Like many, I woke up this morning to the story that was starting to unfold, just before I went to bed last night, of a concerted (probably and mainly radical Islam inspired in response to Western attacks on Isis and similar strongholds in Syria etc.) terrorist attack at a concert hall and various other centres in and around Paris.
Unsurprisingly, this is presently dominating news coverage but perhaps more surprisingly is how it has touched many on social media, and a number of my Facebook friends have shared their thoughts that include sentiments like shock, surprise, revulsion, defiance and a need to act proportionately. While not necessarily the most profound or pertinent among these, I can concur with most of the thoughts expressed in one article: “We Are All Parisians: A Christian Response to Global Terror and Radical Islam”.
While I believe there is an issue with Islam, and not just the so called radical variety, I also concur that most Muslims are good people that would share my horror over these attacks. While I believe there is a refugee crisis and recognize the dilemma shared among many reasonable types on the extent we should get involved, my overwhelming sentiment is these are victims of what is happening, their predicament is dire, and we should be looking to find ways to help. I refer to my earlier blogs on these matters.
One of my next scheduled blogs was going to be on the organization: HOPE not hate. From their website we learn: “HOPE not hate exists to provide a positive antidote to the politics of hate. We combine first class research with community organising & grassroots actions to defeat hate groups at elections and to build community resilience against extremism. HOPE not hate seeks to challenge and defeat the politics of hate and extremism within local communities, building resilience against the politics of hate and fear, at a national and grassroots level. The HOPE not hate campaign was founded in 2004 to provide a positive antidote to the politics of hate. The British National Party (BNP) was winning substantial votes and local councillors in our northern towns and traditional anti-racism and anti-fascism was failing”. In the light of the attacks, it seems apt that I should now reflect on this message.
The message of HOPE not hate is pertinent to the events that are unfolding right now in Paris. When on its Facebook page (it being one of the many organizations I follow these days) it posted a picture of the French flag upon which was the text “We stand together united in HOPE not hate”, I was happy to share it on my own page and I know that this is a sentiment that many of my friends share. This organization is also much involved in an initiative I am involved with: “Southend Welcoming Refugees”, which I have also blogged about earlier. Their experience when it comes to campaigning will no doubt come in handy when trying to provide an effective town wide response to the refugee crisis.
But I do have reservations. In trying to expose hate groups, it has (in my opinion) disproportionately singled out UKIP. I am not a UKIP supporter, although in the past I have voted UKIP based on the best of a bad bunch principle. I take exception when friends of mine who for good reasons choose to vote UKIP are branded as being among the hate mongers. While it has (wisely) kept out of religion, I can well see how Christians who stand up for certain principles like the rights of unborn child over mothers rights, the right of Israel to exist and only mixed sex marriage, can be demonized in a like manner.
It should be noted that similar such terrorist inspired attacks regularly take place the world over but with a fraction of the news coverage, and because it is not close to home we ignore what is happening. But right now, this is not the time for ideological point scoring. Let us join and show solidarity with our brothers and sisters who are mourning the loss of loved ones in Paris (a city I visited on numerous occasions starting with school trips) and let us do our part in spreading the message of HOPE not hate in a world where there is so much hate and pray like St. Francis, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, where there is hatred, let me sow love …”
Postscript: I fear I am becoming doolally 🙂 I had completely forgotten that I had posted on the subject of “Hope not hate” not all that long ago, yet maybe is a further indication as to how important the issues raised are. The context was different (yet just as relevant) to here but some of the content were the same. I hope readers will bear with the ramblings of an old man that still has the spark!