Time for a bishop to the 'unarmed forces'

London, UK - JULY 20, 2009 Following the announcement by the Church of England of a new bishop to the armed forces, the think-tank Ekklesia is suggesting that it is time there was also a bishop to the 'unarmed forces'.

Ekklesia, which works in partnership with Christian Peacemaker Teams, suggests that this would help Church leaders to emphasise that they are serious about the Christian commitment to peacebuilding.

The think-tank points to the many examples of Christians involved in peacemaking, mediation and nonviolent conflict resolution around the world, and the growing awareness amongst policy-makers of the importance of such work.

The call follows debates about reduction in the number of Church of England bishops and the Archbishop of Canterbury's appointment of Stephen Venner as the new bishop to the armed forces.

Jonathan Bartley, co-director of Ekklesia said: "The work done by nonviolent peacemakers and peacebuilders, often working amongst the dangers and horrors of war zones, is one of the unsung successes of our age. It is sad that such heroic work does not receive more recognition. It is a glaring omission that while the Church pays lip service to a message of peace, it is only armed, not unarmed forces, who receive official episcopal recognition."

Ekklesia amongst others has noted a growing awareness in the Church of England of the importance of strategic peacebuilding. In his maiden speech in the House of Lords earlier this month, the Bishop of Wakefield urged the Government to prioritise conflict prevention and warned of becoming too 'state-centric' in dealing with issues of international protection.

Nonviolent schemes highlighted by Ekklesia include Responding to Conflict, which gives training and support to people in conflict situations to help them build peace; Christian Peacemaker Teams; the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Israel and Palestine (EAPPI) and Peace Brigades International, which provides protective accompaniment to human rights defenders in areas of conflict.

ENDS

Notes to Editors
1. Ekklesia is an independent, not-for-profit Christian think-tank exploring religion and public life. See: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/content/about/about.shtml

2. The appointment of Rt Rev Dr Stephen Venner as Bishop to the Armed Forces was announced by the Archbishop of Canterbury. He replaces the current Bishop to the Armed Forces, Rt Rev David Conner.

3.Organisations and projects working to resolve conflict nonviolently include:

- Christian Peacemaker Teams - www.cptuk.org.uk

- Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Israel and Palestine (EAPPI) - www.eappi.org

- Peace Brigades International (PBI) - www.peacebrigades.org.uk

- Responding to Conflict (RTC) - www.respond.org

4. In his maiden speech in the House of Lords earlier this month the Bishop of Wakefield urged the Government to prioritise conflict prevention and warned of becoming too "state-centric" in dealing with issues of international protection. More information: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/9794