I have been powerfully impacted by so much that has happened over the last week, the Three Girls programmes about child sexual exploitation on the TV and then the Manchester terrorist attack. Muslims are in the heart of both and some Christians have been speaking out against Muslims, telling them to put their house in order.
I have asked myself the question, how does Living Faith apply in this situation?
Firstly, I think that all communities need to look at themselves and get their own house in order before telling others what to do, as Jesus said in the sermon on the Mount.
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Secondly, I believe we need to work together with others, listen to their perspective and seek to find solutions together rather than pointing the finger and making generalisations.
In Luton, this is happening around CSE. Christian and Muslim faith leaders are together seeking to raise awareness of the issues of CSE, working with the authorities and training people to spot the signs of exploitation and grooming. Recently we hosted a training evening with over 50 leaders from different faith backgrounds, including many Imams. I know Muslims are as horrified by CSE as Christians, I also know it is not an issue only within the Muslim community. More information can be found on www.faces.org.uk.
There are other initiatives we are associated with allowing Christians and Muslims to work together, breaking down fear barriers and hearing each other. E.g. Several Syrian refugee’s families live in Dunstable. Recently eggs were thrown at their homes and one of their children was severely beaten by white youths in what police are calling a hate crime. Nigel Taylor, leader of Hope Church South Beds visited to offer support to the families. Obviously, the families were frightened, he tried to assure them that not all white people felt the same and invited them all to a BBQ hosted by the church. It was a tremendous evening, appreciated by members of both communities. Further joint ventures are planned, some people from our church are also involved in this.
Our youth group is starting to meet regularly with other youth in the town from different backgrounds, mostly Muslims but also some Polish Catholics. They play games together as well as talk about their faith and what it means for them. Again, fears are faced and people are listened to.
But what to make of Manchester?
As David Aaronovitch said in the Times,
Muslim community leaders were deafening in their “speaking out” after Manchester, so I don’t think we need to be lectured again about that.
This is true in Luton as well as nationally. I know that it is heartfelt too. I also know that many Asians, not just Muslims but Christian Asians too, are fearful of physical and verbal abuse in retaliation from white people after Manchester. Whether this is a valid fear or not, we need to listen and stand with them, not allowing fear to win.
Many will have an Asian neighbour or work colleague, ask them about their fears, listen to them.
I have also pondered why did he it? My wife and I talked about it, we didn’t really come up with a definitive answer. I then read an article by Daniel Finkelstein in the Times where he asked the same question, and being cleverer than me he had an answer, which I found convincing.
He said that terrorists engage in acts of terrorism because they think they might work. And they’re right. Terrorism is evil and nauseating but not senseless……… terrorists think their cause is so great that they don’t mind what happens to them; some hope to get away with it somehow, and others think death’s finality is overstated…. They do what they do because they think their death is worth it. And they are sure that the death or others – even Manchester’s innocent children – are worth it.
He therefore concludes that, as long as terrorist attacks appear to advance a cause, publicise political aims and win tactical victories, they multiply. When they are resisted for long enough, they fizzle out. The examples of the IRA bombing campaign for a united Ireland and ETA’s campaign for an independent Basque state are amongst the examples given to prove the point.
How should we therefore respond? Not by discriminating against Muslims as a group, not by seeking to find root causes (e.g. why did the person feel oppressed and excluded). The only line of defence is resistance and defiance until they stop is all that we have.
Let us resist terrorism, do all we can to stop attacks, whilst recognising they cannot be stopped completely. Let us not play into the hands of terrorists, rather show them that it doesn’t work. Let us do that together as Christians and Muslims and people of no faith.
This is Living Faith.
Written by Tony Thompson