stories catch my eye this week. Both
to do with terror. One of
hope. One of warning.
Hope, because there is the strong possibility that the peace
process may make some real progress in
once again. Warning,
because a man on the front line of the so called “war against
terror” says the World is now less safe because we have not dealt
with the core problems underlying
grew up with the threat of terrorism.
My family lived in
in the late 60’s as tensions gradually built up.
I clearly knew the difference between Protestant and Catholic
– and being an Adventist found myself somewhat out on a limb from
both. You see, the issue
was politics, not religion – and yet you were forced to live with a
age 9, it is something people there have had to contend with ever
since. Labels and strong
opinions do not help towards a peace process.
A process that has gone through bombings, shootings and
atrocious behaviour to a world in
that is much better, but still has a long way to go before the word
“unity” can be used.
in a week when the American Embassy has been attacked in Jeddah, when
Iraq is challenged with the possibility of elections in the midst of
violence, when Afghans celebrate their presidents inauguration but War
Lords still control much of the country, when their neighbour, General
Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan warns that the world is more dangerous
now – I’m glad to get some good news and find that Nationalists
and Unionists in Ireland are speaking in more conciliatory tones to
each other and that the chances of disarmament are growing.
back to 1999 I came across a comment from our reporter in
at the time, Billy Leonard. Theologian,
historian and political commentator, he had some comments about
that I think apply to other places and cultures.
the importance of history. In
mutilated history forged on the anvil of bias often passes for
informed history. History is important in theology and thus the
formation and mediation of faith. As one tries to speak as a
Christian on difficult issues one is really speaking with a
worldview: if it is not historically informed you could let yourself
of Jesus. He knew his Jewish history.
be politically aware. In
we are consumed by politics, mostly of a merely divided approach.
Often one hears Christians simply relaying the latest media spin or
partisan approach. Is God not interested in all people in both or
all communities? To impose upon God our human biases and conditioned
limitations is to do a great disservice to the Almighty.
of Jesus. Was he not very aware of the politics of the day with his
render on to Caesar and foxes have their holes sayings?
look at the deep human propensity to divide people up into groups
and think of them in malign terms. Vague and negative
generalisations of the other group pass for informed comment.
Selection of the worst example of the ‘other’ is phrased as to
imply that it is the average for that group. This occurs when we
speak of nationalities, religions, political outlooks and many more
types of groups. Dare I say it that, sometimes it happens in the
church foyer? Think of
Jesus. Did he not know that amongst the Pharisees and the Romans
that there was the good, the bad and the indifferent?
how we think of the other will be informed and influenced by
history, politics and reflection on how we simplistically divide the
world into groups. Approaching all this with breadth and the help of
Bible study, prayer, discussion and reflection is actually composing
theology and faith. It demands the Christian mind to be stretched;
to catch glimpses of God’s will in drastically difficult
situations and to transcend human vision. We should not convince
ourselves it happens automatically.
Now put that in the context of Musharraf’s
comment that we need to resolve the political disputes “but also
the issue of illiteracy and poverty. [These] combined are the breeding
grounds of extremism and terrorism.”
add it to the local context in developed countries.
Most crime happens in poorer communities, and generally it is
the poor that suffer most from crime.
To deal with these issues does mean looking beyond ourselves,
our comfort zones, and stretching our minds beyond our normal
that leaves you as an individual I can’t say, but it does remind me
of the words of Jesus – challenging those who thought they were
'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of
these, you did not do for me.'
applies to world leaders – but also, challengingly, to me, my
community, and my view of the world.