Jo Berry Explores Forgiveness in Context of Bombing that Killed Her Father

Newbold College and Church recently spent two weeks focusing on forgiveness. The featured speaker to end the Forgiveness Project was Jo Berry, whose father was killed in an IRA bombing in 1984. Berry now travels with the very person responsible for the bombing, speaking about forgiveness, reconciliation, and community healing.

To learn more about Berry’s powerful story and the the Forgiveness Project, see:


[THANK YOU to Helen Pearson and Victor Hulbert for publishing such important stories and making sure our community is aware of them!]

APF Statement Against Terrorist Attack in New Zealand (March 2019)

The Adventist Peace Fellowship denounces the hatred and terrorism unleashed this week on Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand. We stand against all violence and bloodshed, and all the more so when the victims are targeted because of their immigrant status and religious convictions. We stand against white supremacy and violent nationalism. We stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters, wishing to express our concern and solidarity.

In a dark hour such as this, what can one say? And more importantly, what can one do?

We—Adventist Christians who believe every human is created in the image of God—wish to speak a clear message opposing violence against people of other faiths, against anyone, to be sure. However, concrete responses are also needed. Such actions can be seen in New Zealand itself, for example when Prime Minister Ardern visited family members of victims, promising financial support and changes to gun laws. Although we recognize the hazards of advocating for change in foreign, sovereign countries, we can only hope that Adventists in New Zealand will support such efforts—these are the things we can do.

For those living outside of New Zealand, what can be done in our own countries and communities? What are we doing to reduce hate and increase respect? What kinds of sensible gun laws are we willing to support? How welcoming of immigrants are we? To what degree are we building relationships across religious boundaries?

In this time of great loss in New Zealand, may we be reminded to pursue peace and support freedom of religion in our own context. May the Creator God of the universe be near these grieving families, and may Adventists be near them in solidarity as well.

Adventists in Côte d’Ivoire Host Peace Summit Following Terrorist Attack

Five days after a jihadist attack at the seaside resort of Grand-Bassam, the National Forum of the Religious Confessions of Côte d’Ivoire hosted a peace summit on March 18, “calling for a unified response to violence carried out by Islamic extremists.” Representatives from many different faith backgrounds attended the summit, which was held at the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s West-Central African headquarters in the capital city of Abidjan.

The vice president of the National Islamic Council, Imam Mahamadou Dosso, read out a prepared statement that included:

No religion should lead somebody to kill his or her fellow beings. May God help us to overcome this evil.

Read the full story on the Adventist News Network.

Jackson Calls for Support of Refugees

Pastor Dan Jackson, president of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination in North America, has released a strong statement calling for the support of refugees -- Adventists Respond to the Call to Care for Refugees (Huffington Post, 9 Dec 2015). Jackson begins by declaring, "To close the door to refugees cannot be an option."

Further down in the article, Jackson shares what the Adventist Church is doing:

The Seventh-day Adventist Church is responding and meeting the needs of refugees. The Adventist Development and Relief Agency, the humanitarian arm of the church has collected more than 25 tons of relief supplies in Macedonia for Syrian refugees. Here in the United States, our church has an established ministry that assists refugees seeking a better life for their families. Our Refugee Ministries team is ready to assist Syrian and Iraqi refugees.

Jackson's message addresses both terrorism and refugees:

Make no mistake, the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America unequivocally condemns the terrorist actions of extremists that claimed innocent lives in Paris, Beirut, Iraq, Mali and other places around the world. We mourn with and pray for the families of all the victims of these senseless crimes against humanity.

Resorting to violence in the name of God or Allah is wrong.

But to deny innocent women, children, and men who are fleeing war, hunger, and disease refuge because of fear and prejudice is just as wrong.

To read the entire article on the Huffington Post, click here.

AR: Politicians or the Word of God?

Jarod Thomas has published a story in the Adventist Review that speaks to war in general and ISIS in particular--Courage to Set the Table (Nov 16). Thomas shares a striking sentence from his child's devotional: "Peace never comes through war." After recounting the story of Benhadad, Thomas turns to the present world:

It is not an easy thing to apply this story to our current predicament in the United States. With ISIS on the rise, and a multitude of refugees fleeing for stable countries, there is always concern that terror will creep in. But perhaps a greater concern is that politicians, jockeying for votes during a heated election cycle, are more influential in our thinking than the Word of God. When states in the “Bible Belt” begin closing their doors to some of the most needy and desperate people on the planet*—people who have nowhere else to turn—a greater crisis in the Western, Christian world begins to emerge. It is the grave concern of which Jesus warned us, stating that, “because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold (Matthew 24:12).” In the scope of eternity, the lack of Christ-like love in the heart of Jesus' professed followers is a greater problem than the threat of suicide bombers.

