In both Bethlehem and Jerusalem, Pope Francis offered his home in the Vatican as a place for the encounter of prayer. It was a potentially transformative moment. Now that the event is over, and both presidents have re-iterated their desire for peace, what happens next to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - more so since President Peres completes his term as president of Israel at the end of July? Regional expert and Ekklesia associate Dr Harry Hagopian explores the issues.
In politics it is more constructive to focus on policies and ideas than on individuals, says Bernadette Meaden. She suggests, however, that a politician may become so wedded to a policy that their personal reputation and the credibility of the policy become inextricably linked. She argues that this is now the case with Iain Duncan Smith.
As the Church of Scotland once again considers its differences over LGBT ministers, Alexander O'Hare says that we need to ask ourselves what the purpose of inclusivity is about. Is it about keeping everyone in the one Church, or is about living the Kingdom? If the latter, and some within the Church are unwilling or unable to do so with us, then we need to bid farewell. There is no point in unity at all costs, and certainly not at the cost of seeking to live justly in a biblical sense.
April 24th saw another chapter in the difficult world of Armenian-Turkish relations 99 years after a horrible chapter in their shared history - the Armenian Genocide of 1915, which for some evokes inextinguishable pain and for others denial. Commentator and regional expert Dr Harry Hagopian re-examines the complex issues and looks at the way forward.
The Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land and the Justice and Peace Committee issued a statement about the persecution of Christians in the Middle East. It is a highly significant document in the light of recent media attention to these issues, and repeated statements from Baroness Warsi and others. There are serious issues at stake here, but it is important that they are understood properly and in context so that the appropriate solidarity for all oppressed groups can be expressed.
The barbarity of the response to protest by the Syrian regime - bullets, shabihas and tanks that soon graduated to chemical weapons and TNT barrels - also weaponised an equally radical bunch of people who carry with them the cloak of religiosity although they do not care a jot about the future governance of Syria, says regional analyst Dr Harry Hagopian. So where do we go from here?
There is an intense debate about Religious Education in schools today. What about Theology and Religious Studies in university departments? Graeme Smith, who teaches public theology and the University of Chichester, looks at what the discipline involves. What does this mean for the MPs and others scrutinising from the outside? "Well I suspect that when they do come calling we shall have some questions for them as well," says Dr Smith.
The voice of the prophets was essential, the late Tony Benn argued, to challenge wrong-doing and wrong motives – to provide direction for the rulers who would listen, and stubborn unyielding opposition when they would not. This, he believed, should be the role of the church in relation to government. The Rev Benny Hazelhurst, former vicar of Tolpuddle, recalls a man of vision and social hope, who died on 14 March 2014.
A few weeks ago, Juliet Kilpin attended the community launch of Christians on the Left (www.christiansontheleft.org.uk) with a summit on faith, social action and social justice. In a packed food bank based in a London City Mission venue in Vauxhall, inspirational voices shared stories of action motivated by Christian faith. But the event and network raises other important questions about faith, politics, justice, class, witness and the use of the Bible, she suggests.
Privatisation hurtles on in the UK, regardless of the damage. Even David Cameron and George Osborne acknowledge that we have been badly served by the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), under which companies build hospitals, schools and prisons, then lease them back to the state, locking taxpayers into decades long maintenance contracts. Clare Sambrook exposes the underside of the privatising business, looking at who profits, who loses, who benefits and who decides.