Monday, 29 March 2010


Some resources for reflection on the Passion of Christ

He leaves the bright heavens
comes again
condemned to hang
between heaven and earth.
And there he remains
he absolves the guards
lets the tortured forget
makes hatred subside
teaches the weary to breathe
the trembling to sleep
the dreamers to act
the doers to dream.

Dorothee Solle

Biblical scholar and Christian activist Walter Breuggemann on Lent, Good Friday, Easter and the "shutdown" of the way it used to be.

This is Holy Week - Bible Readings and reflections for each day

Alternative Good Friday Intercessions here

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Israel and Palestine - What is to be done? Public Meeting in Coventry Tommorrow

I am hoping to get to this that I only learnt about towards the end of last week.

Also check out a recent publication from Concordis International...the publicity blurb states

'The Christian peace organisation Concordis has just published a booklet to help churches understand the issues around the Israel / Palestine conflict. It follows a gathering of Christians with different perspectives on the conflict, aims to seek greater consensus and unity, and suggests some actions'

You can download the booklet here

Public Meeting:
Israel and Palestine – what is to be done?
Coventry Muslim Resource Centre, Red Lane, Coventry
Monday March 22nd, 6-8pm
• Ismail Patel, Chair, Friends of Al Aqsa
• Dan Judelson, former Chair, Jews for Justice for Palestinians
The situation of the Palestinians in Gaza remains desperate, with the continuing Israeli and Egyptian blockade preventing reconstruction after the devastating assault on Gaza’s civil society carried out by the Israelis a year ago. The situation in the West Bank is little better, as Israel
continues to expropriate land and evict Palestinian families from their homes in order to expand its settlements. Yet it often seems that Western governments turn a blind eye to Israel’s behaviour, and treat Israeli violence far more leniently than that of the Palestinians. When the recent Goldstone Report on the Gaza war accused the Israelis of war crimes, our government refused to back it. Many people in the UK, perhaps even a majority, recognise the injustice of this situation, but feel powerless to do anything about it.

• If we organise and speak out, could we change UK government policy?
• What could the UK do to restore some kind of justice in Palestine?
• How can we contribute?

This meeting hopes to bring together Muslims, Jews, Christians and all
others who long for a just peace in the Middle East, in a common effort
to answer these questions and bring about change.

• 6.00-6.30 refreshments • 6.30-7.30 talks • 7.30-8.00 discussion
Organisers: Justice for Palestinians-West Midlands and Coventry Muslim
Resource Centre. Please contact david or the CMRC,
on 024 7663 7933, for further information.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

"It SHOULD have been called Christian Jihad" - The launch of A Heart Broken Open

There was a great turn out for the launch of my book 'A Heart Broken Open - Radical Faith in an Age of Fear' on Monday evening at Queen's Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education. Thanks especially to Toby Howarth The Bishop of Birmingham's Adviser on Inter Faith Relations and to Salma Yaqoob Birmingham City Councillor and Respect Party Parliamentary Candidate for Hall Green for their powerful and inspiring contributions and to my step son Luke for his filming of the event allowing those of you who were not able to make it to see the speeches below

One Society, Many Cultures - Support the Early Day Motion

Please ask your MP to sign EDM 1079 - Muslims in Britain.
You can do this easily by clicking on this link, it takes less than two minutes.
The motion follows rising concerns about negative portrayal of Muslims in sections of the media and anti-Muslim demonstrations by extreme right wing groups such as the English Defence League, which recently marched on Parliament demanding the closure of the East London Mosque. If they had singled out a Church or Synagogue, there would rightly be an outcry.
We believe the targeting of communities in this way is creating a climate of fear and division, and undermines civil liberties and the right to freedom of expression. The motion welcomes the contribution of Muslim communities and their full participation in British society, including in politics.
EDM 1079 - Muslims in Britain :
“That this House opposes the increased demonisation of Muslims in sections of the media; expresses its deep concern at the recent visit to the House of Lords by the far right politician Geert Wilders; condemns the English Defence League demonstration outside Parliament in support of Geert Wilders and their slogans and placards inciting hatred, such as their demand for the closure of the East London Mosque, that will only lead to a climate of fear, division and disharmony; welcomes the participation and contribution of Muslims in British society, including in politics; believes that the full participation of all communities in the forthcoming general election is in the interests of democracy.”
Take action and click here to urge your MP to sign this important motion
One Society Many Cultures

Friday, 12 March 2010


My book A Heart Broken Open - Radical Faith in an Age of Fear is being officially launched on Monday evening at Queen's Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education. Speakers at the launch will be

Salma Yaqoob

Salma is a local councillor in Birmingham and Respect Party parliamentary candidate for the Hall Green Constituency and a regular commentator in the national and local media on current affairs and has appeared on BBC TVs Question Time and BBC Radio’s Any Questions. She is author of ‘Muslim Women and the War on Terror’ Feminist Review 2008. She also wrote a Foreward to the book.

