Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Solidarity revealed

It's getting noticeably hotter by day this week, not only here, but in Britain. Clare has been making the most of her time with Ann in Pembrokeshire, and fine weather, to visit a different beach every day and post photos of them, on Instagram and Viber. She's in her element. I'm not that comfortable sunning myself on sand, though I love to walk along the promenade and sea shore, day or night. 

Monday was a day with no appointment, just clothes to wash and a visit to local food shops, notably an eco-tienda, the other side of the Bull Ring plaza, to purchase a jar of Tahini using my best Spanish with complete success. But, most of the day I lay low in the apartment avoiding the intense heat, venturing out to the Old Town in the late afternoon as it was cooling down, to get some exercise. Having done a lot of walking over the weekend, my legs were quite tired. I'm walking at least 3-5km a day, but I'd like to build up to 5-7km a day every day, to get back to the fitness level I had last autumn in Mojรกcar.

Tuesday was also a day with no appointments, but a day of preparation for Owain's visit, and a day to draft a sermon for next Sunday's first visit to the Salinas congregation to celebrate the Eucharist. I found myself drawn to the Genesis lesson about Abraham and Ishmael and its relation to Islam.

More information is emerging today about the attack on worshippers at a Finsbury Park Mosque in London, by an assailant from Pentwyn, Cardiff, who seems to be a loner filled with hatred for Muslims. The impact of this act of terrorism, like the London Bridge incident last month, has been a defiant expression of solidarity by people of all faiths and none at every level, both the leaders and the led. 

'Live and let live' has been a default expression of tolerance in British urban society for generations, despite politics, despite local difficulties and compatibility tensions between communities with different lifestyles. It's not always comfortable, but people get used to it, make it work, as much by passive acceptance as through active community relations. There are more ways for people from different backgrounds to get used to each other than we realise. But, when there's an external threat to the natural balancing act going on in every kind of living community, there's a most remarkable reaction from within. 

People who've been muddling along start taking notice, and stop taking peace and stability for granted. Crisis pushes them out of passive acceptance of each other into a defensive affirmation of a diverse common life together. A sense of human solidarity becomes more conscious. It breaks down barriers of race, language and culture in public. What may have occurred when near neighbours had something to celebrate or grieve about, is revealed by harsh circumstances to be an experience shared by the larger community, which just wants freedom to continue muddling along, putting up with each other and living with differences.

Memories are awakened of my time as Team Rector of St Paul's Area Parish, Bristol at the time of the 1980 riots. That was a place where many poor people of different races and cultures muddled along together. Rioting broke out as a result of a bungled operation by poorly briefed police officers unaquainted with the area, without consulting police working there day by day. It was an expression of utter frustration by local young black people with far reaching consequences, and it attracted global attention for a while. 

There were unaddressed social problems as well, that's for sure, and a great need for British public bodies to re-examine their attitudes toward those who were of a non-British culture, in order to find out what all had in common, and what differences there were which called for respect. There were many top level enquiries, and a few changes, though never enough to make a major difference. Even then, as the crisis passed, all who lived in an area subject to intense scrutiny soon wanted just to be left alone to get on with a struggle to survive which no media or political intrusion could ever make a real difference to. 

Young rioters effectively said: 'Stop messing with us' to police with no idea how to administer law and order worthy of respect, as local Bobbies could. Hit a community with an islamophobic attack, or an islamist attack and we can label them politically any way we desire, but when the people of a place bond together in mutual respect to support each other, they may simply be saying: 'Let us be. Let us deal with this as best we can.' Whoever suffers, whoever is the victim, the community feels it's an assault on them and their effort to live together. It's almost like a revelation, this discovery that, as St Paul tells us "We are members of one another."

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