Saturday, 26 July 2014

Beyond identity politcs part 1: in the face of persecution

A week on and I'm still grasping for an appropriate response to the news of Christians being driven from their homes in Mosul, Northern Iraq. First it was shock at the swiftness and severity of the ISIS action, then I began to feel anger, before a sense of helplessness set in. What can I do about it? I tweeted Open Doors, Release International and Christians Solidarity Worldwide to ask if they knew of a public show of support. Only Open Doors got back - to tell me I could donate to their appeal and pray.

Pray, give money - it's always the same two options in the face of an international crisis. Both feel inadequate. I want to do something more - vent some anger at lack of public outrage, feel part of a movement that's going to actually change something. I believe prayer works but I also believe that we're called to live our prayers.

Meanwhile, the conflict in Gaza rages on. Muslim friends are going through the same emotions - shock, anger and helplessness. I see the same feelings expressed on social media and in conversation. Like me they call on God to intervene, like me they respond to calls for donations and like me they're itching to do more. Many of them head to protests in Central London. I'd be up for something like that about Mosul, but it looks as though most British Christians have forgotten how to do that kind of thing.

As time has gone on I've become increasingly aware of how easily I've been drawn into the identity politics. I find myself wanting to stand up for the Christian cause. I look enviously at how Muslims fearlessly make a noise and wonder why we don't do the same. But surely there's more to it than that - Christians and Muslims out supporting their own 'brothers and sisters'. What about 'the other'? Should it matter if they are a Christian or Muslim or whatever? Are we not called to be peacemakers for all of God's creation? Surely the deaths of the innocent in Gaza isn't just a Muslim issue or the flight of Christians in Mosul a Christian one? This is humanity's issue.

All this simply highlights the need for us to stop playing identity politics with our faiths. Wherever there is oppression, wherever there is injustice, wherever there is persecution, we need to stand together, rise as one and build a movement for peace. And we need to constantly remind one another of this. We need to challenge those around us who only support the cause of 'their own'. We need to stop publishing stories in our media (including our own social media) that only tell of persecution of our 'tribe'. We need to respectfully encourage organisations that focus on persecuted minorities around the world to work together.

We need an alternative narrative - one that looks beyond narrow identity politics and embraces genuine peace-making. Anything less and we risk being part of the problem. So, let's stand with the Christians fleeing Iraq, let's highlight the plight of Rohingya Muslims who are horribly persecuted in Myanmar, let's keep up the cry 'bring back our girls' in Nigeria, let's do everything in our power to bring peace in Gaza, Israel and Syria. In the face of persecution, war or oppression let us never remain silent. And let's keep praying - Lord have mercy.

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