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September 2005 - Religion, Terror and Violence

Brother Roger, founder of the Taize community, France.I write this piece in some shock as I have just learned that Brother Roger of Taizé has been stabbed to death. Brother Roger was one of the great Christians of our time. I, for one, feel privileged to recall the peace and spirituality he radiated from his person. His simple but profound faith attracted so many people, especially young people. His commitment to prayer and the monastic way gave access to rich traditions of faith and holiness. His openness to young people, to men and women of many faiths and none, yet alone his reconciling work between separated Christian communities was a magnificent demonstration of the power of the Gospel of love. In his life he worked for peace and reconciliation and unity. Yet this good and saintly man has been killed. Violence has disrupted prayer.

One of the marker issues that we at CASE have identified as important in our Faith and Culture remit is the culture of violence encountered in many dimensions today. It seems inescapable:

There is the normative violence of our streets late night each weekend;

There is the violence hidden in our homes;

There is the violence in international relationships;

There is the violence of sectarianism and/or racism between some communities in our nations;

There is the violence of terrorist bombs left on London transport.

Religion for some has become an excuse for violence. Strongly held identities, often underpinned by faith commitments in communities, have assisted the demonisation of ‘the other’. As we know too well too many human conflicts have had a religious component. Sometimes religious commitment has expressed itself as a quietism which endures and ignores rather than challenges and changes violence.

For forty years, since Pacem in Terris, the Catholic church has emphasised that Justice and Peace have been fundamental to our Gospel. The Beatitudes call us to be peacemakers. Over the last ten years it has been re-emphasised that resisting violence and promoting peace and reconciliation are key elements to our mission. In promoting peace with justice we are furthering the Kingdom of God. Ecumenically the World Council of Churches has instituted this first decade of the twenty-first century to be a decade to overcome violence.

This all sounds ‘big picture’ stuff. But I have an image in my mind of the nucleus around which crystals form: a small crystal hung in solution creates a pattern around which other crystals can form. Brother Roger was just such a nucleus around whom a beautiful crystal of unity, peace and reconciliation formed. Each of us has the capability and the duty to be a nuclei for peace. If we in ourselves can come close to Jesus, the Prince of Peace then his peace can enter us as a gift and as a mission. The peace within us is there to be radiated out to others. We can know peace and we can share it with others and unite ourselves with a global longing for peace.

by Fr Philip Knights, CASE Team Member