Toby Howarth
Bishop of Birmingham’s advisor on Interfaith Relations , Vicar of St Christopher’s Church Sparkhill and a member of the Church of England's Presence and Engagement Task Force

Hussein Mehdi
Hussein who was born in Iraq and experienced the civil war in Lebanon as a child is a member of the Ahlul Bayt Islamic Centre in Leeds. He invited me to visit Iraq with him in 2004 – the story of the visit forms a chapter of the book.

The publishers press release for the launch is published below:

A new book with a radical approach to Christian engagement with Islam is being launched at the Queens Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education on Monday 15th March 2010 at 6pm A Heart Broken Open – Radical Faith in an Age of Fear is the moving and insightful reflection by an Christian Minister of his grassroots engagement with Islam through relationships built from inner-city parish ministry in Leeds to the streets of Karbala, Iraq at a time of rising Islamophobia and the ’war on terror’.
The author offers a way of witnessing to Christ’s peace whilst entering into the faith of ‘the other’ with humility and love, allowing the way of Islam and the practice of Muslims to touch, challenge and inspire his Christian faith and feed his hunger for God. In so doing he offers us inspiration in finding our own ways to walk with confidence in Christ’s love amongst neighbours of many faiths and none.

Ray Gaston was in parish ministry in inner city Leeds for 12 years. He is now Inter Faith Studies Tutor and Enabler with The Queens Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education and The Birmingham District of the Methodist Church. He lives with his family in Sparkhill, Birmingham.

Praise for A Heart Broken Open

This book is deeply personal and moving … I recommend it as of real value at grassroots level where the real action lies. It counters Islamophobia on behalf of radical Christianity
Revd Dr Frank Whaling, emeritus Professor in Religious Studies, Edinburgh University

A tour de force of radical spirituality
Revd Donald Reeves, Director, Soul of Europe

Ray’s story is a profound and uplifting one … By acting as an agent of change and at the same time being open to change himself, Ray exemplifies a powerful alternative to the polarizing discourse which views difference as a threat
Salma Yaqoob, Chair, Birmingham Stop The War Coalition and Birmingham City Councillor. Leader of The Respect Party and Parliamentary Candidate for Hall Green, Birmingham

As Christians we need to be in the marginal, unexpected and controversial places so that our witness can be heard clearly and the heart put into our interfaith efforts. This is a book of love for God and our Muslim sisters and brothers; witness is the light shining from Ray's heart which has been opened so powerfully.
Julian Bond, Executive Director Christian-Muslim Forum

This book is a beautifully written spiritual adventure that will resonate with all those who are seekers of a spiritual path, and at the same time it is scholarly, courageous, honest and deeply earnest in asking the questions most will not ask and in sharing the journey of a heart seeking peace.
Firdaws Khan, Community Activist

Ray's journey alongside Muslims is an exhilarating read. It is a journey of vulnerability that risks the discovery of God beyond the confines of the church, is shaped by Christian worship and scriptural reflection, and is politically engaged. In short, it is a testimony of discipleship for our times.
Richard Sudworth, author of Distinctly Welcoming – Christian Presence in a Multi Faith Society

To see extracts of the book follow this link

A Heart Broken Open - Radical faith in an age of fear
Ray Gaston
ISBN 978 1 905010 61 5
Wild Goose Publications (
To arrange an interview with the author contact him direct on
To obtain a review copy of the book contact Lorna Rae Sutton on 0141 332 6292
or by email at

Friday, 5 March 2010

Challenge Islamophobia!

I haven't had a lot of time to blog recently but was spurred to post something about the dreadful C4 Dispatches programme this week. I've not got the time to post my own response but would like to highlight three critiques of the programme - one from ENGAGE an interesting site encouraging Muslim participation in politics and public life and the second is from former diplomat turned human rights and anti war activist Craig Murray.And the third from Inayat Bunglawala in Guardian CIF.

The irony is that in 2008 Dispatches were involved in producing a programme and a report to accompany the programme that criticised exactly the type of Islamophobic misrepresentation seen in the programme this week. Check out Muslims Under Seige and also a report published last month by the European Muslim Research Centre on Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Hate Crime to find out the truth.
It is our duty as Christians to challenge this rising tide of Islamophobia!