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On Saturday, 27 October Hallam Justice and Peace Commission hosted the Icon dedicated to Pax Christi International in recognition of Pax Christi’s work for peace and reconciliation in the Middle East.

  This sacred painting was made in the Monastery of St John in the Desert, near Jerusalem, and gifted to Pax Christi International in 1999.  The Icon represents Christ as the source of reconciliation, liberation and peace.  It is a most powerful resource and arrived in Hallam having been a part of the parallel programme at the recent Eucharistic Congress in Liverpool.

  The day began with a brief introduction highlighting the importance of icons in both the Eastern Christian and Orthodox traditions.

  During the morning we spent time reflecting on the images on the icon and listening to the stories of those depicted, focusing on the need for forgiveness and reconciliation within all human relationships, recognising that it is only through the pursuit of truth and justice that healing and peace-making becomes possible.  The use of simple repetitive chants contributed greatly to the contemplative atmosphere.

  The stories we heard were indeed challenging including: those martyred for their beliefs, others killed for refusing to take up arms, saintly men and women who offered their lives to prayer and good works, those on the margins who heard and then proclaimed the message of Jesus, brothers who were reconciled and those who were people of great faith.

  The lunch time proved useful for networking between those involved with justice and peace activities in parishes and deaneries.

  The afternoon began by praying together the prayer from the icon of peace cards.  We were then invited to gather in small groups, using stories from the icon as a stimulus to reflect on how, as people of faith, we can see possibilities for peace making and reconciliation – in ourselves, in our Church, in our society and in our world.

  Each group was asked to identify and note a sign of hope.  These were displayed at a short liturgy and blessing which brought the meaningful, yet challenging, day to a close.