The speaker, Simon Keyes, Director of St Ethelburga’s, a now demolished mediaeval church in London.
St Ethelburga’s as a peace and reconciliation centre was an idea of the Bishop of London.
He claimed their approach was unique, they actually talked to people. Simply not true, Coventry has been doing this since the end of WWII, and Canon Andrew White is very much hands on in Iraq.
Nor were they doing anything new bringing people out of the conflict zone to talk. That is the norm. Last year Canon Andrew White had hoped to host a conference on Iraq. It fell through due to lack of funding.
A brief and very ill-informed discussion took place on the hacking to death and beheading of an off duty soldier in Woolwich. Yes, an innocent walking the street, but not innocent in that he had fought in Afghanistan. Those who carry out such actions tend not to be deranged. They see the effect of drone attacks in the Pakistani tribal regions, the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, and are avenging the deaths of fellow Muslims. The only surprise is that there are not more of these attacks. Young men are radicalised in Mosques, often by illiterate preachers who have not received a proper education in the Koran. They do not not then need to watch videos on the net, though such videos are widely available. They can pick these videos up from Islamic bookshops. But they do not even need to do that. All they need to do is watch the mainstream news, or listen to irresponsible idiots like Prince Harry bragging about killing Afghans.
- The ideology behind Lee Rigby’s murder is profound and dangerous. Why don’t we admit it?: Tony Blair launches a brave assault on Muslim extremism after Woolwich attack
We see with Syria, misinformation fed to the public due to lack of critical analysis by the mainstream media.
Governments then use isolated terrorist incidents to clamp down on civil liberties, to justify spying on citizens, as with for example mass surveillance programme PRISM.
Is religion responsible for conflicts? The simple answer is yes.
An idea a person, gets subverted into a religion. Power structures form, become an end in themselves, my religion is better than your religion, I must impose my religion on your religion, a religion to die for, a religion to kill for.
It is not religions that solve conflicts. It is individuals like Canon Andrew White, albeit a man of faith. Who are prepared to talk to evil people. It is easy to love your friends, it is loving your enemies that is hard.
Peace is not the absence of violence. Peace is a dynamic process, something that has to be worked at. Hence Peacemakers.
In a desperate attempt to give meaning to life, many turn to religion. A struggle in the name of faith is always a justification for some grand gesture, to launch a crusade. We can say we are doing God’s work. They become devout followers, evangelists, bigots, zealots, fundamentalists. There is no better fundamentalist than the recent convert.
Religion, or at least the underlying idea, was to celebrate and share the mystery of God, it was not to oppress or convert others. And that is where religions go bad, and as we see in Iraq and other places, when religions go bad, they go very bad.
Location of talk a pain to get to, Methodist Church on Woodbridge Road leading out of Guildford town centre. Indeed, had I not passed by on a bus Aldershot to Guildford the week before, I would not have known where it was.
I noticed there was a bus stop outside the church. Last bus to Aldershot, 1840. So much for public transport, though there are trains from Guildford Station to Aldershot.
The room was awful, long and narrow and stifling hot. A door to a fire escape was open, but they refused to open the windows. A very quietly spoken speaker who barely audible, was drowned out by people jumping up and down and stamping in another room.
There are three churches more central in Guildford, these would have made far better venues.
- Manuscript Found in Accra
- The Vicar of Baghdad: Fighting for Peace in the Middle East
- Iraq: Searching for Hope
- Faith Under Fire: What the Middle East Conflict Has Taught me About God
- Father, Forgive: Relections On Peacemaking