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Priest murdered in horrific attack on values

Let us remember Fr Jacques Hamel not as somebody who was targeted for his faith, but as somebody who fought for fellowship and concord, and was wickedly struck down by those by whom he sought to stand.

BBC-produced graphic, displaying terror attacks in France over the past few years.

BBC-produced graphic, displaying terror attacks in France over the past few years.

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past few years, you will be aware of the growing amount of terrorist attacks happening all around the world. Most recently, media outlets reported the horrific slaughter of a Catholic Priest, whilst celebrating the Mass in a quiet, suburban church in France.

 

Fr Jacques Hamel was murdered at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists in the name of so-called IS. He was a semi-retired priest, who had served his church in Saint Etienne for many decades. The community of believers and non-believers knew and loved him; Fr Hamel was a well-respected figure of the locale. And yet he was attacked. He was attacked whilst celebrating the greatest sacramental mystery in the Christian faith: the Eucharist. Why? Was it a personal attack? Was it an attack on Christianity?

People began to rightly condemn the actions of the terrorists. Of course, for they are deplorable. It greatly upset me to see the Daily Mail’s front page on the following day: a photograph of the suspect, not of Fr Hamel in memoriam. However, one must not take these terrorists’ actions to be either an attack on the Catholic Church or on Fr Hamel himself.

I was listening to a Radio 4 programme in the car today, when somebody proposed the question of how churches in the United Kingdom need to be safeguarded in light of the events in France. Guards at the doors of churches were discussed. Elevated police presence on Sundays was too. Merely thinking this is gratifying the case for and aim of terrorism, for you are fearful of an attack, whether there is intelligence to prove it or not.

Recently, we held a large service at the Cathedral in remembrance of The Battle of The Somme. During the early morning Eucharist service, before the main event, we were disturbed by the police performing a bomb sweep of the Cathedral. My blood ran cold. Suddenly, I was aware of the ‘threat’. Later that morning, the Cathedral would be packed with people, mostly of military heritage, and therefore a prime target for a terrorist attack. I did not want to be there. I was overwhelmed by a panic and primordial urge to flea. But then I sat back and thought about it logically. That is what the terrorists want. They want me to be scared. Should I be? No! As far as I was aware, there was no evidence at all that there would be an attack that morning. If there were, the event would not be allowed to go ahead. Maybe it is because I’m stubborn, but I was not going to let fear stop me from doing my job.

These awful happenings across the Western World at the moment are not logical, organised or targeted acts of aggression towards people, priests, religions or anything else. It is a clash of cultures and values. It is rogue people, identifying with a rogue organisation in a foreign land, with foreign cultures, foreign values and foreign lifestyles, and these people trying to bring down what they see as foreign in their own homeland. Fr Hamel was an advocate for ecumenical partnership, and yet he was barbarically murdered in front of his congregation. Why would somebody fighting in the name of Islam seek to destroy somebody who has done so much for his Muslim community?

True Islam Speaks Out Against Atrocities Committed By ISIS: click image for link.

True Islam Speaks Out Against Atrocities Committed By ISIS: click image for link.

The reasons for this are two-fold: 1) the IS fighters do not want Christian and Muslim brothers and sisters living side-by-side harmoniously. That is exactly what they want to stop. They see Western culture as wholly incompatible with their view of society. Whether Fr Hamel aided in the construction of a mosque in his own church ground (which he did) is irrelevant, for he sought to bring these two cultures together. Furthermore, 2) these IS fighters are not representatives of Islam. I make no claim to be entirely knowledgeable of the inner workings of the Islamic faith; however, from what little I have grasped, it is a beautiful and peaceful religion. It advocates harmony, calm and congenial co-existence. The mainstream Western media does not give a big enough voice to those figureheads in the Muslim community speaking out against these deplorable actions. As a result, there are some ignorant people who believe that all Muslims are terrorists. Or that Muslims do not want to live in more traditional Western culture. This is grossly incorrect.

If a Christian man, delusional and fatigued by the Muslims in his area, went and killed a man in a mosque in the name of Christianity, The Archbishop of Canterbury would be on the 10o’clock news that night deploring the man’s actions, saying it is against the teachings of the Christian faith. It is exactly the same if it were (and it is) the other way around. Sadly, this is not the case. The media needs to give a louder voice to those Muslims abhorring and distancing themselves from these terrorist actions. Perhaps then those Muslims who feel the call to join IS will realise that IS is not acceptable Islam and is not in keeping with the faith for which they want to fight.

I am not suggesting that it is a Muslim’s responsibility to condemn these actions more than anybody else in the world. I am aware how much it must hurt being linked in anyway to these actions and how it is damaging of one’s reputation enough. But unfortunately, we are at the stage where even one leading Imam deploring the actions of Daesh publicly has the possibility of stopping half-a-dozen people from becoming radicalised. The buck stops with every day people though. We all need to reach out and embrace our friends, whatever their creed, colour and heritage. This is the only way we, in the United Kingdom, can achieve a truly colourful multi-cultural society. We all live in strongly divided groups and we don’t seem to be aware of it. The EU referendum made this clear to many people: that, actually, we are not as assimilated with others as we might first think. We are deeply and fundamentally divided on many issues in society. These attacks from rogue, non-Western cultures is not a one-off problem. It won’t go away next year. It is a generational concern. The only way it can be solved is by persistent chipping away at the brick wall of benightedness, which seems to be facing us all.

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Our churches do not need guards. Our minds need not be filled with fear. Yes, the world in which we live warrants a level of alertness, but this need not cross the boundaries of terror and fear. Let us remember Fr Jacques Hamel not as somebody who was targeted for his faith, but as somebody who fought for fellowship and concord, and was wickedly struck down by those by whom he sought to stand. May his memory live on positively as, with one another, we all seek to bring about change for good in the world. Through accepting one, it could save many.

Berlin Trip 2013

A long time ago, in a different life, I went on a School Trip to Germany. Berlin, to be precise. It was technically a languages trip – to work on my GCSE German – however, I think that we all know that school trips abroad tend to be more of a holiday than anything else.To be honest, I spent more of my time looking at Berlin through my viewfinder than I did through my own eyes. Here is the video evidence of it, in the form of a four-part series.