Tribalism v Unity

I loved the blog post by DigitalNun on whether or not humanity is Descending into Tribalism Again? I felt like it hit the nail on the head.  We’re currently in a place where extremist rhetoric seems to be the norm in the Western world:

  • Trump’s daily hate and vitriol represents a uniquely toxic style of leadership to a Western democracy.
  • The rise of the extreme right in mainland Europe
  • The large protests in Paris turning into violence.
  • The ridiculous arguing and quarreling each day in and around Parliament over Brexit
  • The racism shared in various football stadiums around the country.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has called in the House of Lords on the need for reconciliation after a “week of deep division” over Brexit.  The Most Rev Justin Welby said it was “central to our future” as a country that the divisions were healed.

The Archbishop, speaking in the House of Lords, called on the Government to establish a “reconciliation unit” which would work across Whitehall departments and with humanitarian organisations and faith groups to bring people together.  He said:

“This has been a week of deep division, and reconciliation will be something that, although applied to foreign policy in this debate, must become central to our future in this country.

“I hold firm to the belief that we can create a society where mutual flourishing is possible, disagreeing well is central and respecting the difference is paramount.”

“Reconciliation is needed before, during and after conflict, preemptive reconciliation is essential.”

“I think it was Bill Shankly who said ‘I teach my lads to get their retaliation in first’; we need to learn to get our reconciliation in first.”

“Reconciliation happens from the top of society down, from the bottom of society up and from the middle of society out. It must include women, youth and minorities. If any group is left out, peace is not sustainable.”

“What is needed is a joined-up approach to reconciliation, straddling humanitarian, economic, social, ethic, cultural, political, spiritual and religious factors in which different departments of Government work together under the umbrella of a joint reconciliation unit.”

The Church of England bishops have issued an unusual joint statement, saying that they are praying for UK politicians and “national unity” following turbulence over Brexit:

In the light of this week’s turbulent events, the bishops of the Church of England pray for national unity – and courage, integrity and clarity for our politicians.

We call on the country to consider the nature of our public conversation. It is time to bring grace and generosity back to our national life.

At the heart of the Christian message is Jesus’ command to love our neighbour. This includes those with whom we agree and disagree – at home, in Europe, and further afield. We urge everyone – our political leaders and all of us – to bring magnanimity, respect and reconciliation to our national debate.

There is now an urgent need for the United Kingdom to recover a shared vision and identity to help us find a way through the immediate challenges.

Regardless of what happens next with Brexit, the Church of England, alongside many other churches and other agencies striving for the common good, will be at the heart of local communities; educating one million children, providing 33,000 social action projects and running 16,000 churches across the country. Above all else, we will continue to support the most vulnerable and share Christ’s love with all.

This is the Advent season. As we reflect and await Christmas in joyful anticipation, we have faith in Christ to show us all the way of hope.

Read this extraordinary letter to ISIS

tributes-paris-rex

If you want to read something about the Paris attacks‬ you MUST read this extraordinary letter to ISIS from young husband who lost his wife on Friday evening.

You can read the full translated post here:

“Friday night, you took an exceptional life – the love of my life, the mother of my son – but you will not have my hatred. I don’t know who you are and I don’t want to know, you are dead souls. If this God, for whom you kill blindly, made us in his image, every bullet in the body of my wife would have been one more wound in his heart.

So, no, I will not grant you the gift of my hatred. You’re asking for it, but responding to hatred with anger is falling victim to the same ignorance that has made you what you are. You want me to be scared, to view my countrymen with mistrust, to sacrifice my liberty for my security. You lost.

I saw her this morning. Finally, after nights and days of waiting. She was just as beautiful as when she left on Friday night, just as beautiful as when I fell hopelessly in love over 12 years ago. Of course I am devastated by this pain, I give you this little victory, but the pain will be short-lived. I know that she will be with us every day and that we will find ourselves again in this paradise of free love to which you have no access.

We are just two, my son and me, but we are stronger than all the armies in the world. I don’t have any more time to devote to you, I have to join Melvil who is waking up from his nap. He is barely 17-months-old. He will eat his meals as usual, and then we are going to play as usual, and for his whole life this little boy will threaten you by being happy and free. Because no, you will not have his hatred either.”

How to talk about Paris with young people?

Paris

The challenge for any youth worker is how do we talk with the young people about the shocking news of the terror attacks in Paris.

