WAR in the Middle East may seem like a million miles away from everyday life in York, but its residents are being asked to pray for those involved in the hope the guns may one day fall silent.
As the death toll continues to rise in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Gaza and Israel – and only days after an American journalist was beheaded – Dr John Sentamu, the Archbishop of York, is leading a vigil at York Minster where he will try and persuade people violence is not the answer.
Dr Sentamu is no stranger to this show of dedication.
He spent a week in 2006 consuming nothing but water to highlight the plight of those caught up in a conflict between Lebanon and Israel. This time, he aims to spend a week in the St John’s Chapel, praying every hour from 6am until 6pm until Sunday.
He said: “People always say ‘does prayer change things?’ Well, I’m a father of hope.
“I’m hoping between now and the end of the seven days the world will recognise a bit of common sense.”
Dr Sentamu began his week-long fast and vigil, entitled Hope and Trust for the Peace of the World, on Sunday at 6am, and is inviting people to join him during his prayers.
“In 2006 I camped here when there was a terrible conflict in Lebanon and Israel, but this time the Middle East is going through something terrible where the neighbours are killing neighbours and the viciousness of the weapons being used are horrible,” he added.
“I genuinely feel I had to do something to say armaments and militarisation don’t bring peace in the world.
“They do something, but don’t solve things in the end.
“Can’t we all, as citizens of the world, say ‘enough is enough’.
“We want peace and to be seen with dignity and when you look at someone you should see your brother or your sister”.
Dr Sentamu has taken a selection of items with him on his vigil, including a candle to represent the victims of violence, a globe and a plate from Egypt which is adorned with the Lord’s Prayer and was donated by visiting Bishop Mouneer Anis to recognise conflicts in his country.
Throughout the prayers, the Archbishop is encouraging people to have a white linen cloth at hand to serve as a reminder of peace.
In advance of his vigil, Dr Sentamu issued this statement: “Dearly beloved Disciples of Jesus Christ, wherever you are in the world, I beseech you, in the Name of our Lord, to join me in heart and mind for seven days of prayer and fasting for peace and justice in God’s World.
Please join me in praying especially for those places in our global village devastated by militarism, idolatry (the worship of God wrongly conceived), dictatorships and abject poverty.
One way of making our solidarity and commitment together to be instruments and makers of peace is to place white linen in our windows. All people of good will may do this! Be the change you want to see.”