Differences

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My friend the imam was discouraged. We were sitting in his office next to the prayer hall. There was a weariness about him. True, this was just after the month of Ramadan and his whole sleep pattern had been disrupted, not only by the change in eating times but also leading extra prayer times at night in the mosque. But that wasn’t it. “Some people,” he said, “Some of our people are so extreme. They refuse to be flexible.”

Just over the road from his mosque, a new mosque had opened in what had been a commercial building. It was run by a group which follows a different brand of Islam to my imam friend. “You know, the holy month of Ramadan starts and finishes with the new moon. We say it starts at the time of the birth of the new moon whether it is seen or not. They say it must be seen or there is no new moon. It confuses people. We should be flexible and work together to make harmony, but no, these inflexible people they love to pass judgement if we do not follow their way. We are willing to discuss and find a way, but they just want to be right and despise everyone else. It is so discouraging.”

How does a Christian respond to such a disclosure? Probably the most natural response from a British Christian would be something like “I know what you mean! You would not believe the arguments there used to be over the date of Easter! And even now it keeps shifting about.” Or “Yes, we have some very unreasonable people too!” Let’s pause at this point. Why do we tend to respond that way?

I think it is part of our approach to politeness to try and find some middle ground to meet on. We seek to express sympathy and demonstrate that we face similar things. We try and build the relationship on the space between us, as it were. However, I have noticed that when the roles are reversed my friends of Asian heritage do not respond the same way. If I express some dissatisfaction with some Christians, they very rarely respond by expressing dissatisfaction about fellow Muslims. They don’t try to find some kind of middle ground in which to share a grievance.

So I listened carefully and asked him to explain it to me. When I commented that it was more about the foolishness and stubbornness of human hearts, the way pride gets in even when people say they are worshipping God. What we need is grace and mercy. The conversation moved on and he told me the problem they had with people making donations and wanting their generosity published. He said that it seemed to be particularly a problem here, and that he had not encountered it in other parts of the UK. I told him what Jesus had said about that in Matthew 6:3 and explained about Jesus saying that those who gave to be seen by others got no reward except the approval of people, but when we give in such a way that God alone knows then he rewards us. He nodded.

Eventually the conversation moved on and he asked about whether it was true as some people said that the Bible had been changed. I gave him an answer along the lines that it had not been changed, that as it happens, the Qur’an affirms the Bible and that the Islamic scholars who said otherwise were following a teaching that developed four hundred years after the rise of Islam. He seemed happy with this. 

We talked about our families, asylum seekers and various other things, but it was coming round to the next prayer time. The prayer hall was filling up. I got ready to leave. He thanked me for coming and said how much he enjoyed talking to me. He was looking a bit brighter by this point. 

Making the most of Ramadan!?

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Last night I shared in my first Iftar meal this year. A small group of us joined a community of Muslims who we have got to know well, in their centre, not a Mosque, where they prayed and we ate. It was a most enjoyable evening with friends talking about our experiences of fasting – its pains and joys. And the meal – well, what can I say, lots of food, starting with a date and a cup of water. Lots of stories, and then they asked us about Easter – what does it mean for you? How do you celebrate it – food – of course! I could talk about breaking my fast on Easter as I re-engage with my addictions – tea, coffee, alcohol and cheese – making Easter day such a special day in so many ways. At one point before the meal one of our friends recited the Adhan – the call to prayer, before inviting us to say a prayer of blessing for the food. And then we ate – for us just another meal but for our Muslim friends it was so much more, and carried real significance. Having eaten, they went in small groups into the next room to pray.

It truly was a special evening as we, people of faith, shared our experiences. For the Christians it provided an opportunity to recount the events of Holy Week, as we were asked questions about the significance of these events for us. For me it was a reminder of just how important the celebration of Easter is for Christians, that Christianity stands or fall on the resurrection of Jesus. But, also, how difficult it is to talk with people whose world view is so alien to our understanding of the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Building Relationships of Years
This group has been meeting for a few years and at some point in the each meeting we’ve had the opportunity to share the ‘Good News’ – they have heard it often, but always come back to ask for more. And what brings them back to ask the questions is the relationship that has been built over years. We ended the evening by asking when we should meet again – next month, and then they suggested, ‘It’s near your festival of Pentecost – why don’t you tell us about Pentecost and the Holy Spirit?’ ‘It would be a privilege’. And indeed, it will.

