Monday, 16 February 2015

Prone to ourselves

In the 1990s, when I worked as part of the diocese’s training team, I used to be invited to preach from time to time in Lincoln Cathedral and I would often also use exploring the building with groups as a way of exploring, among other things, the dark side of our Christian inheritance. 

Once I was made a Canon of the Cathedral in 2002 the occasional invitations to preach resumed and the first time I returned to do so was in January 2003 in the days after a policeman in Manchester was killed by a terrorist from north Africa. 

I based my sermon then on the ‘testament’ which Fr Christian de Cherge left before his own murder in Algeria in 1996, including strikingly both his awareness of his own sinfulness and his fear that such a death would lead to further demonization of Islam. 

As fresh stories of murders of Christians and Jews in Denmark and in north Africa dominate today’s news yet again, I’ve been returning to Fr de Cherge’s words and, among many other things, to part of what I said about it then.

The last time I preached at this service... I talked about how important it was for me when leading pilgrim groups in this Cathedral to include proper reflection at the tomb of Little Hugh, a centre of thirteenth century antisemitic propaganda and then a tool of persecution.  And tomorrow is the third National Holocaust Memorial Day. 

We know how far some Christians have gone and can go when they have allowed themselves to demonise those of another religion.  And we can see clearly that it is wrong when some members of another religion make the same devastating mistake , but we can hardly be surprised at the phenomenon.  How differed it is to say ‘we can see exactly why you are wrong because it is something we are prone to ourselves’ rather than ‘your evil is unique’.

The picture is from a restored abandoned synagogue in Cordoba which I took when we visited it in 2011.  It is from such places that Sephardic Jews were expelled.

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