Like many people, I watched yesterdays news and then followed the papers and radio this morning as they all reported the horrific events regarding the tragic murder of the fallen soldier in Woolwich, with horror and to a certain extent fear. I don`t mind admitting it, I was scared as to what this might unleash. Within minutes/hours Facebook and presumably other social media sites was flooded with such vitriol that I was almost ashamed to be British.
Words like scum, bastards, and other terms are incredibly emotive and its little wonder that they are used, but being British has always been about reasoned response not knee-jerk hatred; that’s why I`ve waited till today to write this, but I still write it with a heaviness in my heart.
When Alison and I lived in Oldham we lived amongst Muslim people, sent the children to a largely Muslim school and had Muslim friends. The Muslim community in that part of Oldham treated us with nothing but respect, help and friendship; indeed at times they treat us better than some so-called English Christians ! I well remember the day that the Muslim people insisted I wear my clerical shirt and my cross, because “you are a man of God”. They respected me and I will always be grateful for that.
I am also grateful for the Muslim community across this country who have condemned this attack and for the reminder that many Muslims have and still serve in our armed forces, serve in our hospitals, communities and even on a trivial level play for our football teams. Yes I do get concerned about the increase in Islamisation of our country BUT the challenge is to show Christianity as a more attractive way of life. Mob rule, sensationalism, lynch-mob mentality, and such like is not the way forward. Christians who are concerned about the rise in the Muslim world, need to follow Jesus in his way of life for that is a better witness to the world than condemnation of another religion (with whom we share our roots).
Sadly, organisations like BNP and EDL will hijack this atrocity for their own means ignoring the evidence that Christianity also has its extremists (look at the history of the Klu Klux Klan and Adolf Hitler who claimed to believe in Jesus) as does the secular world (look at murderers like Fred West and Harold Shipman). The danger does not come from religious beliefs but comes from fanatics who seek to use religion as a power base, for whom their view of a world is skewed by radicalisation and brings them to a point of scant regard for human dignity or life.
My understanding of the Q`uran and the Bible is that both speak of peace, love and respect for creation and humans, but there will always be those who select the parts that fit their own prejudices (look at those who will use the Bible to denounce homosexuality, living together, women in leadership etc). I don`t know how to reconcile much of what has happened with my understanding and I don`t know how those responsible will help our society to move forward on this, but I pray that in my life I will always be able to show love, compassion, help, support towards others for that is the teaching of my Lord Jesus and that is what He has shown me. I believe that to be the best response not the outpouring of hatred that some are showing.
Please hold the whole of this situation in prayer.