Israel gained her independence. The roots of this, of course, go back almost into ancient history. Again, I have no particular wisdom, other than to say one thing. The return of the Jews to the “Holy Land” is a prophesy biblically foretold. No lasting peace will be made without the recognition that the Jews are there to stay.

Far more worrying, in a sense, is the situation in Iraq. We have been involved in Iraq since the end of the First World War and every time we think our task is done there, it seems something draws us back. Now, a hundred years later we are once again at war with some of its people. It is the shorter term history that we should note, how much is the present predicament due to the ill conceived war against Saddam Hussein, the cause of the present situation? On the other hand, was the failure to do something more in Syria the right response? My simple reflection is that there appears to be a lack of consistency about all of this.

I am grateful to Canon Andrew White, the Vicar of Baghdad, for another insight. Nineveh, the ancient capital of Assyria, one of the great empires of the Old Testament, is the modern city of Mosul. In the book of Jonah, the prophet Jonah is sent to Nineveh by God to call its people to repentance. This they did to Jonah's displeasure. Since that time the people of the city have remained faithful to God, with Nineveh becoming a centre of Christianity from early in the Christian era. This has remained the case right up to the present time and it is these people who have been attacked, persecuted or exiled, along with other religious and radical groups in the growth of Islamic State. There is also a great sadness in my heart about those who Islamic State has so brutally murdered who have been people of peace. This is particularly so with the British hostages, both were in Syria seeking to bring help and comfort to the needy and one of them was working in a Muslim charity. Even the mass appeals of Muslim leaders did not avail, which reveals the true nature of those who are behind Islamic State.

All of this in a year when we have been marking the start of the First World War often referred to by its combatants as the “war to end all war”. The enemy changes, but the conflicts go on. There will no doubt be added poignancy at the Remembrance Day Services this year, both because of the anniversary and because of the Middle East situation. As I have written, I can find no particular wisdom about the way ahead. Winston Churchill famously said that to “jaw jaw is better than to war war.” If there is no one willing to negotiate or even listen to pleas of clemency, what else can one do? As a person committed to the ways of peace, I know that it is sometimes necessary to go to war; I just wish the whole world would be much more careful about it.

At the end of the day we have to pray. Prayer has been remarkably successful in moving difficult and dangerous situations into peace. South Africa and Northern Ireland are obvious examples. The bible looks forward to a time when wars will cease and the kingly rule of our God will be over all the earth. I believe that we all have our part to play in this. May our hands and hearts unite to desire this peace and work to bring it in. I believe that we might be more successful in the long run if we ensure the peace of our loving God rules in our own lives. The surrender to our Father through Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit, brings us into the “Peace that passes understanding;” a peace that enables us to know whatever happens here and now, that we are secure in His love for evermore.

May the Lord richly bless you.




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