A Weekend of Peace and Violence

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This weekend, which included International Day of Peace on Saturday, was blighted by two terrible attacks on innocent people. Shoppers at a Nairobi mall were brutally executed by Al-Shabaab militants (I am not going to honour them with the title ‘Islamic’) and worshipping Christians at a church in Pakistan were killed or seriously injured by suicide bombers. It is a raw irony that these events took place while others were marking the UN’s day for peace by welcoming Christians and Muslims into a synagogue on the Sabbath and Muslims at a church for Sunday worship, both visits taking place in London. It is also only a few weeks since the Christian community in Egypt experienced large scale attacks, both on people and places of worship at the hands of those who have been described as ‘Islamists’, hijacking the religion for violent rather than religious purposes.

Read about the Coptic Nayrouz service, including prayers for the bereaved and reconciliation.

As Christians and Muslims we mourn all those who lost their lives and pray for the injured and bereaved families. We also pray for peace and interventions by security forces to prevent terrorist attacks. We ask our leaders to demonstrate the way of peace in international relations and when dealing with international and domestic crises. We pray for people of faith, and all people of good will, to model peace in their own lives and contribute to societies which are hospitable, harmonious and inclusive. We seek to put aside anything which tempts or encourages us to be divisive, sectarian or hostile to others.

Just as a few commit to peace initiatives, which are a minority interest in peaceful places, another militant minority disrupts fragile peace in more troubled countries. Peace is needed in both places, as connected human beings our work for peace needs to be joined up. We hold up good Christian-Muslim relationships in the UK, and other countries (where Christians and Muslims who have lived alongside each other harmoniously for hundreds of years), as a model for improved Christian-Muslim relations in needy places. We are 100% committed to the belief that there can be no good religious grounds, in either religion, for hatred of and attacks on the other, see our statement here.

A Christian need not hate a Muslim nor expect God to be pleased with hatred, a Muslim need not hate a Christian and see Christians as the enemy. For those who have met and shared together we are sisters and brothers, those who have yet to meet are more like distant cousins who have yet to encounter each other.

The sad fact is that in many places where we see tensions, killings and atrocities there were previously good relations between different religious groups. These have soured or become precarious due to the impact of power struggles, contested political regimes, military conflict, war and terrorist attacks. These have challenged inter faith initiatives in many countries leading to accusations of hypocrisy, compromise and appeasement. Across the board people of different faiths have maintained and strengthened their relationships and since 9/11 there has been a tremendous growth in inter faith groups in the UK.

In response to acts of terror, people of faith have consistently refused to give any religious approval to violence. Our faiths stand against terrorist attacks, bombings and murders. The divine command to love our neighbour features in all the religions and is notable in the Common Word declaration, and Christian responses to it, which highlights the centrality of having regard for the other in Christianity and Islam. Many have said and say now that the actions of terrorists, frequently described in the media as Muslims and Islamists, are evidence of the true Islam. In fact they are far from Islam, the Qur’an explicitly condemns atrocities carried out in the name God – attacks on places of worship, on the innocent, causing unrest and division, initiating hostilities against those who are not at war.

This is why we continue to hold out dialogue, including with extremists, as the approach which our faiths demands of us. We cannot contribute to or excuse violence and must work through speaking peace, calling others to peace and sharing peace including in places of violence.

Julian Bond
Director, Christian Muslim Forum
 

Statement from Karimia Institute (a Muslim organisation in Nottingham): Condemnation of brutal suicide attack on a church in Peshawar

Joint statement and call to prayer from Bradford Council for Mosques and West Yorkshire churches

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