Ramadan is a wonderful opportunity to get alongside our Muslim neighbours, to make friends with them and grow in our understanding of them, which will give opportunity for them to ask us about our faith. They will ask the questions about our faith, when the relationships are established, when they have confidence in us, and they trust us, which inevitably takes time. Ramadan is a time of heighten spirituality, when talking about faith is natural, when questions become a way into lives and worldviews, that are so different to ours. ‘What’s it like fasting?’ ‘How does it feel?’ Even ‘why do you fast and what difference does it make?’ And many other questions.

Let’s make friends with our Muslim neighbours and opportunities to share the good news in the Easter story will inevitably come, quite naturally – Ramadan gives us wonderful opportunities.
Phil Rawlings

Love – in the poems of Hafiz

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Ḵᵛāja Šams-al-Din Moḥammad Širāzi (b. Shiraz ca. 715/1315; d. Shiraz ca. 792/1390) is one of the greatest poets of Persia with perhaps a more profound effect on Persian life and culture in general than any other, not excepting such great figures as Ferdowsi, Saʿdi, and Rumi. Hafiz had memorized the whole Qur’an, which can be seen in his poetry. investigation

In this article, we briefly pay attention to some aspects of love in Hafiz’s ‘Divan’, from the perspective of truth and permissibility, and their relationship with human and divine love.

Hafiz’s poetry is still relevant centuries after it was written; perhaps this is because of his focus on the concept of love.  we can say with courage that this Muslim poet’s worldview was love, though undoubtedly, he is not the first person to deal with the concept of love. Indeed, it is narrated in a hadith from the Prophet of Islam that: ‘One who falls in love and stays chaste and hides his love and then dies. He is a martyr.’ (Rūzbehān,1987, p142)

In Hafiz’s poetry however, love oscillates between virtual (human) love and divine love.

For example, here, the Sufi poet mentions an earthly concept of love: “If that Turkish One of Shiraz would take this heart in hand, for that One’s Hinduish mole l’d barter Bokhara, Samarkand.”(Smith, 2016, Gazals No: 8) In this poem, he talks about his love for a woman, and that for this love he is willing to donate two of the most important cities of his time.

Elsewhere he looks at love from a divine perspective: ‘From that one manifestation in the mirror of your face’s beauty, all this various imagination that is a mirror of mind’s design, fails’. (Smith, 2016, Gazals No: 179)

In this poem, Hafiz says that as soon as ‘God’s beauty was reflected in the mirror of the human heart, everyone creates an image of it in his mind’. From these images, various thoughts about religions emerge. It is as if Hafiz accepts that differences in religions are natural and should be tolerated by human beings.

Regarding Hafiz, it can be said that although he has dealt with human love, in fact, his attention to human love is for him to show us the love of God. An ascetic may consider human love as a trap from the devil; unable to imagine how avoiding human love actually distances them from the loving God. In one of his poems, Hafiz speaks of a kind of pure mysticism, but he narrates it using love, beauty and manifestation.

He says: ‘In Eternity beyond time, Your radiant beauty, glorification struck; then love revealed itself and with its fire all of the creation struck’ (Smith, 2016, Gazals No: 186).

He shows that love is an advantage that distinguishes humanity from the rest of the universe. From this perspective, the beauty of God comes from His manifestation. It is from this beauty that love is found in the world. The relationship between love and beauty in this poem by Hafiz connects the human aspect of beauty with the divine aspect of love.

In one of his most famous poems, Hafiz says that love can seem easy in the beginning, but it can create some problems later: ‘Hey Winebringer, circulate, offer the cup this way; for love at first seemed easy, now problems come to stay’.(Smith, 2016, Gazals No: 1)

In this poem, it is as if the poet wants to forget the hardships caused by love with the help of wine. But if the same butler represents a person who connects him with the world of mysticism, does not asking for wine from him mean that he seeks help from a butler or liaison with the world of mysticism to ward off the hardships of love? So, if his love is also mystical, it seems that the poet seeks treatment from someone who has been involved in his falling into love problems. The gazal really represents a romantic world that has its own complexities.

In this article, we have briefly showed how the concept of love in Hafiz’s poetry moves between human and divine love, and we also showed that this movement is more towards divine love in his poetry.

F Yasini

List of References

https://iranicaonline.org/articles/hafez

 Zarrinkoob, Abdolhossein. )1985). “Az Kuche-ye Rendan”. Tehran. p179 -189.

