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Alison Elliot On Building Peace

Extract from the book Prayer for the Day on Peace by Radio 4.

Broadcast: Wednesday 20 June 2007

We have different images of Europe, as I discovered when I attended a church meeting of people from different countries. We were asked to bring a picture or an object that captured Europe for us. A crocheted Celtic cross from the Peace Line in Belfast, a picture of Mostar’s broken bridge or Transylvania’s soaring mountains.

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From England, a journal article promising cheaper Volkswagens. A poster about human rights.
From Albania, two rough maps, one showing an undifferentiated Soviet bloc, beside the individual states of the West; the other showing the European Union as a unit, next to a fragmenting East.
If you asked me today, I’d offer the picture of children playing on the Soviet War Memorial in Berlin. It’s a massive construction, built to welcome a liberating army, but it quickly came to symbolize the oppressive pain of a divided city.

The occasion was the 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, in March, and Berlin was partying.
Crowds milled around the Brandenburg Gate, bands were playing, the beer tents were doing good business and the sun was shining. Children were scampering over the tanks that are part of the memorial and tourists were photographing their girlfriends under its intimidating arches. Berlin is a city that has ached for centuries and it was good to see it en fête.

Let us pray that European leaders remember the importance of reconciliation in a diverse continent that still has its divisions, and that they hold to a vision of Europe as a community of hospitality for those displaced by war and conflict and a sign of peace for the whole world.

Loving God, our continent has
witnessed times of exuberant creativity
and periods of callous destructiveness.
Guide all those who build peace and
seek justice in our land today.
Amen.

Dr Alison Elliot OBE has, since 2001, been Associate Director of the Centre for Theology and Public Issues at Edinburgh University. In 2004 she became the first woman to be elected as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. She is an Elder at Greyfriars Tolbooth & Highland Kirk, Edinburgh.

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