Almost every day breaks to news of another act of violence under the headline of ‘terrorism’. The murder of a French priest in the midst of celebrating Mass raises the level of anxiety in Europe to another level. In the UK the police have sent an email to churches with
Author Archives: Dwight Swanson
I have been trying to understand what it is like to be a member of a minority faith in relation to the majority faith. Here Christians are a double minority—both among Jews and Muslims. Muslims are the majority in the Palestinian context, they in turn are the minority in the Israeli context (about 30%). By comparison, the Muslim population of the UK is reported to be about 4%. What one feels keenly as a small minority is the barriers that communities raise between each other.
In this, my last blog from Jerusalem, I consider the walls that are built by the various communities. The most obvious wall here, impossible to ignore, is the barrier built by the Israelis between Israel and the Palestinian Territories, but there are other walls, or barriers, that are not as visible or easily detectable, and which are just as impermeable.
The Damascus Gate continues to weigh heavily on my mind, as it has remained regularly in the news. In the past week there have been four more incidents. In two cases the attackers were shot dead; in the others a young woman and a young man were arrested.
In two weeks, six attacks, six dead, at the end of the very street where my church is located.
These, however, were only part of the almost daily incidents taking place in the West Bank. I call them incidents because they are hard to label. Some may involve armed men with clear intent to kill many people. Others seem opportunistic and random, such as driving cars into pedestrians. So many, however, are young people with common kitchen knives lashing out at highly armed police and soldiers.
For most Christians the mental map of Israel is that of the time of Christ. Those who come on pilgrimage, or as part of studies, tend to look at the experience with that biblical map in mind as the focus is on the places where Jesus walked, or where Old Testament events took place.
Orthodox believers move from church to church. It is possible to spend two weeks in Israel and live altogether in the past. For others the present reality will come as a shock—sprawling cities, traffic jams, and fast-food jostle alongside holy places crowded with the thousands of pilgrims all seeking the connection with the ancient stories and events.
Events have re-written my mental maps over the years.
The theme of this conference was decided upon some two years ago, in the early days of setting out the goals and activities of the MCSCI. Since then we have seen the sudden onset of ‘ISIS/Daesh’ into the ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Syria, the kidnapping of hundreds of school girls by Boko Haram in Nigeria, deadly attacks in Paris and San Bernadino, and the migration of hundreds of thousands of refugees from the Middle East into Europe. The responses to these events range from more Western bombing of Syria and Iraq and fear of all Muslims as potential terrorists to a welcome reception of refugees and protection of mosques from attack. The topic for our discussion could not have been more timely.
Dr Dwight Swanson reviews the recent conference in the first of his regular blog posts.
With the Paris attacks, the San Bernadino shootings, and the stabbing in the London underground, terror has taken to the streets of Western cities. The European response is an intensified bombing campaign in Syria. In the US Donald Trump has dominated reaction, with remarkable interventions by prominent dynastic Christian leaders
The shock of the terrorist attack in the centre of Paris has reverberated across the Western world. We grieve at sudden death of innocent people; we are angry at those who brought violence and bloodshed into the midst of our ordinary lives; we suddenly feel horribly vulnerable to the same