Tuesday, 30 July 2013

#InterfaithFriday: In a Gentle Way We Can Shake The World

You might already be wondering - what can I do once Ramadan is over? 
How can we continue to contribute to the ongoing process of interfaith dialogue and activism? 

Today's article might be the answer that many of you are looking for. I'm very excited to be sharing a new interactive initiative with you called #InterfaithFriday. London-based educator and writer Lucy Johnson tells us more!  

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Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, 
there is a field. I will meet you there.” Rumi

A journey at any time through a city as vast and sprawling as London is a series of encounters with people we probably don't know. On first appearances it may seem as if we have little or nothing in common. I am white, middle-class, in my late thirties, Christian, not originally from London and, up until three months ago, had never stepped foot inside a mosque.

Sometimes, cutting through the polite façade that pervades Britishness, comes something ugly; Mahatma Gandhi, ever the master of touching the heart of the matter, tellingly called this 'pocketing the insult': the moment when something is said or done that pierces through your very being and leaves you with either a burning sense of invalidation, or at its worst, a powerlessness that turns into apathy and resignation. Over there is 'Them'; over here is 'Us'. What can be done in the face of such ignorance, we ask with a look upwards.

I would assert that, for nearly every one of you reading this article, at some point in your life something has happened that falls in to this category. Either a slight has been made to you personally about who you are or what you represent, your family heritage, or something has happened to others that shook your resolve. 

When an event takes place on the scale of tragedy such as events in London which took place in Woolwich, or in Muswell Hill, or looking further back to 7th July 2005, or September 11th 2001, dates inscribed indelibly onto our hearts, the commitment of an entire nation can get thrown into chaos as people react and counter-react. Social media implodes into life as opinions fly around the world. The network of conversations can become saturated with fear, hatred and mistrust.

Hatred is as old as Adam. The choice to hate is inside each of us and part of our frail humanity. It starts wars, it has us waving placards and sends us on to the streets to 'stand against' others, who seem all too willing to square up to us in return; it sends men out armed with knives; it sends people home in boxes to their families. Who would dare even attempt to break through the habit of all humans - to be right? Surely only a fool would try.

“The foolishness of God is wiser than men, 
and the weakness of God is stronger than men. ”

St.Paul's Letter to the Corinthians  1:25

I suggest that, contrary to how it may look, in London there has always been and is currently a vast majority of people who wish nothing more than peace, unity and goodwill towards each other. They have shown this consistently, whether seen or unseen. Regardless of background, faith or no faith, in spite of whatever differences between us there may seem to be on the surface, one common thing is indisputable and the future of London rests upon it entirely: we are all human. 

If taking the view that there is nothing separating us appears naive or even stupid, then there is a significant group of people, transcending nations and generations, who are willing to look foolish in honour of a universal truth that sets people free. Consider (or if you ever forgot, remember): there is no Them/Us. There is only Us. It is the singular declaration that laces itself through every holy book, every prophet's words. “Love thy neighbour.”

Asking people to put their opinions and differences to one side to see the common humanity in each other is exactly what the #InterfaithFriday project asks you to do. #InterfaithFriday is not an organisation, but a conversation. The vision behind it is simple enough. I see a London where racism is a conversation for history books. And I see that possible within our lifetime. It is not a new or radical vision and the means by which it can be achieved is already known to us all. 

The books in which the answer is contained have already been written and we hold them in our hands. Every time we humble ourselves to know another human being we not only do God's work but we alter the predictable future of misunderstanding, fear and retaliation. Given what is at stake, namely our safety, our honour and our peace, there has never been a more important time to create a new conversation with strangers for what is possible in London.

For Londoners, the opportunity is there to take action; cause a new conversation to trend around the city and replace the barrage of mistrust and fear; go visit each other on a Friday, find some way to worship or dialogue together, wear blue to show peace, and tweet, blog or Instagram the photos, stories and encounters with a single hashtag: #InterfaithFriday. 

It should no longer require a tragedy to bring about a transformation. As the phenomenon catches alight in people, there could come a tipping point: imagine London being a sea of blue every Friday. 

Imagine the internet flooded with images of Londoners standing peacefully together. New connections and understanding made, old friendships and the communion of decades made visible. It is neither fanciful, nor wishful thinking, to speculate the impact on people's lives from the simple act of giving peace a colour once a week, and showing the world.

#InterfaithFriday invites you to take it on.

“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” Gandhi

★  ★  ★

Lucy Johnson is a musician, educator and author of the blog #InterfaithFriday.

Previous Posts: When A Time-Travelling Viking Met Jesus (A linguistic take on God vs Allah)
Next Post: The Problems With All This Interfaith Ramadan Marlarkey 

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