There has been many commemorations and celebrations the past month. Wesleyans commemorate the 24th of May, as the day that John Wesley, the father of the Methodist Movement received assurance of his salvation. Our President writes an interesting article in this edition of the First Friday Letter. The Methodist Church in Fiji has also shared a commemorative video their communications department created for the occasion.
On 25th May Africans across the World celebrated Africa Day. It is a day to promote self-pride and acknowledge the contribution of black people towards human advancement. It is also a time to challenge stereotypes and to bridge divisions entrenched by colonialism and white privilege. In the United States, Black History Month is commemorated in February and October in Britain, but that has not stopped those in the diaspora from sharing in the celebration which marks the founding of the Organization for African Unity (OAU) in 1963. The goal of the OAU is to, “defend the sovereignty of African countries, uphold human rights and restore the dignity of African people.”
In some countries, the focus of Africa Day was on modern-day slavery, a scourge of our day that comes in many guises and takes place through the exploitation of people using threat, force, coercion or deception. Slavery includes sexual exploitation, domestic and farm labor, debt bondage and trafficking for organ removal. Worldwide, slavery is the second-largest criminal activity next to drug trafficking, and often, our lifestyle and consumer habits support the slave trade. The real cost of cheap goods to fellow human beings (sweatshops) and the environment is seldom considered. I wish to encourage all Methodists to be modern-day abolitionists by demanding “fair trade.” William Wilberforce said in his famous Abolition Speech to Parliament on the 12th of May 1789, “…you may choose to look the other way but you can never again say that you did not know.”
During May we have also witnessed the killing of over 100 Palestinians with thousands more injured and disabled in another chapter of the ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict which the UN human rights chief described as a “wholly disproportionate” response to peaceful protest. WMC has issued statements and resolutions regarding the peaceful resolution of the Israel- Palestine conflict over more than a decade (and can show evidence of discussion from 4 decades ago) which cements its commitment on behalf of Methodists and Christians worldwide, to peace in the Middle East.
On 14 May the WMC posted the following on social media:
“The world’s eyes are watching the protests in Gaza today …’Thus says the Lord, Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.’ Jeremiah 22:3″
The conflict and inhumane conditions, however, remain and escalate.
A few short days ago Christians celebrated the feast of Pentecost, a renewed “call to action” by the Holy Spirit to take up our gifts and lead the way to transform the world. We need a radical response to love to create peace for all humans, made in the image of God – children of God.
Peace requires justice, and justice demands action. Peacemaking is not silent or gentle or diplomatic but radical and transformative as Jesus’ actions were. Let us remind ourselves that “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9 James NIV). As the conflict escalates, let us escalate our efforts to be peacemakers and stand with and for our brothers and sisters crying out in anguish.
You might ask; What can we do? I appeal to individuals and churches across the world to:
- address this issue with your governments,
- work with ecumenical colleagues to initiate interfaith actions for peacebuilding,
- prayerfully consider what forms of political pressure might be needed for the parties to engage in a peace process,
- pray, in a concerted way for the people of the Holy Land, both Palestinian and Israeli
Let us observe a week of prayer for Gaza and peace in the Holy Land, during the first week of July. The Methodist Liaison Office in Jerusalem will prepare resources for use during the week of prayer which will be available at www.methodist-liaison.org
In this issue of the FFL you will read about celebrations in The United Church of Papua New Guinea, lessons from the life of Rev. Dr. James H. Cone, how flooding in the Congo has touched the lives of Methodists there, and an update on the tragic plane crash in Cuba which claimed the lives of 10 Nazarene pastoral couples. You’ll also hear how some churches in the U.S. are preparing for asylum seekers, how you can be involved in the Global Day of Prayer to End Famine, a celebration of the life of Revd Dr Colin M Morris, and how Wesley’s Chapel London remains relevant and active today.
On behalf of the Officers and staff of the WMC as well as readers of the First Friday Letter, I would like to express our sincere thanks to Barbara Bowser as she transitions to a new job at the Foundation for Evangelism. Our prayers and best wishes go with her and her family.