Khorramshahi, B. (2000).”Discourses on the culture-inspiring aspects of the Holy Qur’an”. Tehran. p101.

Smith, Paul. (2016). “Divan of Hafiz”, Gazals No: 85 (Love will hear your heart cry out and will come to you, if like Hafiz your heart knows the Koran completely, fourteen versions as well).

Baqlī Šīrāzī, Rūzbehān. (1987) “Le Jasmin des Fidèles d’amour (Ketāb ʿabhar al-ʿāšeqīn)”, published with two introductions and a translation of the first chapter by Henry Corbin and Moḥammad Moʿīn . Tehran and Paris. p142.

What’s That Flag?

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Photo by K Knight. A lamp post in the north of England.

What have UK Christians got in common with UEFA and the International Olympic Committee? The Palestinian flag is increasingly visible in Britain today: whether on the football pitch, in news coverage of public protests, or simply in the possession of a local neighbour. Why is this? And how might it also affect you?

The complex issues of identity and religion, influence and ignorance are as old as the hills, yet they repeatedly find fresh expression in a new audience and context. Living online has become an international phenomenon by necessity during Covid lockdowns – overcoming some divisions but exacerbating others.

Recent mosque sermons, easily available on social media, have addressed the subject of Palestine, as violent events in Jerusalem escalated across the region. In Islam, Al-Aqsa is the third holiest site, believed to be the location of the Muslim Prophet’s Night Journey of Qur’an 17:1. One popular preacher, with hundreds of thousands of viewers, urged all Muslims around the world to support their brothers in defending the mosque from Israeli forces and from “illegal evacuation of the Palestinians”. Citing the 178 injured and 88 hospitalised worshippers when the mosque was stormed on the final Friday prayers of Ramadan 2021, listeners heard of the rubber bullets, tear gas and bomb shells used and were invited to pray that Allah “will teach the enemies of Islam a lesson”.

A contrasting Eid message from Cambridge, which to date has reached an audience of nearly 180,000, also implored a response, but “not [of] vengefulness, not of exclusion against another exclusion.” It highlighted the terrible financial inequalities in the world; teaching, “the Sunnah position is that the poor come first; give, give, give”. Recalling the pleasure of his personal visit to Al-Aqsa, the preacher revelled in “the glory of that place that comes as a crown to the city”; and looked forward to a day when the Holy Land would be free – “Jew, Christian, Muslim, equal – able to live wherever they wish, no discrimination”.

The connection, for our Muslim neighbours, with the people and the place is clear and present. They then have to consider how to respond to the calls to support and give; perhaps by waving a Palestinian flag. At first, this might appear an unfamiliar response to UK Christians, but is it?

I wonder how many people in the UK would be able to locate Israel on a map; yet British society’s awareness is nurtured through annual traditions such as nativity plays, and for Christians, it is the setting of most of the Bible. There are Zionist theological positions which foster Christian support for the current Jewish citizens of Israel; and historic atrocities which inspire Christian sympathy for the Jews. To what extent would your life be perceived by some to be flying an Israeli flag?  Christian support for Palestinians is also evident, for example in the liturgy of Christian Aid’s ‘World Week for Peace in Palestine and Israel vigil’ or organisations like Sebeel – Kairos; often these differing Christian perspectives reflect a level of association with evangelicalism.

So ‘What’s that flag’ mean to you? Does the sight of someone with a Palestinian flag attract or alienate you? Is your reaction a gospel bridge or barrier? God directed Samuel to look beyond the outward appearance, to the heart (1 Sam 16:7). Jesus the anointed Messiah is calling people into His spiritual Kingdom; into His family from every tongue, tribe and nation.  Do your actions raise a banner which says to others ‘Thy Kingdom come’?

Good news for “the righteous”?

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We are very used to thinking of Jesus as the friend of sinners. He famously ate with tax collectors, prostitutes and others of bad reputation. In the parable of the Pharisee and the Publican, it is the righteous-in-the-eyes-of the world man who misses out while the sinner is made right with God. In the parable of the prodigal son, it is the irresponsible son who gets the hug and the party; the dutiful, never-a-foot-wrong son finds himself outside and grumbling. And didn’t Jesus say he had come not for the righteous but to call sinners to repentance?

