Slaughter of the Innocents

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Reflections on the anniversary of 9/11

As we reach another anniversary of 9/11 we remember the innocent victims. For the friends and families of those who lost their lives this will be another day of pain and loss as they recall the tragic event which happened 12 years ago. Since then others have sought to wreak havoc and terror on the innocent and unsuspecting, leading to loss of life on London’s transport system on 7/7/2005. More recently the organisation ‘Boko Haram’ has bombed indiscriminately in Nigeria and both churches and mosques have been attacked in Egypt and Christians and Muslims have been killed.

There is no sense in the killing of the innocent, we mourn their loss and seek to establish peace, not more violence in the name of those who died or were injured, as our challenge to violence and terrorism. The call for peace is very powerful in this rabbi’s prayer for victims of 9/11.

11 September is also the date of Nayrouz, the Coptic New Year, many people gathered at St Margaret’s Church, Westminster last night both to celebrate the new year and to commemorate those who have lost their lives in recent attacks in Egypt. See the Forum’s #Nayrouz  tweets (and others) here. We prayed for those who have lost their lives last night and will continue to do so. Pray for the peace of Egypt, and Syria.

This article has links to information about recent attacks and reflections by my colleague Bishop Angaelos. These attacks were condemned by the Muslim Council of Britain. We pray for peace, stability and reconciliation in Egypt. A few weeks ago we shared some images of Christians and Muslims protecting each other while they pray.

The ideal of peace is a key message of religions, one of the Gospels opens with a message of peace from God at the time of Jesus’ birth, while in the Qur’an the believers are repeatedly reminded to give greetings of peace to those who do not see eye to eye with them. Yet, religion has a reputation for not being peaceful, Muslims are told that they have not condemned terrorism and atrocity even though they have, read here. Sadly the important message of ‘Islam is peace’ has had a hollow sound against the backdrop of so-called ‘Islamic’ or ‘Islamist’ terrorism and it cannot be said often enough that terrorism has no religion. Every ‘Allahu Akbar’ uttered at times of atrocities reinforces a connection which should not exist. Terrorism is not an act of worship, and whenever people say ‘God is great’ to celebrate it, we can all respond, ‘not in God’s name’.

As Christians and Muslims working together we have produced this statement condemning violence and terrorism in the name of religion. I highlight these lines:

  • We affirm that no religion, in itself, advocates violence or terrorism
  • Equating religion with violence is a distortion, whether done by those opposed to religion or those who hijack religion to support violence
  • Peace with God and our fellow human beings is at the heart of Christianity and Islam
  • We acknowledge that believers do not always make clear that they are for peace and against violence
  • We urge Christians and Muslims, and all people, to renounce violence and work for peace
  • We especially condemn any mistreatment and persecution by Christians or Muslims, including in situations of conversion 
As we approach International Day of Peace on 21 September we again call people to peace, to engage with the deep message of peace in our traditions, not division, sectarianism and violence. We urge Christians and Muslims to get to know one another and recognise each other as neighbours, sisters and brothers, not strangers and enemies. Working together for peace will challenge the negative associations that religion has. Negotiating our differences can provide a model for others to follow, not draw attention to us for having a problem with each other and fuelling animosity. Multiculturalism sometimes has a bad press but it is essential that we embrace our diversity and shake off the sectarianism which drives or provides an excuse for attacking ‘the other’.

I close, as I have done previously, with this appeal:

‘The human heart has great capacity to show love and compassion, to reflect our Creator’s likeness, but we need to nurture and protect these precious qualities to help them flourish.  Love and Compassion are the tools for harmonious living and peaceful existence. They are the antidote to hatred. We need to strengthen our connection to each other through connecting to God in quiet meditation (prayer) and desiring the best for each other. Through God’s acceptance of us we can accept others and “otherness”.’

Julian Bond
Director, Christian Muslim Forum
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