St John the Baptist Parish Church

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Vicar's column- June 2017

It takes a tragedy to suspend election campaigning. Opposing political parties united in grief and outrage. Our hearts go out to the people of Manchester, as they did to all those affected by the Westminster attack. ISIS has struck again through the vehicle of the solitary individual. Again, we question “Why?” What have they got against us?”

We need to dig deeper than Donald Trump’s childish pronouncement that from henceforth ISIS should be called “losers” rather than “monsters”. We need to apprehend their mindset. Those who say the perpetrators of violence have nothing to do with Islam are missing the point. In fact, unfortunately, it has everything to do with Islam but a particular interpretation of it. ISIS are demanding a return to the time of Muhammad, the days of the Caliphate and a theocracy governed by Sharia law. They want their religion to be pure and un-corrupted by the ideals of Western democracy, which they perceive as a threat and so they must wage jihad, “holy war”, to impose their ideology upon the world. Their atrocities are, of course, condemned by the majority of the Muslim population who have assimilated to the Western way of life, who see Britain as their home, not as “the enemy”, and who interpret the Qur’an differently. The Qur’an contains texts from which ISIS justify their actions but the Qur’an is not the only holy book to cite violence. Peace loving Christians will be aware that the bible contains passages we would rather were not there, for instance, the “texts of terror” in the Old Testament inciting ethnic cleansing. Scripture needs to be seen in context and, for us, through the lens of the New Testament. Christ calls us to an ideology of love, not hate; to humble service, not aggressive subjugation of others to our way of thinking. The will to pride and power is not the way of the cross. Oh that the members of ISIS would come to learn what God’s true and perfect will really is.

As the electioneering resumes, we need to evaluate manifestos in the light of gospel values. But I will leave further elaboration on this to the Archbishops’ pastoral letter inside...

Rev Lisa Cornwell