The entire article can be read here.

Sweeney Issues Statement on Cycle of Violence in the Middle East

On December 2, Ian Sweeney, president of Seventh-day Adventist Church in the UK & Ireland released the following statement about violence in Iraq and Syria.


2nd December 2015

The increasing levels of violence and numbers of displaced people resulting from atrocities in Iraq, Syria and other war torn parts of the world fill our hearts with sorrow. We stand in solidarity with those who have lost loved ones, livelihoods and homes. Our fervent prayers are with all those who suffer.

Today (2 December), the UK Parliament has voted for our armed forces to engage in air strikes in Syria. While there is full recognition that the issues surrounding the fight against terrorism are complex and nuanced, the Seventh-day Adventist Church is nevertheless committed to pursuing and exhibiting peace.

As a Church we express our grave concern about the ongoing violence in Syria which continues to bring loss of life, misery and suffering to innocent men, women and children and the displacement of some 3 million Syrians.

We call on all sides engaged in the Syrian conflict to cease military activities and resort to peaceful methods of resolving the conflict. It is our belief that dialogue and negotiations, however difficult, are preferable to violence and war.

While we understand that peace cannot be found in official statements, we will nevertheless seek to bring some measure of peace, wherever we can, to those whose lives have been touched by war.

The belief that violence should be repaid with violence is against our Christian biblical understanding and does not deliver the intended results. We endorse the sentiments of the late Dr Martin Luther King Jr when he said,

"The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."

SEE ALSO: 2003 Adventist World Church statement on the War in Iraq. Pray for Paris, Pray for France.

Adventists Offer Prayer and Support in Paris Tragedy (ANN)

The Adventist News Network, the official news service of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination, published the following story. The Seventh-day Adventist Church and its members worldwide offered prayers and support for Paris after a series of shootings and explosions killed scores of people.

France declared a state of emergency and closed its borders after at least 100 people were reported killed in a concert hall and others died attacks on restaurants and near a stadium on Friday night.

Mario Brito, president of the Adventist Church’s Inter-European Division, whose territory includes France, voiced “deep consternation” over the events in Paris. “We express our solidarity with all French people,” he said in an e-mailed statement.

The Inter-European Division noted in the same statement that twin suicide bombings killed at least 43 people two days earlier in Beirut, Lebanon, a possible indication that “terrorism is growing more and more uncontrollable.”

The statement says: “Human life is precious in God's eyes. When people turn away from God's directions and wisdom, they become a threat to the freedom of those who unfortunately cross paths with these agents of Satan.”

It was not immediately clear who was behind the attacks.

Ted N.C. Wilson, president of the Adventist world church, said that “our hearts go out to the people and families suffering in the tragedy unfolding in Paris.”

“Please pray for a return to safety and peace,” he said on his Facebook page, adding, “May dire situations like this awaken all to the need for God and His love to be supreme in our lives as we see prophetic events taking place which herald the Lord's soon return.”

Adventist believers around the world took to social media to express their sorrow and to lift up the people of Paris in prayer. The hashtag #PrayforParis was trending on social media.

“Prayer unites us in terrible moments!” the Newbold Church in Bracknell, Britain, said on Facebook. “Remember our friends and family in Paris. What a tragedy.”

The Adventist-owned college, located on the campus of the church’s Newbold College of Higher Education, posted a black-and-white photo of praying hands with the words, “Pray for Paris, pray for France!”

ADRA International, the church’s humanitarian and relief agency tweeted that “our prayers are in Paris tonight.” “Please join and pray for our brothers and sisters who are now victims, survivors, hostages, and their families,” it said.

“Let’s keep Paris and the families affected by the tragedies in prayer,” said the Allegheny East Conference, which oversees the work of 96 historically African-American churches with 31,000 members in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.

John Bradshaw, speaker and director of It Is Written television, said he was saddened but not surprised by the events.

“For me, one very sad thing about the terrible tragedy in Paris is that I'm not surprised it happened. And that neither are you,” he said, adding in French, “Dieu ait pitié,” or “God have mercy.”