The Frontier Youth Trust through Ian Long and Pip Wilson have produced a brilliant Blob Paris – a free blob download for those working with children and young people:

Blob Paris

In the light of the shocking news about the terror attacks in Paris, this Blob sheet provides children and adults with an opportunity to discuss their feelings about the events. Here are a set of questions which can be used or adapted for your own situation.

With your partner, discuss what you can see

  • Which Blobs are experiencing fear?
  • Which Blobs are feeling angry? Why?
  • Which Blobs are on a mission?
  • Which Blob/s did you feel like about these murders?
  • Which Blob would you like to feel like?
  • Which Blob do you think God feels like?

Charlie Hebdo and Freedom of Speech

Charlie Hebdo pen protest

Following the awful attack on Charlie Hebdo, the Europa partnership of newspapers released the following statement:

“The attack on Charlie Hebdo on 7 January in Paris and the odious assassination of our colleagues, fierce defenders of freedom of expression, is not only an attack on the liberty of the press and liberty of opinion. It is an attack against the fundamental values of our European democratic societies.

Freedom to think and freedom to inform had already been targeted in recent months by the execution of other journalists.

Refusing to give in to threats after the publication, almost 10 years ago, of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad, Charlie Hebdo magazine had not changed its culture of irreverence one iota. Similarly, we European newspapers, regularly working together as part of the Europa group, continue to promote the values of liberty and independence. We continue to inform, to inquire, to interview, to comment, to publish – and to draw – about every subject that appears to us legitimate, in a spirit of openness, intellectual enrichment and democratic debate.

We owe it to our readers. We owe it to the memory of our assassinated colleagues. We owe it to Europe.”

Europa: Le Monde, the Guardian, Süddeutsche Zeitung, El Pais, la Stampa, Gazeta Wyborcza

In one sense I have real sympathy with their statement.  Freedom of speech is one of the key human rights.  Everyone, regardless of position, wealth, gender, race, religion etc. has the right to express themselves.  It is important that there is a freedom to challenge one another, to have different views.

I also want to be clear that being offended by satire does not in any way  justify the use of murder or violence.  But Freedom of speech has its limits.  In the United Kingdom the law prevents us from being racist, sexist, hateful, libellous or homophobic.  In addition we’re not allowed to disclose State secrets.  But even in the community we have limitations on our freedom of speech.  The golden rule of do unto others as you wish to be done unto you prevents us from deliberately attacking and provoking others in our community.

But isn’t that what Charlie Hebdo did in printing the cartoons about the prophet Muhammed.  The cartoonists of Charlie Hebdo had previously published a portrayal of Jesus as a contestant on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here, and Pope Benedict holding aloft a condom at Mass.  It is by definition a publication that likes to test the boundaries of taste, political and religious tolerance.

For me I would want to dwell on the concept that with great power comes great responsibility.  The challenge is that we don’t need to publish cartoons and articles for the sake of publishing them and equally we need to not just pick up guns and shoot people when we disagree with a drawing or comment they make.  We need to learn to be more adult like in our living together.

Currently we seem to be creating more extremists on both sides – the war on terror actually seems to lead to more terror.  Extremism leads to extremism.  Unless we change the way that we engage this situation will go on and on.  Already we’re seeing in the news more attacks against Muslims in the streets, mosques being damaged — proving true the very thing these extremist Muslims believe — that the West hates them.

We need to find a better way of challenge and disagreement.  We need to help our young people to lead us in a new direction.

Prayers for Paris

The Church of England have published some prayers that maybe helpful as we come to terms with the ongoing news coming from Paris:

Compassionate God and Father of all,
we are horrified at violence
in so many parts of the world.
It seems that none are safe, and some are terrified.

Hold back the hands that kill and maim;
turn around the hearts that hate.
Grant instead your strong Spirit of Peace –
peace that passes our understanding
but changes lives,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen

 

God of Hope,
we come to you in shock and grief and confusion of heart.
Help us to find peace in the knowledge
of your loving mercy to all your children,
and give us light to guide us out of our darkness
into the assurance of your love,
In Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen

 

Merciful God,
hear the cries of our grief,
for you know the anguish of our hearts.
It is beyond our understanding
and more than we can bear.

We pray that justice may be done
and that we may treasure the memory of their lives
more than the manner of their death.
For Christ’s sake.
Amen

Funny stories from around the world

Some more funny and random headlines from around the world: