St John's Church, Harpenden - letter from the Ministry team

We publish a Parish Magazine 4 times a year and in each Magazine there is a letter from the vicar or a member of the Ministry team.

Letter from the Vicarage

In the aftermath of the attacks in Brussels and then in Lahore, people of faith have been trying to come to terms with the horrible fact that there are those who think they know the mind of God and who want to serve God and their idea of justice by organised slaughter and suicide. The underlying mistake of the terrorist is the assumption that God is too weak to look after His own honour and so we are the strong ones who must step in to help Him out. If this were really true, it would mean that all that we have to hold on to was our own sense of power, presuming that we are in total control, which fuels all kinds of pathological violence. People of faith, on the other hand, are called to empty themselves of such thoughts and place their total trust in God. This stepping out along the path of humility makes it impossible for us to confuse our displays of strength and our strategies for political dominance with God's power.

These attacks once again sent shock waves across Europe. But let's not forget that attacks have become commonplace in the Middle East, indiscriminately targeting Shi'ite and Sunni Muslims, Christians and Jews. There is nothing to romanticise and there is nothing to condone in these attacks. This is criminality pure and simple. However, we do have before us the task of responsible and mature reactions. Solidarity and common purpose are vital for us all in these times of pain, sorrow, and anger. Indeed, more than at any other time, faith communities will have to continue to stand and work together for the wellbeing of societies and for our shared understanding of life to which God calls us.

We need people in all our faith communities who do not fill the void in their souls with language and action that is blind to the reality of others. Those Muslims who are confident in their faith, who believe God is merciful and compassionate, are the ones who will most effectively challenge the extremists of murder and fear. We Christians, if we are to acquire the mind of Christ, as St Paul exhorts, should be listening for echoes of this trust: God's power is different from our power. God's power is quite disconnected from our politics of domination. We need to listen for the witness in other religious faith traditions to that poverty of spirit, which Christ names first in the Beatitudes.

This means that if religious faith has any relevance to the realm of politics in all of this, it is in the summons to a common repentance. While Muslim religious leaders examine their response and teachings, we in the West need to question the wisdom of past colonial policies that may also have contributed to the current situation in the Middle East. We have got used to the idea that what happens 'there' has nothing to do with us 'here'; and, even worse, that what is good for us in the wealthy part of the world has no connection with what is good for anyone else. Similarly, there has been much concern about the wellbeing of Christian communities in the Middle East. This is understandable given their ancient heritage and the fact that so many Christian priests have been kidnapped and murdered as a result of their unconditional openness, even to the enemy, and that many Christians have suffered displacement or have been killed. But the real concern is not about the survival of only Christian communities, but of entire societies. Our concern for the Christian churches in the Middle East is for them to be free and able to act for what they are called to do in the first place: seek the well-being of the whole society, proclaim the good news of God in Christ in the face of human folly and desperation, as they reach out for everyone's good. The instincts that have sometimes led Christian leaders to support regimes that were favourable to them but not to other members of society need to be replaced with an attentiveness to the well-being of the whole society, an openness to all, of which many Christian institutions are an example.

The people behind these heinous terrorist crimes belong to groups that are responsible for the disintegration of whole societies. Most of those seeking refuge in Europe from Syria and Pakistan are fleeing precisely because of this disintegration. In this context, it is not sufficient to talk about defending borders, and retaliating with aerial bombing. European governments need to respond and work with greater intelligence and generosity. This is in the strategic interests of everyone concerned. As believers, our response to evil and terror is through generosity, imagination and sacrificial living that reflects something of the true glory of the God who delights in all His children.

With every blessing to you all,


Nicholas P Anderson

Visit the Diocese's web site: Living God's Love.

Read about Lauryn's visit to the Holy Land

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