A MESSAGE of peace with justice for the peoples of Israel and Palestine was given in a special service at Stirling Methodist Church on Sunday.

The service, led by lay preacher David Rogerson, marked the anniversary of the Declaration by Lord Balfour in November 1917. The congregation included Stirling MP, Stephen Kerr, local Councillors Ross Oxburgh and Alasdair Tollemache, and Azam Haider from the Stirling Islamic Centre.

A Jewish participant, Deborah Maccoby, was invited but was unable to attend.

Ruth Cape shared her personal experience cycling from the UK to Palestine and Israel and, through her Cycle 48 initiative, visiting the sites of seven former Palestinian towns and villages. Ruth spoke movingly of stories shared by Jewish, Christian and Moslem people who were working to build peace between these communities through genuine understanding of the wrongs of the past and present.

Two years ago, when she cycled to Bethlehem, Ruth had taken a Peace Candle as a gift from Stirling Methodist Church to Palestinian Christian Daoud Nassar, leader of the Tent of Nations, an international and multi-faith initiative set in the hills above Bethlehem. Tent of Nations has the motto, engraved in rock at its entrance: “We Refuse to be Enemies”. At the end of the service, she returned the gesture, presenting a peace candle from the Friends of Tent of Nations, which she now represents, to Stirling MP Stephen Kerr.

Ruth Cape said: “Tent of Nations is worthy of all our support. You can follow up at www.foton.org.uk and read about my journey at www.weefootprints.wordpress.com “

Stephen praised Ruth’s work and undertook to take up the cause of Tent of Nations if necessary with the Israeli authorities as Tent of Nations has faced sustained challenges from the military authorities and Supreme Court.

Separately, Stephen confirmed his support for the Balfour Centenary Declaration. The new Declaration, which has gathered support across the political spectrum, acknowledges that the promise made one hundred years ago to protect the rights of both Palestinians and Jews has still to be fulfilled and states: ‘The centenary of the Balfour Declaration is the time to reconcile peace with justice for both Israelis and Palestinians, consistent with the principle Britain claims as her own: equal rights for all under the law.’ Information about the new Declaration is available at www.balfourproject.org

Stephen Kerr said: “The stories Ruth has shared and the work for peace and justice being done by Tent of Nations are an inspiration. Now is the time to put these principles into practice and build a secure future for both the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.”

Azam Haider shared stories from the earliest days of Islam of respect and mutual support across all three religious traditions, Jewish, Christian and Moslem and in particular of the support and safe harbour which the Christian King of Abyssinia gave to early Moslems.