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Peace and Violence

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Many of us are for peace but few of us have never been violent (violence can be verbal too). This is why it's so important that we work for peace. People may (hopefully) associate Christianity with peace, more people would have difficulties associating Islam with peace. Both religions, however, do have peace at their heart. Many people think that religion is responsible for much of the violence, conflict and wars in the world? It sometimes seems that there is little that we can do when politicians are not listening and do not ask the electorate before they go to war. But peace starts with us and we can spread the peace. Think about whether when you are with others you can turn to the person next to you and extend your hand, or give them a hug, make peace with them! Make someone's day on the London Underground!

I wouldn't be writing this if I didn't think that both religions were for peace. I don't have space here to explain why peace is at the heart of Christianity and Islam but this statement on Violence on the Christian Muslim Forum's Resources webpage shows how Christians and Muslims can speak for peace together.

I am constantly being challenged - 'Islam isn't really a religion of peace', 'Why aren't you as a Christian denouncing Islam'. This is the language of hate and enmity, erecting barriers between people who need to meet, understand and build relationships with each other. But Jesus said, 'love your neighbour'. We need to hold on to that, whether we are Christian, Muslim, Hindu or atheist, not just because the Bible says so but because it makes sense.

So let's make it personal, peace is personal, I have learnt a lot about peace from Muslim friends, especially one of my colleagues who is an imam, I am convinced that he is more peaceful than I am, more concerned for the other person, less committed to controversy. He embodies the Messianic principle of 'not breaking the bruised reed'. Yet, he has been on a journey too, not from a hardline and hateful theology, but with a patient and modest attachment to ideals that need to be shouted out - peace, equality, inclusion, moderation - the Islamic 'middle way' - ideals which work best when spoken gently. Because Christianity and Islam, Jesus Christ and the Prophet Muhammad (pbut), the Bible and the Qur'an don't want us to be extreme. Being extreme does no one any good, neither those who impose and attack nor those on the receiving end, either of violence, atrocity and terrorism or of hate speech, writing off and denouncing. Many of us are guilty of it, I was once.

But we are called to be different, whether by our religion (no religion is founded on hate and violence), our worldview or our humanity. War is inhumane, violence is inhumane, sadly these are both very human, but only when we deny the humanity of the other - when we make them an object, an enemy, and do not see them as sister, brother, friend, neighbour. Jesus said 'love your enemies', he meant don't have enemies! Make them your friends, acknowledge them as neighbours.

When we see violence, hatred, war, persecution and oppression all these things have broken down. Society has become inhumane. People are listening to preachers of hate when we should be listening to preachers of love, this permeates the whole of society, we see it on television and the news (I don't mean actual 'preachers'). When extremists take over, when excessive religious demands are made which do not respect and value others, when there is no place for the 'other'. And we are all other. There is an urgent need for us to speak well of each other, to be gracious and generous, to model good relations here and export them, as my Muslim colleagues who have visited Pakistan in recent years have done. On most Saturdays Christians gather to pray against a mosque development, when they would be better occupied praying for peace and working on dialogue, understanding and building relationships, not linking prayer with opposition.