We woke to the sound of helicopters circling over Woolwich town centre, just a 15 min. bus ride down the hill. The terrible murder there yesterday afternoon has left a sense of fear, insecurity and confusion as the consequences unfold.
I am left with an image from today’s newspapers of one of the murderers wielding a blooded cleaver with the bold headline “It’s an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” and the claim that this act was done as a reprisal for the deaths of Muslims. So, almost inevitably, there were further reprisals last night against Islamic targets and the threat today of street protests. So the cycle goes on.
And into my mind comes the only solution: “You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also … You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy." But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:38-39 and 43-44. NRSV) These are the words – these ‘hard teachings’ of Jesus – that need to be recalled by those who would claim the cross of Christ. The flag of St. George is an emblem of Jesus’ teaching, not a rallying point for vengeance.
Our hearts are capable of the worst atrocities and the most sublime acts of love. Violence feeds all that leads to hatred and death and needs to be resisted. Religious faith springs from the depths of our humanity and the Church needs to proclaim, loudly and clearly, the message of Christ at times such as this: to counter the violence that calls for the heart’s attention by directing us to the call that what will bring us to the fullness of life.
It is right that we question why people feel called to commit such gross acts of violence against a fellow human-being, but we also need to be reminded that, in the end, it is the heart needs to be converted to that compassionate love which Christ showed by his love and taught his disciples.