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notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK
Friday, December 05, 2003Let it happen here Friends of Sabeel UK: Issues and challenges to the Churches - Israel and Palestine. It's a long list of Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights. Describing very plainly the physical and cultural carve-up of Palestine which is the Israeli government's mission.
As I read this litany of checkpoint procedures, by-pass roads, refugee camps, home demolitions, curfews and water control I was astonished there could be any dispute about publicising this carnage. A modest mag article is surely the least we can do to alert folk to what's happening in what we so glibly call in advent, The Holy Land. Depriving people of their basic rights to move, work, shelter - horrendous - after all, we'd never let it happen here.
But then I was stopped in my tracks by another article - this one in 3rd Stone, which made me realise history tells other stories. Depriving people of their basic rights to move, work, shelter is horrendous - and, in fact, we have let it happen here.
Specifically, in 1665 when the Five Mile Act 'instigated a five mile exclusion zone around towns precluding those non-conformists dispossessed by the Act of Uniformity (1662)'. Avebury happened to be a little over five miles from a number of such towns. It thus became an official haven for 'Five Mile' refugees.
The article, by Brian Edwards, details the way the refugees were received, a sadly familiar tale of suppression by those in authority , ie, 'the Anglican local establishment of squire, vicar and parish clerk', with a thankfully equally familiar tale of acceptance by indigenous parishioners who 'viewed the 'separatist' incomers as ordinary folk', dug graves for dissenters and even tolled the church bells for their loss.
The article's main point was how, over time, the nonconformists changed the local landscape - ridding it of ancient sacred pagan stones; today Avebury is restoring some of these, and looking to a future where stones and chapels will stand together as witness to a people's complex cultural history. A history with the hospitality of ordinary folk at its core.
Thank God for ordinary folk who then as now disregard the politicians and let their hearts and human decency rule their actions towards those violated by the powerful. Good to see that happening in the Middle East too, with Monday's unveiling of the Geneva Accord, a radical peace initiative drafted by teams of unofficial Israeli and Palestinian negotiators.
According to The Guardian, at the accord's launch ceremony the former US president Jimmy Carter said: "The people support it. Political leaders are the obstacle to peace... it is unlikely we shall ever see a better foundation for peace."