Manchester Arena

Elliot's Weekly Roundup- Ramadan Mubarak

image credit: Salma Says flickr

image credit: Salma Says: flickr

In the aftermath of the Manchester bombing what is in the media?  Other tragedies such as Egypt, Baghdad, and Kabul should not be forgotten where many more were killed and injured. 

A mosque in Manchester was set alight as a response to the bomb attack in Manchester. Muslims have been targeted and blamed for the Manchester attack elsewhere. In one report taxi drivers in Leicester have been verbally abused and suffered from road rage style Isamophobia.  Owner of a Leicester taxi firm spoke about the difficulties he had encountered  since the Manchester attack,  "We know there were Muslim taxi drivers in Manchester offering people free rides to help the get home straight after the bomb went off but some people choose not to recognise that. I don't know if anyone will listen to me but I'd just ask people to show some respect and act properly towards people who are only trying to do a job."

Muslims in the UK have voiced their disgust at the killings, including the Chester Muslim Community.

But it needs to be more than a just a few words at the mosque. We want to be more open and transparent as a community and build understanding.
We shouldn’t be isolated and we need to integrate better in the community.
— http://www.chesterchronicle.co.uk/news/chester-cheshire-news/chesters-muslim-community-condemns-manchester-13116605

Muslims were joined by non Muslims on a peace walk in Manchester  organised by North Manchester's Jamia Mosque to show their support and solidarity for the bereaved. Around 500 joined in the demonstration against terrorism walking three miles from Cheetham to hold a vigil outside Manchester Arena.

I’m a Muslim and I trust you.
Do you trust me enough for a hug?
— http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/blindfolded-muslim-manchester-free-hugs-terrorist-attack-kindness-strangers-baktash-noori-a7761696.html

Baktash Noori has spent days blindfolded offering hugs to passers by in Manchester's Market Street.  The video he has made documenting his experience has been watched over thirty thousand times in recent days.  He stated: “I did not expect so many people to come and hug me, let alone give me such positive comments, but it was the best thing I've ever done.”  By the end of the day the queue snaked down the street with a long line of people waiting their turn to be hugged. 

Further afield in Iraq Muslim volunteers have shown solidarity with non Muslim members of their community by working on a ruined monastery near Mosul, with the aim of demonstrating that "Mosul is yours as it is ours" and that "our differences are our strength" 

Zain- the Kuwaiti mobile phone operator- has recently produced an advert.  The advert released at the start of Ramadan shows a man in a suicide vest walking through staged scenes based on recent bombings. The video has received a mix of positive and negative reactions. It has been criticised for using images of terrorism in an exploitative way. One image, perhaps familiar to us all, was of Omran Daqneesh- little boy who was pictured waiting for help after one of Bashar-al Assad's air strikes on Aleppo.  

 

Others have hailed the performer as a hero. The cast also includes people who have been victims in atrocities in Iraq Jordan and Kuwait and recreates some scenes of terror attacks. It has some great lines including:

You who come in the name of death. He is the creator of life.
Worship your God with love not terror.
Confront your enemy with peace not war.
Let’s bomb violence with mercy.
Let’s bomb hatred with love.
— https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U49nOBFv508

It kind of reminds me of something someone else said. Its a challenge to all of us. If you haven't seen the advert you can watch it here.  I'm not so interested in your intellectual analysis, discussion of camera angles,or artistic merit- as how your life is impacted by responding to this challenge today and this week.

Please get in touch we'd love to hear from you!

My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.
— The Message- www.biblegateway.com

Choose love, Manchester ❤️️

Image: keithvaughton, Faces of Manchester,  Flickr

Image: keithvaughton, Faces of Manchester, Flickr

Choose love, Manchester ❤️️

I woke up on Tuesday with my heart churning about Manchester.

As a Mahabba team across the UK, we were respectfully remaining silent to give Manchester time to grieve and find a way to respond.

However, it became so obvious that we could not remain silent: people were looking for a way to respond, and for someone to help them come to terms with this tragedy, as so many people are feeling numb.

I so well remember that same numbness when I was an officer in the British Army and four of my soldiers were blown up senselessly in a radio controlled explosion in our first week of action.

The shock was so immense that I never really processed that pain, and just locked it up inside.

I do identify with those who are grieving and have suffered loss, so it is with some trepidation, and a feeling of humility and brokenness, that I am now writing.

Right now, we are all facing a 'love challenge': will we choose to love sacrificially when nothing makes sense and our emotions are either totally numb or screaming inside?

It's at times like this that we need to remember that people are never our enemy, whether Muslim or Christian, LGBT or straight, black or white... whatever the differences, everyone is loved and has been purchased by our precious Jesus, who gave His life for each one with no exceptions.

My Bible says that love never fails, but, oh, how it hurts sometimes! This is the 'love challenge'!

I remember just after the events of 9/11 that Muslims in the UK were terrified of being persecuted and so they gathered in large numbers in mosques to try to make sense of the events.

I quickly sent a message to all the other pastors in my town, asking them to join me outside the local mosque after Friday prayers, so that we could press flowers into every hand as they came out, telling them not to be afraid: we were true believers in 'Isa Al Masih' - Jesus the Messiah - and they could count on us to be their friends.

This was the love challenge – to respond in the opposite spirit, when our love tank was totally dry, and inside we were raging against Radical Islam; we had to choose to love the very people whose Holy Book had inspired such senseless carnage.

Sadly, not one pastor turned up, due possibly to fear or anger, and I was left alone with five intercessors pressing flowers into every hand.

Most were in tears as we did this, and one young man jumped into my arms and said, “I don't care where you come from - I'm following you!”

This was the impact of one simple act of true love. That moment profoundly changed my life: learning to see behind all the veils and facades of religion, refusing to stereotype people, and actually feel God’s father heart of love for them.

The seeds of this love for Muslims had been sown over several years as I went ahead of Reinhard Bonnke, as his Campaign Director, into many Islamic cities, believing that thousands would come to Christ.

During our prayer times, we again and again heard the prophetic heart cry of God from Isaiah 45, that He would give us these precious Muslim people, whom He saw as “treasures in darkness”.

Somehow we needed to choose to see Muslims as people just like us – but people who had become prisoners of an ideology which denied them the joy of living in the Light of God’s forgiveness and grace.

It can be at any moment that we suddenly, even years later, are able to release the pain of those moments.

For me it happened at the National Prayer Breakfast in the Houses of Parliament in London last year, as my heart was heavy after the news of the Orlando bombing.

At the breakfast, unexpectedly all the memories of losing my four soldiers almost 40 years ago began to resurface: I listened to the Middle Eastern Bishop talk of the martyrdom of 21 courageous men from his Church being beheaded on the beach in Libya, and how he knelt down and then tweeted #fatherforgive.

He then finished speaking, there was silence, and the band began to play. I cannot explain what happened next as I closed my eyes, but tears just flowed, and those years of locked up pain were released and healed… instantly!

Only embracing the Cross at this time will enable us to respond well to the love challenge.

Oh, how it hurts, but it is the only safe place to bring the kaleidoscope of emotions and reactions that we are all feeling.

 

Your turn

If you are struggling to make sense of the bombing and want to pray and talk through this with other Christians, get in touch.

 

About the author

Gordon Hickson is a pastor from Oxford, and has been in missions and pastoral work for over 30 years. He is one of the founders of Mahabba, which helps everyday Christians engage positively with Muslims