Among our Muslim communities, there are plenty of sinners. I am talking about the people who know they are lost, outside the pale, the backslidden, the hopelessly behind in what they believe God expects of them. Failed Muslims make a significant proportion of our prison population. Others stay out of trouble, but for various reasons are known as “not good Muslims.” In a sense, it should be relatively easy to take the good news to them, though it is not as easy as you might expect. However, I am interested in the other end of the spectrum, those seen as righteous.

When speaking of those sinner passages, modern translations often put the word sinner in quotes acknowledging they dubbed sinners by other people rather than by the scripture. Of course, it is quite legitimate to describe them as sinners and to also insist that all the so-called righteous were sinners too. In our zeal to reflect this emphasis of Jesus, we can refuse to recognise “the righteous” as anything but sinners by another name.

The reality is not so simple, neither in the scriptures nor the world today. According to the first chapter of John’s Gospel, Andrew was a disciple of John the Baptist. Whatever he may have been prior to taking the baptism of John, he started following Jesus as a man who was seeking to live a life pleasing to God (John 1:37, 40). Jesus welcomed Nathanael as a true Israelite and a man of integrity (John 1:47). 

Jesus called disreputable tax collectors like Matthew Levi and accepted the hospitality of Zacchaeus, but he also welcomed the respectable and the earnest. These were people who were seeking something more from God, alert to what God might do in their time, not necessarily driven by a sense of personal moral bankruptcy.

The Gospels speak of other people who were seeking to know God better, looking for the Kingdom. Anna and Simeon are two examples. In Acts, Ananias seems to have been a pillar of Jewish respectability (Acts 22:12). Cornelius and Lydia were devout God-fearers (Acts 10:2; 16:14). Within our Muslim communities there are people zealous for God and for right living. Sure, there are some who are consumed with making other people behave, like the stereotypical Pharisees, but there are also many with hungry hearts whose desire is to be acceptable to God. I have met some of them.

Ahmad was a former imam who had switched to part-time college chaplain and part-time bitcoin dealer. “It is harder,” he told me, “to practise Islam in Pakistan than in the UK.” I was puzzled. Surely in Pakistan there was a mosque on every corner, a loud call to prayer five times a day, the sound of the Qur’an piped through radios, and a universal expectation that he keep the fast in Ramadan? Surely no one batted an eyelid if you were diligent in your religious duties? 

“What I mean is,” he continued, “There is so much corruption and dishonesty. It is hard to live an honest life.” For Ahmad, Islam was not about being a Muslim rather than a Christian; it was about living for God.

In New Testament times, Jesus was good news for “sinners” and he was also good news for at least some “righteous”. I think we are pretty good at showing sinners how Jesus is good news; how about showing sincere Muslims that Jesus is good news for them too? Is the only way to first prove them to be sinners?

Imam N sought out a new teacher a couple of years ago. He was not content with the narrow tradition he was in. There had to be more. He found someone online. One day he sent me a link to a TV programme in which his new teacher was being interviewed on a Christian channel where he was explaining why reading the Psalms was so valuable for Muslims. Imam N is on a journey, prompted at least in part by what he has seen in the lives of Christians who befriended him.

Imam A has been an observant Muslim all his life, but from a young age he started seeking. What he was looking for was a spiritual master, someone nearer to God than he himself was, who could direct him and intercede for him. It is not that he saw himself as a hopeless sinner, but rather that he knew that he fell short. I think what he is looking for will be found most fully in Jesus. When Crispus the ruler of the synagogue in Corinth turned to Christ, he was not leaving a life of godlessness (Acts 18:8).

Mr S is a devout man, often moved to tears as he performs the required prayers whether at home or in the mosque. But he is always eager to respond when an invitation is given to a Christian event. He has often come to church on Sunday when an appropriate opportunity has been given him. 

But someone will say, you are not comparing like with like. Jewish people in the first century were steeped in the scriptures and looking for the fulfilment of the promises of God. Yes, they certainly had many advantages. My Muslim friends meditate on the example of Abraham and Moses, but the version they have is from the Qur’an. Some are fascinated by the picture of Jesus painted by the Qur’an. Deeply inadequate and flawed though that image is, for some it has been enough to get them started on a path that leads to the real Jesus.

These people are out there among our neighbours, our work colleagues, our clients and our students. Will we recognise them? Are we equipped to engage with them in ways that are helpful to them? And will they recognise in us the presence of Christ?

