The season of peace

20 Dec

For those of us who follow the western festival dates and the Gregorian calendar, this is the last few days before Christmas. For myself, I do not even claim to believe in God, let alone the distinction of being a Christian. Yet there is much cultural background in my upbringing which I cannot ignore. I was born into a Christian family, baptised and went to a Church school, so I am definitely in the Christian tradition. Of course there is much in being a Christian, of whatever denomination, which is derived from the Church rather than the teachings of Jesus. There is also a cultural background which is older and deeper than the reformation of Henry VIII. Go back far enough and you end up with the story, or folk myth, of Abraham and the laws of Moses. This background is common to Jews, Christians and Moslems. We are all the children of Abraham. Look at the sixth commandment and you find one of the least equivocal law imaginable, ‘Thou shalt not kill’. Subsequent law makers have been attempting to add exclusions to that law since it was presented to man. Somehow I can’t help thinking the original form of the law was best.

Yesterday two men were sentenced for the murder of a musician in the British Army, Lee Rigsby. Rigsby had been run over deliberately and was hacked to death in public view and under the unemotional eyes of security cameras. One of the perpetrators was challenged by a brave woman, and press photographers recorded the grizly scene where the killers attempted to decapitate their victim. The defence given in court was that they were soldiers of Islam, taking revenge for western actions against Muslim nations. Even before being arrested the guilty pair wished to be shot by armed police, but they were only wounded. They wished to be killed and to become martyrs, as they saw it. They will now face a lifetime in prison, with no hope of remission. Both were recent converts to Islam and had been radicalised and both were known to the British security services.

There is no point here trying to apportion blame to the security services while ignoring the reason for the existence of the security services, notably the maintenance of a society which is relatively free. The attack was crude, desperate, stupid and ultimately counterproductive. The desire of the planners of the attack was to sicken people and so undermine western society. What has happened since is the universal condemnation by Moslem clerics, of all persuasions, of the excuse for the attack. There is no justification in religious laws. Such crimes are entirely political and can in no way be justified by any reference to any religion. The perpetrators should not be executed as they desire to be martyrs. That wish should not be granted, even if their definition of martyr is beyond any reason or understanding. It is a perversion of humanity.

Please take careful note that I do not associate Islam with terrorism. All religions have as much to be ashamed of as to be proud of. The Crusaders skinned prisoners alive more for the sadistic pleasure than for any other reason, and the foot soldiers of the First Crusade resorted to cannibalism. Moreover, when they stormed the walls of Jerusalem, they slaughtered almost all the inhabitants, Islamic, Jewish and Christian. This was done using the excuse of religion. The state of Israel came about after a campaign of terrorism. The blowing up of the King David Hotel cannot be thought of as anything other than a terrorist act. Various leading terrorists later became leading politicians and even statesmen.

To return to the beginning, this is, in the largely Christian west, a time of peace, or it should be. Let us reflect on what we have in common, our humanity. For the children of Abraham, let us try to understand what we share rather than concentrating on what separates us. So, a happy Christmas to everyone, and let us hope it will be peaceful.

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