View Full Version : Outcry as songs are re-written for anti-Israel carol concert at famous church

11-25-2008, 11:15 PM
A revised opening verse of While Shepherds Watched goes:

‘While shepherds watched their flocks by night, All seated on the ground, Some occupying soldiers came and bulldozed all around.’

Organisers of a Christmas carol concert being held in a famous church have been condemned for rewriting traditional verses to attack Israel.Far from bringing tidings of comfort and joy, the participants will instead sing about ‘war crimes’, ‘assassinations’ and the ‘oppression’ of Palestinians.

The concert, which has been organised by anti-Israeli campaigners, is due to take place on Wednesday at St James’s, Piccadilly, a Christopher Wren-designed church in Central London.Its critics include the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord Carey, who said that the rewriting of much-loved traditional carols for such partisan political purposes was deeply offensive.

The reworked carols include favourites such as O Come All Ye Faithful, O Little Town Of Bethlehem, The Holly And The Ivy and Hark The Herald Angels Sing.Even The Twelve Days Of Christmas gets the treatment.

The event, called Bethlehem Now: Nine Alternative Lessons And Carols For Palestine, has been organised by Jews For Boycotting Israeli Goods, a group of secular British Jews opposed to Israeli policies. It has been approved by the rector of St James’s, the Rev Charles Hedley, who said he thought that Christmas was a good time for Jews and Christians to co-operate in a bid to ‘address the need for peace and reconciliation’.

Bruce Kent, a former Roman Catholic priest and prominent peace campaigner who will read one of the lessons, said: ‘I think it is perfectly reasonable for carols to be rewritten in this way. ‘I am fed up with sugary religion – the baby Jesus sitting in his stable and all that stuff.

’Lord Carey, who has been deeply involved in peace efforts in the Middle East, said: ‘It’s a shame to see a famous London church lay on such a one-sided political demonstration. There are many reasonable concerns about both Israeli and Palestinian policies and actions, but a stunt of this nature is just unhelpful.

‘Many British people have a great affection for Christmas carols and will be offended that they’re being used in such an overtly political way.’

David Gifford, the chief executive of the Council of Christians and Jews, which was set up to improve relations between the faiths, dismissed the exercise as ‘puerile’. He added: ‘This is the blatant politicising of the Christian festival of Christmas, and that in itself is offensive to many Christians.’