Ted Bearup

Diversity: The Variegated Grace of God

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I have been asked to post this article written for the Nazarene Theological College ‘Link’ magazine:

Recently I heard a canon of Manchester Cathedral comment that his experience of the Church in Manchester was of congregations of multi-racial and multi-cultural membership. Someone observed that this is probably an urban phenomenon, and would not be the case across the whole country.

The comment set off a train of thought in my mind. In 1981, when I arrived in Manchester as pastor of the Carmoor Road Church of the Nazarene, I found a small-but-not-too-small congregation that included people from many parts of the world as well as all over the UK. I discovered this diversity was unusual in the city, finding only one or two churches in our very mixed part of the city that reflected that mixture in any way. Indeed, African Christian students would often come to our church after first visiting churches (consisting of a handful of people) of their own denomination (where their churches numbered hundreds of members), reporting that they had been politely told that they ‘might be more comfortable somewhere else with people of their own kind’. They were often in shock at what they found in their Mother Church.

We wanted to reach out to our community. Given the significant proportion of our community that was West Indian, we wondered if we should focus reaching out to that ‘homogeneous people group’. We decided, however, to affirm our multi-racial and multi-cultural make-up as our strength: we would witness to the variegated image of God by our variety. The church did not grow rapidly, but it grew to accept diversity as normal.

The Manchester church was my introduction to the joy of worshipping and learning with the diversity of God’s people. My whole life of service since has been in multi-cultural settings, teaching in three Nazarene educational institutions all serving diverse nations, and returning to be a part of that Manchester congregation. It has become so much the norm that I feel a sense of shock when I find myself in a single-culture setting—which can happen by travelling only a few miles from my church.
What has happened in nearly 40 years? On one hand, church membership as a whole has continued to decline in Britain at an alarming rate. On the other hand, immigration over the past twenty years—under the generous and highly criticized policies of the government of the day—has brought a significant number of active Christians into the cities. An unexpected result has been the breath of new life these committed believers have brought to the often-dying local churches they have joined. Many have embraced the newcomers, and such churches are growing. It is a matter for thanksgiving and praise to God that diversity has become the norm across Manchester!

This is not a commentary on immigration policy, but an observation from its impact. And there are lessons to be learned from the debate over immigration that grips so much of the West right now. How do we respond to ‘the Other’ on our own territory? The tabloids, as well as prominent politicians, tell us to be afraid, to reject, and expel the Other—the ones not like us, whom we deem a threat to our own existence. What do we do when we discover that so many, even among those deemed ‘illegal’ and arriving via leaky boats, are brothers and sisters in Christ?

I have come to the conviction (that is not too strong a word) that God intends us to be all mixed together. The sin of Babel was the human attempt to be one homogeneous unit—one language, huddling together in one place. The work of the Spirit in Acts 2 brought languages and people together into one new whole. In fact, the whole biblical story of is one of migration—Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are all migrants who settle in foreign lands; Jesus was a (likely undocumented) migrant to Egypt as a child.

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The New Testament text that comes to my mind on this point, however, is 1 Peter 4:10, where the church is urged to be ‘good stewards of the manifold grace of God’. That word ‘manifold’ can be translated ‘variegated’, ‘diverse’, ‘pluriform’, or ‘many-coloured’. It is the same word used of Joseph’s famous coat, in Genesis 37. Peter’s focus is on the grace-gifts God gives which we are to give to each other. To me, when I look at the Sunday gathering in my own church (the same I came to those years ago), it describes the image of God, the imago Dei. Our tendency is to read Genesis 1:26 as speaking in the singular, of an individual image: ‘I’ am created in the image of God. But the fact is, the image is ‘male and female’, and can only seen fully in the whole of humankind and our manifold colours. ‘I’ am incomplete on my own, a partial picture of how God created us; ‘we’ fill out the picture, each adding our part. As the Godhead is triune, and diverse, so is His creation.

This translates into my everyday life as curiosity. When I meet someone different than me, or different than I have met before, rather than fearing the unknown I am curious to learn how this person expands my understanding and experience of the image of God in the human. In the past few years this curiosity has extended towards Muslims of many sorts. The experience has added more colour and texture to my sense of what God has done, confirmed my expectation that God loves them too, and expanded my wonder at the grace of God in Christ.

