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World News

Church in London to hold Armistice Day prayer service for peace and unity after protests

by Ros Mayfield

A church in London is planning a prayer service on Saturday evening, to pray for peace, love and unity.  It's as tensions continue between the government and the Met police, over the Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley's decision not to ban a pro-Palestinian march in the heart of the capital, due to take place on the same day.

Downing Street is concerned about the timing of the protests this weekend, coinciding with Armistice Day when Britain remembers those who died in the First World War.  Rishi Sunak met with the Commissioner and said he would 'hold him accountable' for allowing the demonstration to go ahead.  Organisers have given assurances to the police that their plans will not clash with commemorations in Whitehall.

Reverend Steven Cooper, minister at Wesley's Chapel in Islington, tells Premier there are members of his church on both sides: "We have plenty of folk within our congregation community here who've been able to make their voice heard as part of demonstrations, both in support of Palestine and in support of peace for people in Israel.

He says he believes in freedom of expression, and people being allowed to use their voice, especially in the face of the extent of the violence that people have become aware of over the last four weeks: "It's really the only thing they can do.  The horror of the violence that's taking place in Gaza, the horror of the atrocities experienced by Israelis on the 7th October. It's quite right that we respond. God demands some response from us. And perhaps the best way is to make our voice heard to cry out for peace."

The Prime Minister came under pressure to sack his Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, after she wrote in The Times newspaper, accusing the London force of showing bias and favouritism.

But Rev Cooper says the 11th November is an appropriate time to hold a peace rally: "If we're calling for peace... an end to war, done in a respectful way, which isn't in any way besmirching the memory of those whom Armistice Day itself commemorates, I think, is entirely in accord with that day.

"I know that the vast majority of those who will be taking part in the demonstration tomorrow, are people who are there for peace, and who are not there with an agenda that is about creating violence or trouble. And I hope that that is recognized."

A special prayer gathering, for peace and unity, will be held at Wesley's chapel - next to Methodist founder John Wesley's former home - on Saturday evening.  Rev Cooper says anyone who wants to pray for peace is invited.

He tells Premier they will also be praying for God's love, which the Bible says, 'casts out fear'.

"In so many ways. Fear is at the root of violence at the root of conflict, at the root of hatred that people can have towards one another. And I think we need to pray for God's spirit of love to cast out fear and hatred. And for that to be the spirit of the demonstrations."

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