Clare Martin reflects on the history of St Ethelburga’s Bedouin peace tent, symbolising compassion amid conflict, and shares prayers for peace.

Many people know the story of the IRA bomb that destroyed the mediaeval church from whose ashes our building was reborn. Less well known is the story of how, when workmen and volunteers first broke ground on the construction of our Bedouin tent, they heard a loud explosion. They ran outside to see what had happened. They learned a bomb had gone off on a tube train near Liverpool Street. This was the 7/7 bombing that killed 52 people and injured 700 more. The workmen ran to the scene to help however they could. They came back late in the day to pick up their tools and resume building the foundations of the Tent of Peace.

I’ve often thought of those workmen, and how they wove their own compassion as an essential ingredient into the tent’s construction. As surely as they raised the frame and roped the goat hair roof in place, they threaded through some quality of moral grandeur – how, without a second thought, they ran towards the danger to help those most in need.

Over the years, the tent has hosted many gatherings, often with people who are in fierce conflict with one another, the atmosphere charged with trauma, and yet also shot through with some crazy kind of tenderness that holds out hope for renewal even in spite of what’s broken. Recently, the tent has lived up to its purpose again, as many in our community have come together to bring their hearts in prayer to the anguishing events in Israel/Gaza. It’s hard to find the words to respond to what’s happening there. Sometimes, when words fail, prayer is a place to start.

At St Ethelburga’s we are heartbroken by the tragic events unfolding in the Israel/Hamas war. We pray for peace in the region, for the safe return of the Israeli hostages, and for the urgent transport of humanitarian aid into Gaza. We pray that world leaders bring pressure to bear to avert the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in the region. And we appeal for civility here in the UK and across the West, among those who may find themselves on opposite sides of this conflict.

You are warmly welcome to join us in prayer, either at our next Soul Space online or at our Contemplative Practice gathering.

Clare Martin


Clare is Co-Director of St Ethelburga’s. Previously Development Director, Clare created and led on the Radical Resilience programme and went on to be the strategic lead on our viewpoint diversity work, before stepping up to co-lead the centre alongside Tarot Couzyn. She brings more than 20 years’ experience facilitating groups for the sake of inner enquiry and outer change, and is interested in how contemplative practices can play a role in cultural repair. She has has worked on numerous interfaith projects, most notably for Nisa Nashim, the Jewish Muslim Women’s Network. Prior to this, Clare worked as a communications consultant in the corporate and charitable sector. Currently she runs a community garden on her Hackney housing estate, where she lives with her husband and 9-year old daughter. Raised a Christian, Clare has also studied Buddhism and Sufism. You can read her thoughts on the role of visionary imagination in resilience building here, and here is a short piece about contemplation as an antidote to conflict.