The Holiness Movement, of which I am an heir, stressed the meaning of holiness as separation—separation from sin, and, in its sectarian phase, separation from the world. At times it fell into a rather Pharisaic emphasis on keeping pure by avoiding any contact with the impure. A grave danger of the holiness-as-separation view is that it leads easily to other kinds of separateness, including racial and national, until churches become excluding rather than welcoming of strangers. When diversity is deemed a bad thing, as we are seeing in much of our world today, God’s grace becomes diminished to an unattractive narrow, monochrome, homogeneous spirituality of fear and reaction. But, when we catch a glimpse of the riotous diversity of sacred life springing from the creative Word, we can do nothing less than cry out, ‘Holy, holy, holy’!

When it gets local…

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We woke to headlines of people dead in a terrorist attack. The sort of headline we read all the time. Where was it this time? Syria? Iraq? Afghanistan? We have become accustomed to such news, coming from parts of the world where such bloodshed has become so common we hardly notice any more.

But this was Manchester, with 22 dead and scores injured from a suicide bomb. This was London, seven dead and dozens injured by van and knife attacks. Terror has come close to home, and it comes as a shock.

Just a couple hours before the Manchester attack I attended an exhibition called ‘Jesus Doors Easter Stations’, artwork depicting—on doors—the last days of Jesus’ life. One picture stood out to me from the others—a depiction of the women who stood by the cross. Their grief reminded me of the faces of mothers of bombing victims shown on the news night after night. Their grief came immediately to mind learning the news in Manchester. Once again, mothers grieve.

Mourning women, by Ali Hutchison (http://www.alihutchisonart.co.uk/)

The response to the attack in Manchester has been noted by quiet defiance, and marches for unity. The very next evening tens of thousands of people gathered in Albert Square in front of the Town Hall, for a vigil. We stood with about 100 leaders of all religions before the immense crowd; there was cheering for the first-responders; there was absolute silence in honour of the dead and injured, and great ripples of applause spread across the square in agreement with words of determination and hope; and at the end, there was chanting of ‘Manchester’. Over the next week vigils were held around the city; St Ann’s Square has become the repository of floral tributes and private pilgrimages. This proudly diverse city exhibits a quiet determination to deny terrorism its goal of creating division.

The Manchester response continued over the following week, as public events went ahead—40,000 running in the Manchester Run; 50,000 attending the tribute concert ‘One Love Manchester’. Yes, there was increased police presence; no, there were no troops on the streets.

One common feature of world media reporting has long been the absence of coverage of the reactions of the Muslim communities to such outrages. The question is often asked by commentators with an agenda, ‘Where is the Muslim response?’ The response is usually there, but unreported. In this case, mosques held vigils, inviting non-Muslims to attend; a peace-march of hundreds of Muslims from dozens of mosques walked down the main streets of the city.

Of course, it is also true that the bomber was born in Manchester. The arrests across the city are evidence that there are many who do not share the sense of unity and good will that has been on display these past weeks, are disaffected from British society, and nurture a simmering hatred. And there are many who are ready to blame every Muslim for the actions of the few, and nurture their own hatred.

 

In the midst of this, the unanswered question is, why are young people from our own communities willing and ready to kill young people—teenaged girls, and their brothers and parents—and themselves? And, what can be done to prevent this happening?
The second London terrorist incident in three months has made this question, and the security of the nation, come to the fore in the election campaign. Politicians and political commentators respond with the same sorts of answers we hear each time. We seem no nearer a solution to the problem of terror on our streets.

In my blog written last August I suggested that the answers will have to come from the communities. And that the faith communities will need to take the lead. The community in which I live has a nearly equal Christian and Muslim population. We live on the same streets, and get along with each other; but church communities tend to keep to themselves, and mosque communities tend to keep to themselves. However, over the past couple of years they have been reaching out to each other, finding ways of meeting each other to get to know each other. In this current crisis moment, the relationships of these years has meant we are able to work together to stand against the forces of division.

Even so, we have hard questions to work through together. This is a crisis of Islam, in its struggle to come to terms with pluralism and tolerance in a world that cannot be returned to the 7th Century. This is a challenge to Christianity, to face the racism, prejudice, and privilege with which we have kept Muslims at arms’ length in our society; and to grasp the extent to which so much of the conflict in the Middle East is the fruit of colonialism.

Community, by Ali Hutchison

The challenge for our communities is to nurture our young people to meet people of other faiths and races, to see the best in each other, and to find common ground in building a caring and secure society.

