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Bishops' anti war Christmas message

PUBLISHED: 11:21 24 December 2002 | UPDATED: 13:14 03 March 2010

SUFFOLK'S senior bishop is one of seven "turbulent priests" who are making life uncomfortable for the government this Christmas.

Rt Rev Richard Lewis, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich is one of seven senior churchmen who told a survey that he is unconditionally opposed to war in Iraq.

SUFFOLK'S senior bishop is one of seven "turbulent priests" who are making life uncomfortable for the government this Christmas.

Rt Rev Richard Lewis, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich is one of seven senior churchmen who told a survey that he is unconditionally opposed to war in Iraq.

All 44 senior Church of England bishops were asked their views on a war against Iraq. 34 responded to the survey.

Of those, 25 – including the new Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams – said it could only be justified if there was a clear United Nations mandate.

Bishop Lewis was joined in his total opposition to war by, among others, the Bishop of Manchester Rt Rev Steven Lowe and the Bishop of Coventry Rt Rev Colin Bennetts.

In his Christmas message to the diocese this year, Bishop Lewis urges world leaders to resist the temptation of a knee-jerk reaction to the fear of world terrorism.

He said the world still has lessons to learn from the September 11th attack on America.

"There are two ways to react to such an attack," said the bishop.

"One is just to hit back and, for many, Iraq is a good target at the moment – if certain political leaders can think of enough reasons for it to happen in the New Year.

"The other is to reflect on what triggered such a desperate act. The grievances felt by those involved must have been heartfelt whether or not we agree with them.

"Across the globe this year, we have become increasingly aware of a growing feeling of the need for revenge against those we feel are oppressing us.

"The question for all of us is whether we give in to that knee-jerk need for revenge and respond in that sort of way or whether we address the essential questions of justice and peace that underlie that need.

"There has been a lot of learning and people have read the warning signs particularly between different religions and different ethnic groups.

"We must not let a desire for revenge affect our relations. We need to continue to affirm each other and that is the real lesson to be learned from September 11th 2001 that we can take into 2003."

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