Some church members expressed concern about what impact the attacks might have on migrants. Europe is grappling with its biggest migrant crisis since World War II as hundreds of thousands of people fleeing wars in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan seek to resettle on the continent.

“[I’m] devastated just thinking of the effects this will have on refugees already facing a terrible winter and more,” said Ashley Eisele, senior content manager for ADRA International.

Christopher Holland, speaker and director of It Is Written Canada, said the attacks offered a reminder that Jesus’ return was near. “The Paris situation reminds us that Satan is the ultimate terrorist, seeking whom he can destroy because he knows his time is short,” he said.

The Inter-European Division statement also focused on the hope of Jesus’ Second Coming. “We pray that the Lord may comfort those who are experiencing this unexpected and incomprehensible pain. We pray our Lord may strengthen the faith and hope of those who are waiting for His return to establish a new world where peace and mutual respect will reign for ever.”

A Christian Response to Terrorism (Burdette)

Matt Burdette originally wrote the following essay for the Interlocutors blog. Burdette is a graduate of La Sierra University, where he earned an undergraduate degree in religious studies and a Master of Arts in religion. He is currently a doctoral candidate in theology at the University of Aberdeen. A few days ago—before the attack on Paris—I wrote that there is no mythical demon prowling the world called “Terrorism,” which does not mean that there aren’t people who commit acts of terror. What I was denying was the reality that there is some “essence” of terrorism that, in its self-same identity, is instantiated in various places throughout the world. I stand by that denial, because I remain convinced of that we can only deal with the world honestly when we deal with things in their particularity; so, it is not that there is no connection between Al Qaeda and ISIS, but that clumping the two together as “the terrorists” obfuscates more than anything else. More than that, a war on “terrorism” is categorically endless, because, by identifying no particular object of war, those who wage the war can in principle never know when they have reached their objective. (For those who care for the just war tradition, that itself is a basic disqualifier.)

The point is to reject ideological thinking, and I am aware that the refusal to think about generalities can be just as ideological as the inability to think about particulars, and I hope to avoid that too. So, of course I was disturbed and saddened by the news of the attack in Paris on Friday, and of course I immediately wondered if ISIS was responsible. And since hearing that ISIS has claimed responsibility, I have been bracing myself for what seem to be the inevitable calls for war, and the ritual of liberal responses which attempt to differentiate Islam-the-faith from Islamist “extremism.” With France’s airstrikes on Sunday, and the explosion of articles over the whole weekend, my expectations were confirmed.

At least in this instance, I have no desire to challenge war as a response, nor do I intend to wholly reject the liberal response. What I do want to say is that those responses are of themselves not the Christian response. This can be but does not have to be competitive; a Christian response is what it is, and may find an ally or an opponent in other responses, and how this exactly looks shouldn’t be determined beforehand. I will say this about the liberal response: I generally think it is done in bad faith, not least because of the bipolarity of liberal attitudes about religious conviction generally, and the overwhelming ignorance about matters of faith that liberals expose in those attitudes. Their basic measure for what makes an “extremist” is that an extremist is a religious person who won’t accept the privatization of his or her faith when entering into the secular public square. By that measure, I and a host of other people are extremists. Additionally, I doubt very much that the deluge of liberal responders is in fact populated by people who know what they’re talking about. Most Christians that I know couldn’t explain Christianity, and even fewer nonbelievers have a decent handle on Christianity; liberals are generally liberal Christians or just secular, and if they are so ignorant of the dominant religion on the West, I have no interest in their opinions, positive or negative, about Islam.

Indeed, the entire ritual after such events can be summarized as getting across one point: Islam is peaceful, and Muslim people are not our enemies.

This isn’t wrong or right; it is useless. “Peace” is a concept that only operates within a particular logic, and so within the logic of each religion that religion is peaceful, having defined what peace in fact is. The meaning of peace is not self-evident. When people insist that Islam is peaceful, they mean that Islam accepts the definition of peace that the liberal nation-state intends; but this is patently false, just as it would be false to say that Christians or Jews accept that definition of peace. By secular standards, we “Abrahamic” faiths are not peaceful. As for Muslim people not being “our” enemies, an appropriate Christian response is first of all, “So what?” And then the second Christian response is, “And who is ‘our’ in that statement?”