 

It is a sad commentary on human nature that we seem only to take notice of dangers when they become local. The grief we share over the innocent loss of young lives in Manchester and London should make us more compassionate for those in war zones for whom this is almost a daily occurrence. From this moment on, when we waken to news from Kabul, or Baghdad, Mosul or Peshawar, let us also weep; and let us also stand determined to work against hatred and division.

Hot Topics ticket info

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“Hot Topics” ticketed events will start at 18:30 and finish at around 20:30 unless otherwise advertised.

There will be tea, coffee and water available.

These events will normally take place on the first floor of the Emmanuel Centre at Nazarene Theological College. The room will be signed from the entrance. For directions and more information about the college, please see the NTC (event venue) page.

This event will be ticketed due to likely high demand, and so all participants will need to purchase a ticket (suggested donation of £10). As these discussions are not generally designed for children to take part, no concessions will be offered.

If you feel the event is worth more than this, you are invited to give more if you can afford to, and to complete our Gift Aid form. This allows us to reclaim the UK Income Tax or Capital Gains Tax on your donation back from the government, making it worth more at no extra cost to you!

NB: If you have previously completed a Gift Aid Form for MCSCI you do not need to give us a new one. Limited exceptions apply – please ask for details if you are concerned.

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Acts of Terror, Crimes of Hate

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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 advice on security during services.

These incidents are not directly related to the ‘Brexit’ vote in the UK, but are part of a flurry of events that are changing the UK, and Europe, in ways we cannot yet grasp.

The divisive Referendum campaign ended with a narrow margin of the population voting in favour of leaving the EU. However narrow the vote, the decision has been made and the will of the majority is ‘Brexit’.

Hot on the heals of this event, the long-awaited Chilcot Report was presented, with its damning critique of the way the nation was led into the Iraq War, and the ongoing violence which has seen over 250,00 deaths, civilians and military, on all sides. Virtually at the very time the report was being read, Daesh suicide bombers unleashed death in Istanbul and Baghdad, with indiscriminate slaughter of whole families whose only crime was enjoying their preparations to celebrate Eid. Similar carnage was visited on Nice during French national celebrations. The list of terrorist targets now extends to Germany, too.

Closer to home, the fruit of the anti-immigration rhetoric of the referendum campaign is a 40% increase in hate-crimes in the UK. Racists have been emboldened to confront people on public transport, on the streets, and with graffiti on the walls of their homes and work-places, telling them to ‘go back where they came from’—even second and third generation citizens.

Political leaders at all levels are clearly at a loss as to how to address these crises, and seem to have lost credibility with their own constituencies.

 

Thus, we face a two-sided crisis: on the one hand there is fear created by acts of extreme violence that are intended to create just such an atmosphere of fear (the reason we call it ‘terrorism’); on the other hand there are the low-level acts of violence in verbal abuse and vandalism directed towards immigrant and non-white communities.

We at MCSCI wish to make explicit our rejection of the rhetoric of division that is fuelling abuse and hatred across the country, and call on political leaders of all parties to take seriously their responsibility for the whole of their communities when speaking publicly.

At the same time we would encourage leaders of faith communities—church and mosque and synagogue—to reach out to the others in their communities to give common voice against fear and against violence. We would specifically encourage Christian community leaders to make the effort to affirm to other faith groups their value to the community, and the readiness to stand with them against hate crime directed against them.

In the light of the inability of political leaders to find a way forward in these fraught times, it seems the answers to the great issues of our day must come from within the very communities that are most affected by these events, if they are to be found at all. Religion is blamed for much of the ills; whether this is an accurate portrayal or not, it is therefore people of faith who must lead the way out of the cycle of violence and hatred.

The way to lead is to reach out, and not to give in to fear.

Summary of 2016 Conference

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Dr Dwight Swanson

At the end of the 2016 MCSCI Conference, “Evangelical Responses to Islamic Revival”, there was a review of all the main content that had been presented during the 3-day event. Anchored by Dr Dwight Swanson, Co-Director of MCSCI, this aimed to give a brief summary of everything that had gone before.

This 20-minute recording may be a good starting point for you if you are new to the field, want to know which speeches might interest you further and the ethos of the whole event.

Listen to the summary

This is a recording of the speech, which has been edited for clarity and to remove some questions (which could not be heard over the microphone).