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/ 12 June 2012

Olympic Truce

Location: St Martin-in-the-Fields
Date: 20120612

“One person with peace in their hearts is able to convert the countryside for miles around” St Seraphim of Sarov

The ancient Olympic Games were like Wembley Stadium and Westminster Abbey rolled into one.

The sacred truce (or ekecheiria – the holding of hands) was believed to be policed by the god Zeus himself and protected travellers to the sacred territory of Elis for seven day period before and after the games.

The terms were somewhat limited and the ancient Greeks were notably pugnacious.

In the Biblical perspective the Judaeo-Christian understanding of peace embraced not merely the absence of violence but the presence of one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit. Galatians V: 22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love joy peace.”

The Holy Spirit converts an absence of violence into a love of wellbeing and a taste for life which is not incompatible with risk taking and competitive sport – the agon; the contest to which St Paul refers. As well as delivering us from the spiritual flatlands the peace which comes with the Holy Spirit should not be confused with carpet slippers at the end of the day. The Holy Spirit is the one who brings all created things to their proper ends and perfects the world. So the Holy Spirit fills us with an urgent desire for peace and human flourishing.

This has always been a feature of the Church’s life.

In the mediaeval West in the 10th and 11th centuries there was a Truce of God movement in the area of modern day France and Germany in an attempt to curb endemic warfare among local warlords. In some form it lasted for nearly three centuries.

In the modern world who could fail to be appalled by the events in Houla and in other parts of Syria but even in London too many young lives have been lost and blighted by violence on the streets. People of faith in the capital have a crucial role in cooperation with many other agencies to be agents of peace.

The ancient truce was proclaimed throughout Greece by three heralds. We shall need rather more – credible heralds to carry the message to every community in the streets of London. Today’s event brings hope that the truce will be proclaimed in every one of the four thousand churches of Greater London and in the mosques, synagogues, gurdwaras and temples of the capital.

About Richard Chartres

The Rt Revd Richard Chartres KCVO was the 132nd Bishop of London from November 1995 until March 2017.

Read more from Richard Chartres

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