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Janet`s February letter to the Community

As I was thinking about what to say this month, the news broke of the murder of 12 people in a newspaper office in Paris by Islamist extremists, with injuries caused to 11 others.  The apparent motivation for the attack is to avenge an insult to the Prophet Muhammad caused by the publication of a number of highly irreverent cartoons. 

Many people will be concerned that such a horrendous attack will heighten anti-Muslim sentiment and lead to violent reprisals affecting entirely innocent people.  As we know, the Islamists do not represent mainstream Islam, which has quickly come out in condemnation of the atrocity.  The Chair of the Conservative Muslim Forum wrote: “When men presume to protect God or protect the memory of the Prophet by killing, they break God’s laws as well as man’s laws.”  And many thousands of ordinary Muslims have expressed their horror through social media outlets.  One “tweet” seemed to sum it up: “As a muslim I am offended by those images created by Charlie Hebdo but I am a million times more offended by the killings of innocent lives.”  Another quoted the Qu’ran: “Whoever kills an innocent soul … it is as if they had killed the entire humanity.”

As people of faith, we need to stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters in recognising the distress that they feel at the desecration of their faith in such horrific acts.  We need to work together wherever we can, and not allow extremism to polarise society, resulting in injustice and instability for us all.

The 18th February will be Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent.  Lent is traditionally a time when people “give up” indulgences – particular kinds of food, alcohol, habits – in order to focus on spiritual practices that bring us closer to God.  May I suggest that this Lent could be a time when we all make a particular effort to examine our prejudices and preconceptions, and give up easy judgements, especially of other people.  May I also suggest that we each make a particular effort to make a new friendship with someone of a faith or culture different from our own?  In building bridges across divides, and developing positive relationships we will be actively contributing to a society which honours the kind of God we believe in – a God of love and compassion, who values the life of every single human being and came to live with us to proclaim peace to all creation.

Janet Buchan