Leeds faith leaders: Why we must all unite against violence

A memorial in central Brussels following the March 22 terror attack in which killed 32 people.
A memorial in central Brussels following the March 22 terror attack in which killed 32 people.
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IN a joint article, David Kibble, Qari Asim and Mike Fligg explains how three faiths will come together at a joint event in Leeds on Sunday in the name of peace.

FIRST it was Paris, with 130 murdered; next Brussels, with 32 dead; and then an attack on Christians in Lahore with over 70 being killed.

In each of these three attacks, the first two by followers of so-called Islamic State, the third by a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, the perpetrators believed that they were carrying out their atrocities in the name of religion. ‘Allahu Akbar’ is the cry that accompanies their killings.

These, and similar attacks, are committed by Islamists bent on attacking the West or attacking members of Christian and Jewish communities.

We have to acknowledge, however, that the other two Abrahamic faiths have also used violence in the name of faith: Christians slaughtered Jews in the Crusades – 800 were killed in Worms, Germany, alone in May 1096. And, as Yorkshiremen, we remember the Jews massacred in 1190 by Christians as they sought sanctuary in Clifford’s Tower in York; the massacre was preceded by mass in front of the tower by a Christian monk.

Today there are gun-toting Jewish settlers who, though not representative of mainstream Israeli opinion, can be found in Palestine.

As people of faith, we believe the time has come for members of the three Abrahamic religions to stand together against violence perpetrated in the name of faith.

Following Islamist attacks in different parts of Europe and in North Africa, we have seen Jewish, Christian and Muslim leaders coming together in solidarity. Now we believe that it is time for members of churches, synagogues and mosques to do the same: to come together in solidarity to affirm that there must be no violence in religion.

Here in the UK it is time to demonstrate that Christians, Jews and Muslims together reject the use of violence against the innocent. This is our ‘no’. There may, of course, be times when a country rightly sees the need to call for a just war, but that is very different from religious believers using violence to promote what they see as their religious beliefs and practices.

But can we say ‘yes’ together? Are there things that members of our three faiths can do that are positive? Indeed there are: we can do so much more than simply renounce the use of violence.

As members of the three Abrahamic faiths, we believe that together we can bear witness to and proclaim that God exists and that He wishes people to co-exist in peace. This is something to which we can all say yes.

Of course we perceive God differently and disagree about how He has revealed Himself. Jews and Christians do not recognise Muhammad as a prophet; Jews reject the idea that Jesus is the Messiah and neither they nor Muslims accept the idea that God is trinitarian in nature. Yet that should not stop us from bearing witness together to the very existence of God.

Our second ‘yes’ is our commitment to serving our local, national and international communities with acts of service, evidencing our traditions’ commitment to compassion, justice and equity.

Christianity, Judaism and Islam all have a tradition of social responsibility, a responsibility that is embedded in our scriptures. Baroness Warsi, the first female Muslim Cabinet Minister, said that “people who do God do good”.

People of faith, as a 2014 survey demonstrates, give more to charitable projects than do those of no faith; Christians alone are giving over 100 million hours of their time each year in the service of social projects.

Our third ‘yes’ is a call for educational programmes around the globe which aim to promote and enhance an understanding of other people’s faiths and cultures. One reason for much of the world violence we see at present is a lack of understanding on the part of one community about another. With the rise of Daesh, the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Muslim religious and political leaders in the Middle East have said that Islamic State is a problem which Muslims must address.

Anyone attending the 2014 Manama Dialogue will have been left in no doubt that Middle Eastern leaders see IS as ‘their’ problem. But it is most definitely not a problem for the Muslim community alone: those of us who are not Muslims also must shoulder responsibility.

Non-Muslims need to acknowledge, for example, that there are things that the West has done which have helped to spawn its creed and practice. In some communities in the Middle East, the West is seen to be anti-Muslim: it invaded Iraq for reasons now seen as questionable and, further back, treated its lands as territory to be divided up at will. We will all need to ensure that the younger generation is made aware of how such ‘triggers’ have helped the growth of terrorism.

It is not just Muslims, then, who need to defeat Islamic State: it is all of us, not least Christians and Jews, whose histories are often inseparable from the Muslims.

In Leeds, members of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities are staging a symbolic event at St George’s Church in Leeds on Sunday. We members of the three faiths will say ‘yes’ to standing beside one another as people of faith and ‘no’ to violence of any kind in the name of religion.

Our three communities must come together to dispel misunderstanding, to develop mutual friendships and to stand together against violence.

David Kibble is a Reader at St George’s Church, Leeds; Qari Asim is Senior Imam at the Makkah Mosque, Leeds, and Mike Fligg is a member of the Chassidishe Synagogue, Leeds.

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