The Challenge of Prayer and Peace in the Midst of Violence

The hostage situation in Sydney made me, like many other people despair of seemly daily accounts of Man’s inhumanity to man.

A traumatic event which was resolved on some level for us only to wake up to the news of the mayhem in Peshawar Pakistan and this time the intended victims were mainly children. The reporter on the Pakistani news channel kept repeating the words “How can any human look at a classroom of children and want to do them any harm let alone blow them up.”  It unfortunately, is not the first time such things have happened but it is one of the worst examples of its kind and was done in the name of my faith: Islam.

The BBC religion and ethics website   tells us that Muslims perform ritual prayers five times a day. What is not common knowledge, however, is that these prayers end with a greeting of peace and blessings to all those to the right and left of the speaker. This afternoon as I finished my prayers I stopped and did this last bit very slowly thinking how incomprehensible it was that anyone with carnage on their minds could perform the same ritual with any real understanding of the words they were reciting.

Their words and actions have poisoned so many of the words and concepts that I grew up with it. It started simply with the word Qaida (the book from which we learnt to read Arabic as children), then Taliban (student) and now the article of faith and the first pillar of Islam. That very morning I had been meditating on the words written on the flag used by the hostage taker in Sydney Australia: “There is no god but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God”.

The greeting of Muslims everywhere is Peace/Salaam and each formal prayer ends which a blessing for people everywhere. In Islamic tradition, God has sent many prophets, messengers, teachers and guides throughout the whole world to help us live in harmony. My favourite verse in the Qur’an states that we were made into nations and tribes so we might come to know one another.

The evening of the hostage crisis in Australia I went to a Christmas Carol Service where the congregation reflected on the Christmas truce during World War 1. That is  100 years ago soldiers on both sides of a conflict stopped, celebrated Christmas by playing football on land where fighting had taken place only hours before.  Les Isaac, founder of the Street Pastors also spoke about how we need to take risks and be generous. Conscientious objectors and those that played football on no man’s land 100 years ago took a risk when they refused to fight.

It is difficult to know how to respond to the terrible news but one of my hopes and prayers for the year ahead is that we all look at stories within our own communities and faiths that inspire us to take risk and be generous when dealing with others.

Qaisra Khan

Supporter and fundraiser for Christian Muslim Forum

I will be doing a 15 mile walk between a church and a mosque to raise funds for The Christian Muslim Forum. Please sponsor me at


[1] The Qur’an Chapter 49 verse 13Surah al-Hujurat

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