Last Saturday I was a volunteer at the ‘Get in the picture’ project in Peterborough. The project happens all over the UK and encourages people to consider the real Christmas story, the reason for the season, so to speak. The Peterborough one is quite an impressive set up facilitated by the Churches Together in the city centre and on the launch we had the Mayor and a donkey for the media coverage. The launch was a great success apart from two things: 1) the donkey poo pooed the Mayor’s speech so to speak- twice, and 2) the official press arrived ten minutes late after the Mayor with his splattered shoes had left. The reason why they were late was due to a much bigger event going on in Peterborough that day, a protest and march against ‘militant Islam.’
So on the same day of our peaceful and humble stable scene the English Defence League (EDL) organised a much publicised and media hyped march. (great- just what we needed!) There was also a counter protest organised by the TUC which made a stance against the extreme views of the EDL who, on their website are quoted as saying:
“Why will the EDL be in Peterborough on Saturday? It won’t be there to fight, to ‘divide communities’ or to ‘spread racial hatred’. It will be there to unite communities and tell them about our common threats –militant Islam, sharia law and Islamic supremacism. It is these things which will cause conflict in our society, not the EDL, which simply wants to highlight these problems…”
Peaceful sentiments perhaps, yet my short encounter with the protest was hatred with a passion. It happened while I was inviting people to ‘get in the picture’ when a group of lads from the protest walked by. They asked what I was doing and I spoke about how I was letting people know about Jesus and joked that they could dress up as wise men and have their picture taken… all light hearted stuff really. I then witnessed such a passionate barrage of hatred for Islam and Muslims mixed with a kind of commendation for what I was doing, that it quite simply left me speechless, I didn’t know what to say. I had no words to share with the man in front of me after he spewed his sick thoughts about Islam. I felt numb. Then with my heart racing I spoke about Jesus and what I was doing in letting people know about him. It turned out the man hadn’t read the bible yet advocated ‘more Jesus on the streets.’ I have never witnessed such a mixed up ill-informed passionate hatred in my life. A stark contrast to the stable scene to which we stood next to. Little, vunrable baby Jesus is a great reminder that he is both ‘lowly and meak’ and ‘all powerful’ and it is only he, the one exalted as prince of peace, who will bring peace that lasts as his Reign and Kingdom comes more and more to earth as it is in heaven. It is only Jesus who can sort out this hatred and mixed up unrest in this world.
My short encounter left me pondering what is the solution to the passionate hatred of some of those who took part in the EDL March and of those who in the name of their God destroy others. The solution really is, no matter how twee or naff it may sound, the one who brings new life and declares the ‘old has gone and the new is here’ and brings everlasting peace with God. Please join me in a prayer for our nation:
The Caleb prayer, from Ffald-y-Brenin.