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Bank Street Unitarian Chapel

Open Hearts Open Minds


Minister's Message

March's Theme: Justice

In the last few weeks some people have asked me, "What can we do about all the acts of horrific terrorism that we've seen recently?" It is true we've seen such horrific acts of the deliberate killing of innocent civilians in Pakistan, Nigeria, France, Denmark, and in the United States. Not to mention the worrying rise of so-called "Islamic State" in Syria and Iraq.

I have been reluctant to talk about this subject too much. The reason is I think we can rush too quickly to analysis, commentary and debate as a way to distract us from looking directly at the horror of raw suffering, evil and sin. Sometimes there isn't actually much we can say. We want to say something but there is nothing to say. It is just horrible. There is nothing more to say than that.

There is also a danger that anything you or I say is amateurish and very ill-informed so, again, it would be better to say nothing.

But I suppose the question remains of what we can do?Are we completely powerless? How can we do something positive?

When I started thinking about this, I asked myself the question, what counters terrorism? And I thought: well I suppose something that is the equal and opposite of terrorism. So what would the equal and opposite of terrorism look like? Well it would look like an internationally organised, well-funded network of people with the simple aim of love and justice in this world. It would look like a group of people prepared to give their lives, and sometimes their deaths in order to spread love. Whereas terrorism seeks to spread fear, hate, and violence in countries across the world, the opposite of terrorism would seek to heal the sick and injured, give people hope and courage, feed the hungry, house the homeless, save lives in every country in the world.

Some terrorism is well organised and funded whereas some us is just a lone person hell-bent on causing carnage and violence. The opposite of terrorism would equally sometimes be an international well-funded operation, but sometimes be a lone individual passionately committed to causing hope and healing in the world.

And when you think of it like that, you realise that the opposite of terrorism already exists. It is every charity in the world, it is every compassionate religion, it is Medecins sans Frontieres, it is Amnesty International, it is Christian Aid, it is the National Health Service, it is Liberty, it is Macmillan Nurses, it is War Child, it is Islamic Relief, it is Bolton Street Angels, it is Fortalice Hostel, it is Urban Outreach, it is Bank Street Unitarian Chapel. It is you. It is me.

Usually when we say "anti-terrorism" we think of policing against terrorism. But if "anti-terrorism" is the equal and opposite of terrorism, like in physics anti-matter is the equal and opposite of matter, then anti-terrorism is all the human organisations that do the opposite of terrorism; that don't spread hate and fear but heal the sick, feed the hungry, build up the former devastations, and give hope to the people, that practice love and justice.

And here's the good news: anti-terrorism is bigger than terrorism. By a long way. All the human striving for love in the world is bigger than the striving for fear and violence.

So how do we respond to terrorism? By being anti-terrorists. We need to be as passionately committed to anti-terrorism as terrorists are to their cause. We need to be as much evangelists for love as terrorists are evangelists for hate. We need cells of radical anti-terrorists up and down this country (and this world) carefully planning their next big event that will spread compassion and love up in their community. As much time and money and energy terrorists give to terror, we must give the same time, energy and money to the anti-terror work of love and justice.

If we can view this community as being part of that, as lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness, then we will realise the vital importance of our work. And you can be part of that work. And that's what you can do.


In love,




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