Thank you Mr Speaker.
I did not intend on speaking in this debate.
As the Member of Parliament who brought forward the motion to recognise the State of Palestine, I am a target for those who do not believe in peace, or a two state solution.
However, during Remembrance Sunday, and with the backdrop of the then Home Secretary’s sowing division and hate, I was overwhelmed by the words of Fr Marc Lyden-Smith, some of which I would like to share in the context of this debate.
“Remembrance Sunday is the time when people wear red poppies.
That, of course, is a well-established tradition.
But a while ago I saw someone wearing both a red and a white poppy.
I had never seen this before, so I said to him: ‘Why are you wearing a red poppy AND a white poppy?’ He replied: ‘The red is for remembrance. The white is for peace’.
I found that really thought-provoking, as our hope in remembrance is grounded in peace, a peace that so many have gave their lives for.
We must remember that peace looks forward to what we are trying to build: – justice, harmony, well-being and the flourishing of all.
But do we celebrate Remembrance Sunday simply because we won the war? If we had lost, we would surely feel very differently about it. We can rightly say it was necessary to stand against aggression and evil; sometimes there seems to be no other solution.
So it is right to express our gratitude for those who gave their lives for us. But our remembering should not be simply for our own people.
What about all those who also believed they were fighting for a good cause, for their freedom and their families? If we ignore them, we will be maintaining the same attitude of ‘us against them’, and keeping the conflict alive in our own minds.
We must never fall into the trap of division – of pitting people off against each other. People of peace can be ‘us and them’ people!
If we cannot pray for our enemies, the hatred continues within us and the war has been fought in vain, whether we win or lose.
God shows us that it is not simply security, but community that brings us peace; not alienation, but forgiveness; not conquest, but sacrifice!
None of us wants to have to fight for these things. And war must always be a very last resort.
Politicians must learn wisdom and restraint, for it is not them who go into battle. But young women and men from communities like ours!”
The most powerful part of Fr Lyden-Smith sermon was the following:
“But remember this: Jesus said: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’.
He did not say: ‘Blessed are those who won the war, those who had sufficient resources and weaponry to crush their enemies’.
He said: ‘Blessed are the peace-makers’ – those who work to build a world of peace.
We can all be peace-makers.
We may not be able to influence international politics.
But we all have roots of violence and hate within us. There are people or groups who we might not like, or feel contempt for; and those for whom it might never occur to us to pray for.
We can work to change ourselves.
Above all, let today be a wake up call for all of us to work for peace, when we pray and try to work for reconciliation and harmony. That begins here in our community, in our homes, in our families, in friendship groups, and especially in our hearts.
Then, with God’s blessing, we may all become true peacemakers.”
I vote today for a ceasefire, I vote for peace, I vote for a State of Israel and a State of Palestine to live side by side in peaceful co-existence.
The horrors, death and destruction we are witnessing are a breading ground for hate, but if we are ever to secure peace, we cannot be driven by hate.
I vote for a ceasefire, and call on all members, but particularly the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, to use their platforms and position of authority, not only to secure humanitarian aid amid the horrors we see in Gaza and have witnessed in Israel, but to work every day towards a lasting peace, safety and security that all people in Israel and Palestine deserve.