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September 2013: Peace Days – Labour Conference

2013 saw UfP once again promote the annual 'September Peace Days' - UN International Peace Day September 21 and the churches' Peacemaking Sunday September 22. Respectively global initiatives by the United Nations and World Council of Churches, these observances are now widely marked in UK by civic bodies and NGOs under various auspices. These special days afford specific opportunity to highlight UN peacebuilding and humanitarian action worldwide, and for faith communities, as advocates of moral action for humanity, to reflect in a spiritual context on their global responsibilities for peace and possible local actions. UfP generally encourages its membership to be involved in the UN Day, and UfP Churches & Inter-Faith Work promotes peace services and other faith-based occasions for the Sunday or linked days.

UfP events included three Edinburgh seminars respectively on Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria; a UN Peace Day Vigil around the Peace Pole in the grounds of Brechin Cathedral led by UfP member Rev.David Munford; a Peace Sunday service at Emmanuel United Reformed and Methodist church, Redditch, led by Prof. John Hull of Queen's College, Edgbaston, on 'Peace- making and Conflict'; a peace service held by Hyde (Cheshire) Unitarian Fellowship. From Chislehurst to Halifax, and Dover to Leominster, faith-related UfP occasions were held, including a peace prayer service at Full Gospel Tabernacle, Camberwell. UfP-resourced events, eg. by URC Peace Fellowship members ("well supported") and UfP-linked ones eg. a Glasgow Peace Federation occasion, also marked the days; UfP Executive member Mary Hale helped arrange Harrow's inter-faith peace celebration.

UfP liaised with Baptist Union and United Reformed Church social action staff, who promoted Peacemaking Sunday with the Methodist Church: Baptists recorded ninety special power-point presentations for the observance, and the other churches had "a good response".

Rev. Brian Cooper, UfP Churches & Inter-Faith Secretary, conducted the Peacemaking Sunday service at Trinity United Reformed Church, Camden Town, north London. Preaching on Jesus of Nazareth's statement "Blessed are the Peacemakers", he expounded its historical context and theological meaning, and then its practical application today with special reference to peacebuilding between the West and the Islamic world, and the urgency of disarmament to release finance for development and achievement of the UN Millennium Development Goals.

Following-up the Edinburgh events, Rev. Brian Cooper was invited to speak during Friday Prayers at the city's Annandale Street Mosque. Addressing some three hundred worshippers, he stressed Christian-Muslim and wider inter-faith co-operation for community harmony and world peace. "We are called to listen to each other with mutual respect and deep understanding: our differences must never become causes of division. There have been far too many divisions and conflicts between people of different faiths over the centuries: now must be a time of amity and co-operation. We can best help build a harmonious city and society by showing forth harmonious inter-faith relations, and together can promote world peace by Christian-Muslim co-operation on global peace issues."
While some thirty events have been recorded, it is difficult to assess precisely the support for September Peace Days in response to UfP publicity, as experience over the years reveals that individuals and local groups may mark the special days without informing the UfP office. Nevertheless, September peace occasions remain a distinctive ongoing feature of our work.

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