Earlier in the week, I heard a Sikh man being interviewed in Woolwich after the EDL had gathered near the Woolwich barracks where the murder happened. He said “These are my streets too. I was born here.”
I was not in town to see the actual march, but earlier saw all the police in their riot gear getting ready to manage the march and an opposing demonstration organised by Newcastle Unites. The sight of so many police, ready for potential trouble, was quite alarming. It reminded me how lucky we are to live in a society where such times of tension and threat of violence are relatively rare.
How do we, as people of faith, respond to all these events? The murder, the protests, the sense of polarisation taking place in some sections of the community? Why were there up to 2000 people on the EDL march and only 400 on the Newcastle Unites protest? Prayer, education and protest come to mind.
Prayer focuses our minds and offers seemingly impossible situations to God for whom all things are possible. We need to educate ourselves, so that we are not making assumptions or judgements about people in other traditions or faiths. Recently, a Muslim group held an Open Day at the Civic Centre and sent an invitation to MCC Newcastle to attend. Vicki attended on our behalf and gave a very favourable account of all that she had experienced during the day. Where we can, we can protest. Protest comes in many forms, from marching in the streets to choosing to shop in more ethical ways. As the psalms teach us, even praying – crying out loud to God can be a protest in itself.
As the story behind the murder of Lee Rigby unfolds, I invite you to pray for peace and justice this week.