If I had to sum up my faith in two words, I would use the two words that poet Tony Walsh (aka Longfella) finished his poem with yesterday: Choose Love.
Walsh was reciting his poem in Manchester after the appalling terrorist attack at the Ariana Grande concert. He called people not to respond to violence with more violence. But to do something far more courageous than that. To choose love.
Last night I met up with about a dozen boys from our youth club all aged about 10-13 and I asked them if they’d heard about the attack and about other recent terrorist attacks. They did, of course, know all about Manchester and were also able to provide a litany of other attacks – Bataclan, that lorry that drove into people in France, that truck in Stockholm, Westminster bridge, the German Christmas market…the list went on.
So I asked them what on earth could make some people hate us enough to want to kill both themselves and innocent people, including children?
They thought for a while and then one boy said, well maybe if we’d killed their children. Maybe all this has something to do with the many thousands of people who have been killed in recent years in the Middle East.
Of course, absolutely nothing justifies terror and murder. But the simple truth is that violence leads to more violence.
And the message of Jesus, of the Christian faith, is an emphatic no to violence. Jesus says turn the other cheek, love your enemies, bless them that curse you and pray for those who persecute you. The ancient scriptures, that Jesus himself read, say ‘if your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.’
St Paul repeats this in his letter to the Church in Rome, saying that when we do this, we effectively ‘heap coals of fire on our enemy’s head.’ The message of the Christian faith is clear - Do not pay back evil with more evil.
The truth is that love is a bit like a weapon. And a very powerful weapon. Because only love can put an enduring end to violence. Only love can change things and break a cycle of violence.
But it will take a lot of courage to use this weapon. To be the one who draws a line and says no to the terrorists. No more. Whatever you do, we will not respond with violence.
As Antoine Leiris said, after he lost his wife in the Bataclan attack, ‘You will not have my hate.’ I will not be like you.
This is the defiance that has the power ultimately to defeat evil.
Do not choose hate. Choose love.
Posted by Martine Oborne