Islam may or may not be the enemy of Christianity. It is meaningless to refer to practitioners. There are doubtless Muslim individuals who count themselves the enemy of Christians, and there are certainly Christians who are enemies to Muslim people. But the Christian has no investment in denying that a person or even a group is an enemy. It simply makes no difference. Those who follow Jesus are under obligation to love their neighbors, and to love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them. Christians do not deny that there are enemies, nor refuse to acknowledge that people hate them. So if there are a group of people claiming to be Muslim who are our enemies, Christians must still think creatively about how to love those people. For those who find this too demanding, there are a number of other lords to follow besides Jesus.

Christians must also come to call into question this notion of “our” having an enemy. It is not that Christians should not care when the nation has an enemy, but thinking through the right response has to involve a reframing of the problem. We may say, “Among the victims in Paris, some of our fellow Christians were killed. But it is France that has an enemy.” Nor is this a position of neutrality. The attack on Paris was evil, and there can be no equivocation about that. The point is that Christians cannot simply identify themselves with the state or nation. There are places in the world right now in which Muslim people are persecuting Christians; our response to those situations is not the same as our response to the attack on Paris, but this difference hinges on our insistence that we identify ourselves as Christians.

A Christian response to this is one that draws together the Christian community to act as a singular communal agent in the world to announce Christ’s reign and so his peace. The state will do what the state will do, and—not to be resigned—the church has little say in the matter. But the church may do what the church may do, and this doesn’t mean that we Christians are not implicated in the state’s actions. All this means is that we must act in the world as agents of Christ and his justice. This surely involves building relationships with Muslims, not because they are “not our enemies” or because our faiths are not all that different, but because we follow Jesus and because we must win them too to his peace. In this we do not fear death, nor do we avoid hatred. And acting in the world as Christ’s agent means also calling the nation to his justice. If the state is to go to war, the church must agitate for the war to be fought with some semblance of justice, and with a concrete end; indiscriminate air strikes and total destruction are unjust, no matter how justifiable the anger and hurt. The church must agitate to welcome refugees of war, and the church must ready itself for the hospitality that it demand. We must say to the state, “Let us welcome them.” Anything less is just sentimental talk.

Killing in the Name

Jeff Carlson, associate pastor of the Fletcher Seventh-day Adventist Church in Hendersonville, NC, wrote the following reflection on the recent violence in Paris, France. The god in who's name people are dying in Paris tonight is not Allah, though they mistakenly use that name to describe him.

He is actually the same god in who's name the KKK and other American Christian white supremacists killed their victims. And though they invoked the name, Jesus, to describe that god, that is also not his name.

He is the same god who demanded the blood of Jews at the hands of Russians, Germans, Polish and every other European Christian who stretched out their hand against the "Christ killers" in the name of Christ. Though Christ is also not his name.

He demanded the blood of Protestants at the hands of Catholics; Protestants at the hands of other Protestants; teenage girls called witches at the hands of those who themselves had fled the death-grip of that god on their life in a distant land. Though they all did so in the name of the Trinity, this is not a three-part god. He is one.

His voice has been heeded by secularists of the guillotine; He received the blood sacrifice from the hands of Communists, and Nazis, and Fascists, though he transcends them all.

He held out his hands in the guise of Molech and the people of the ancient world sacrificed their own children to him. That, also, is not his name.

He is not the ancient serpent, or the devil, or Satan or any other name by which he is called.

He is religion; he is secularism; he is totalitarian; he is democratic freedom.

His name is "me." But he never uses that name. He always speaks of "them." And the moment I hear his voice I am least likely to know it is his voice calling for blood. Because he whispers simply that if "they" were gone, "I" would be better, or holier, or righter, or safer.

I heard his voice tonight as the news flowed out of Paris. And I heard his voice whisper in my own soul when I thought "they should just throw all the muslims out of Paris."

If Satan ceased to exist; if all religion, or beliefs of non-religion, political philosophy were erased; if all nationalistic belief was extricated from the human soul and we were left in the state of no beliefs what-so-ever fulfilling the dreams of John Lennon this god would still call out for blood.

His voice transcends all beliefs and time because so do we. And his voice is much too absurd and demanding that we would never listen to him, until we do.

May we hear the one alternate voice tonight. The one that called out on the cross "father forgive them they know not what they do." The voice that calls not for the blood of the "other" for the imagined gain of the "I" but would rather see the blood of "me" flow for the hoped gain of the "other."