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This is an archived website containing material relating to Dr Rowan Williams’ time as Archbishop of Canterbury, which ended on 31st December 2012

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Vigil for Peace in the Middle East

 Archbishop's Vigil for Peace in York MinsterIn the summer of 2006 the Archbishop of York completed a week-long vigil of fasting and prayer for a lasting peace in the Middle East.

During the vigil and fast for peace, the Archbishop prayed with thousands of people who came to show their support and solidarity for the victims of violence in the Middle East.
In responding to those who asked 'Where is God?' at such times of conflict, the Archbishop said:
"God's voice is to be heard in the cry of an eight year old Lebanese girl, injured and orphaned who had lost her eye in an air strike and in the voice of an eighty-five year old Israeli woman, sick, poor and unable to move out of reach of the Katusha rockets.  I am convinced more than ever that violence is not the way in which we will win over our enemies. We must each and every one of us hold responsibility for seeking peace in our own time, in our own streets and in our own homes as well as continuing to pray for the world. We must look at our own nation, our own children growing in a society which does not always foster inclusion and generosity as our priority. It is surely fear and anxiety which leads to aggression. We must build a sense of safety. If we seek for others an integrity and legitimacy of civil society, we ourselves must strive to think about our own."

The Archbishop also stated the need to support any and all international efforts to restart the shattered peace process in the Middle East:

"There is a high price of failure as a failed peace initiative does not lead to a mere statis but active deterioration. If there is a chance to move forward, and that is then wasted, everyone falls backward and the result is even more violence and bloodshed.

"Uncovering the purposes of God requires of us as an essential prerequisite to see in one another that image of God himself. Until we can learn to see God in our neighbour, in our enemies and in those we pass by, we will be blind to uncovering God's purposes for ourselves and for our nations.

"The conflict between Israel and Lebanon demonstrated yet again that we cannot afford any longer to leave the issues of the Middle East in the pending tray of unresolved business.

"There is no greater recruiting Sergeant for would be Salafi Jihadists than the continued conflict in the Middle East.

"Without urgent action on our part to to continue to push for a dialogue, for their sakes and our own, the spiral of violence that has lasted longer than the whole of the Archbishop's lifetime (58 years) will continue unabated, as new generations become mired in the enmity of their forefathers.

"The challenge for the international community is to make peace in the Middle East a priority for the sake of us all and to sacrifice their own self-interest in the short term for the prize of sustainable peace.

The Archbishop also said:

"As in all conflicts great and small, both sides have acquired supporters and protagonists. We as humans are prone to divide into camps named For and Against. Christians must continue to struggle to find ways to create communities which transcend tribalism, where we strive to love one another as God loves us. We must not give in to the fear which is in all of us but must seek to fan the spark of divine humanity which we all possess. If we throw ourselves on the grace of God and seek his purposes, our vocation - while never pitching our tent in the valley of relativism – is to see everyone in England, people of faith and none, not as enemies but as beloved neighbours and friends. All made in the image and likeness of God. A God who is Christ-like".