A Peace Offensive for Extraordinary Times
By Cathy Nobles
"Our response to this violence must be to come closer together, to help each other, to love more, to sing louder and to live more kindly and generously than we did before.” Ariana Grande, Manchester One Love concert.
A poster in London: “London: Dare to Keep on Loving”
“Tell them I love them” Taliesin Namkai–Meche last words as he died from the attack of a white terrorist in Portland, Oregon. He and one other were killed defending two Muslim women who witnesses said faced a “barrage of hate speech”.
For the past two weeks, the profile of terrorism has raised its ugly head in the West in three different places killing innocent people just living life. And not to be forgotten, there were also terrorist bombings in Kabul and in Pakistan over this time and continuing wars in Yemen and Syria to name just a few hurting places.
The violence of our day is brutal and shocking when it strikes out of nowhere in the ways Manchester, London, and Portland were attacked. The aftermath includes the grieving of families and friends for their loved ones and the shock of a nation’s daily rhythm being disrupted. Our government leaders and police mobilize their resources to investigate what has happened and to evaluate how they will respond to thwart and destroy these forces.
These are all in process, but what is, hopefully, also in process is the thinking behind the choices each one of us has to make in how we, individually and corporately, respond to the violence. The three quoted messages above and so many others show a common thread. To stand together united against violence, we need to have a strong sense of love. Not the mushy romantic type of love but a sacrificial love that stands up against hatred and the marginalizing of others. I want to suggest a few ways that we can put love into action in these days:
1. Refuse to give in to “us” and “them” thinking.
The voice of the terrorists would like us to believe that this is a cosmic battle between Muslims and all unbelievers. The reality is that their terrorism has been denounced by all the major Muslim leaders internationally and locally as un-Muslim and that has been echoed by Christian leaders standing with our Muslim friends. (for example: After the London Terror Attacks .) The second reality is there have been more Muslims killed by Daesh than any other people group. The almost totally white Far Right groups would also want to divide the world between whites and those who agree with them and all Muslims, Jews, immigrants, liberals etc. who they have demonized.
What Daesh and the Far Right have in common is a common belief in violence and demonizing others that destroys lives. Somehow in both groups they ultimately believe that they are superior to the “other” and that destroying the “other” will better their lives.
These are lies, and we need to cultivate a climate of love that resists these lies and celebrates “we”.
2. Resist hatred and fear and cultivate peace
Biblical shalom/ peace is a picture of all people whoever they are living in peace with one another. When there is a common good that allows all to thrive, it brings wholeness and prosperity to a community. The Torah Law instructed the Israelites to take care of the foreigner and poor in their midst and to treat everyone as God commanded them to do. Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan reminded the religious of his time that the one who had followed God’s love of neighbor was the Samaritan, a group of people hated by the Jews of Jesus’ day.
God’s love is universal including every person on the planet. If I love God then I am commanded to love everyone just because each human being is created in the image of God. The three Abrahamic faiths and most of our world religions believe that loving God is demonstrated through loving your neighbor.
3. Keep on Doing Good - Action Points
- Resist social media that demonizes others. Call it out in discussions or chats with politeness and a positive challenge to listen to the voices of peace.
- During this month of Ramadan attend a public Iftar. Here in Luton, this coming Saturday in Wardown Park there will be the Luton Festival from 12 to 5 followed by the Big Iftar from 7 to 10. It is free so go to this website for a ticket. https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/this-is-luton-festivalthe-big-iftar-2017-tickets-34692583451 or google Big Iftar Luton 2017. Great food and a wonderful way to support our town together by sharing a meal. There are many such Iftars around the nation and elsewhere.
- Smile! Wherever we are, we can smile at someone when we walk through the mall or around the grocery store. These times for the Muslim community are painful, hate crimes from violent attacks to rudeness does increase. Take a moment to just smile at someone and let them know you are with them.
- The Great Get Together is happening June 16 – 18th. www.greatgettogether.org . MP Jo Cox was killed by a white terrorist last summer because she stood up for communities that embrace everyone. On the anniversary of her death, Jo’s family and friends came up with this response. Get a group together to celebrate that we have more in common.
4. Forgive and Pray
Jesus taught that we were to forgive and to do good to those who would harm us. The men and women who have decided that violence is the answer are deceived. Those who feel demonizing others because of color, race, or creed have lost their way. We don’t know what a person’s story is who seeks to destroy others, but we can choose to start a journey of forgiveness. Remember that during the chaos in Manchester, London and on the Portland train, people won the day as they reached out and helped others in courageous and loving ways. We need to not lose hope in these days but through our faith in God find the strength to keep doing what is God’s best.
Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, and these are extraordinary times. Let’s not lose heart but embrace the difficulties which often wake us up to how important it is to put our faith into action. Be encouraged in these days to be a peace builder. Don’t be afraid; be bold in living a life of loving and encouraging others.