Thursday, 15 January 2015

A pastoral letter to my Muslim brothers and sisters in this parish - from the Vicar

Dear brothers and sisters, 

Greetings to you in the name of the one, loving God, who we each seek to discover, follow and embrace. 

This last week - viewed from a larger perspective than our own neighbourhood - has been a troubling one, for Christians, Muslims, Jews and, indeed, many others.

After some reflection, I wished to put some markers down around my own sense of things.

Prior to being ordained priest in the Church of England, I spent the better part of a decade as a university teacher in the fields of Media and Cultural Studies.  It was my job to study and teach within these fields, and to bear some part of the responsibility for helping to form journalists, designers, film and TV producers, and all kinds of other 'creatives'.  Even cartoonists and other illustrators.

There was much then - and even more now - that made me anxious about the drift of our culture, especially that driven by the 'media elite' (of which, I must confess, I was one).

I have, heretofore, always held fast with Voltaire, in his oft-quoted aphorism: "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."  This had seemed to me to represent the highest ideal of communication and respect in a mature society.  This had seemed to me to represent our best attempt to be grown-ups with each other.

I am not so sure, now.  I think we are not being grown-ups. Much as I have tried to see the continuing need for reiterating Voltaire's 'liberal mantra', I now think that it falls short.

To the point.

I regard the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo as a despicable and filthy publication that - as a result of the various events of this past week - unfortunately now has massively higher sales for its dreadful offscourings on religion.   I have no desire for Islam or Christianity to be abused by publications like Charlie Hebdo (both faiths are so abused, and regularly). 

I would like you, my Muslim brothers and sisters, to live in peace in our land and our neighbourhood, and I hate those who scorn and mock your religion.  Unfortunately the attack in Paris has greatly expanded the secularist lobby and given more voice to those who do not love God.  

I am sad, too, that our Prime Minister should have stood in solidarity with other heads of state in France after the attacks.  I would have preferred him to stay away and not support this blatant misuse of free speech.  

I also do not like or support the violence of many, including the three attackers in Paris, to defend Islam.  Certainly, much needs to be done to understand why Islam produces so many terrorists, but I do not believe that either the work of Charlie Hebdo, nor the hypocritical-grandstanding of many of Europe's political elite, contributes to this task.

I write this in appreciation of your sincere faith, and anxious about the damaging atmosphere which too many are placing around all of us who seek to practice our trust in God and in one another.  If further tough times come - and my heart fears that they will - then I pray we will be as one family.

Go well,

Fr Paul

1 comment:

Liz said...

I agree with your sentiments completely!