The St. John Fisher Justice and Peace Group came into being in 1982 when a “road show” of speakers organised by the Diocesan J&P Commission came to the parish to stimulate enthusiasm. Around forty parishioners attended that first meeting resulting in three sub-groups being formed; a large number opted to work with local concerns; another big group expressed an interest in overseas development; and only three people chose to study and promote peace issues.
Sadly, within a short time the enthusiasm of the two larger groups dwindled and folded, with only the minority ‘peace group’ surviving. This tiny group managed to recruit one or two more members and so the first parish Justice and Peace Group was formed. The Cold War was at its height with much controversy about the nuclear “deterrent”. Our group was solidly in favour of unilateral disarmament - a view not universally shared within the parish; activities included taking part in Greenham Common campaigns of peaceful protest and joining with other Christian groups of various denominations in prayers for peace. The Dominican Order were often to be seen at Greenham celebrating Mass outside the gates for a large congregation from all over the country.
The aim of our J & P group was to raise awareness of both peace and justice issues among fellow parishioners and, in this context, controversial films were shown and speakers were invited to the parish to foster debate.
Matters of justice and compassion were also very prominent and Canon Acton supported the group’s suggestion to have a Cafod Box situated at the back of the church and he promised to match from parish funds whatever amount was contributed. This initiative has generated a great deal of cash for overseas development and crisis aid over the years, thanks to the generosity of the parish.
A successful peace poster competition was held (with the help of Sister Catherine) involving both St. John Fisher (then aged up to 9) and St Catherine’s (a middle school for 9 to 13) pupils. This generated a great deal of local media interest and the children’s wonderful artwork was featured as a double page spread in the local paper.
The membership of the J & P group has waxed and waned over the years, with a membership of eight or nine being the norm. In the mid 1990s the group was close to folding altogether when it was down to three members and so the Diocesan J & P Commission were invited to come back and help revive it. Following talks from the pulpit, new members were recruited and the group revived.
Interests include environmental concerns, prisoners of conscience and international trade justice. We endeavour to inform ourselves and to inform the parish on matters such as these. Among other things, we also organise an annual food collection for the homeless and needy and a peace vigil,. Recently, the group promoted the parish as a ‘Fairtrade’ parish, by a commitment to use only Fairtrade tea, coffee and sugar at parish events.
The group remained small but enthusiastic and new members were made welcome as they were interested in what is happening in our world and wanted to make a small contribution to promoting justice and peace. Many of these members can be seen on the 'Photos' pages and the few words which most of them contributed illustrate the variad aspects of Justice and Peace. many of the activities from 2003 to 2014 can be understood by looking at the archive of meeting notes available at "Notes from earlier meetings".
By the end of 2013 though, many of the group felt they were past their best at promoting current issues and decided to hand-on to new members if they could or to disband if they couldn't. So over the weekend of 25~26 October 2014 the Diocesan Commission,in the persons of Terry Brown, Rosa Shea and Mike McLoughlin, were again invited to come and speak at all Masses with a follow-up meeting on the evening of the 28th.
With several new members, the group continues to meet on the first Tuesday of each month. Recently they have studied "Laudato Si", reflecting the "Integrity of Creation" element of the Southwark parent group. Reflecting the Year of Mercy a monthly collection of foods and toiletries has been established supporting three local charities feeding the homeless and hungry. They also continue to support a Charity of the Year, see "Charity of the Year" page.
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