Waking up to hear the news that at least 137 people have been killed and hundreds more injured in explosions at churches and hotels in Sri Lanka is beyond shocking. Everyone should be free to practice whatever religion they want, as I should be free to practice none. We don’t know who or what was behind this horrendous atrocity but isn’t it about time the world tried love instead of hate?
Bad news is everywhere, isn’t it, in different forms. If climate change does not destroy our world, perhaps the corrupt far right demagogue currently in the White House will manage it first. Our Trump is Brexit, a hate-filled, bigoted English nationalist project. Other countries like Hungary and Italy flirt with fascism and in the Kremlin we have a KGB expansionist thug who wants nothing more than a heavily destabilised world. Add the chaos of the middle east and we are in a lot of trouble.
Would we have liked to have started from here, a time and a place when and where people are judged on the basis of their colour, where people of one religion murder those of another, where independent, free journalists, at home and abroad, live in fear for their lives, where gay men are thrown from buildings in backward theocratic dictatorships like Iran? We wouldn’t, would we?
For the life of me, I do not understand why we cannot all live together in peace and freedom. Why do we regard someone of a different colour or religion, or even with an unusual name, with suspicion and even aggression? And why are there those who wish to kill and maim in the name of who knows what?
Surely it can’t be that difficult to live in a country with one set of laws that apply to everyone and within those laws people can live their lives as they see fit? Why can’t people attend the church, the temple, the mosque and synagogue if it doesn’t affect anyone else? So long as people play fair according to society’s rules, should anything else really matter? Spoiler alert: it shouldn’t.
As we have touched upon, our politics has split into extremes and sometimes they are so far apart, they somehow meet. The far right hates the idea of the free movement of people in Europe but so does the far left Corbyn ‘opposition’. I believe out lives are greatly enhanced by meeting those of different nationalities and diverse cultures and if the nationalities and cultures are absorbed within our own secular society it has to be better than the disaster of multiculturalism which merely fuels division and separation. The hatred of foreigners baffles me, given that most of me is foreign and I spent at least a couple of weeks every year in ‘foreign’ lands, adapting to and enjoying their culture. Honestly, this is so simple, I can’t imagine why we don’t occasionally try it.
We can’t turn back the clock but if we could, I’d turn it back to May 1997 when New Labour swept to office on a tide of optimism. Things could only get better. And they did. President Clinton was in the White House, the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center were still standing, Princess Diana was still alive and peace was coming to Northern Ireland. My, have we regressed since then.
Ruled by money-grabbing, thieving politicians and heavily influenced by dark forces, Britain, like many other countries, has chosen hate over love, war over peace, isolation over friendship. Of course, it’s complicated. Britain was horribly divided before Brexit, the USA was divided before Trump. Inequality brought fear and fear is the friend of the authoritarian populist politician. Trump, Le Pen, Farage, Johnson – beneath the skin they’re virtually the same person.
Is this the world we want to leave for our children? An impending climate catastrophe as the world becomes hotter, yet smaller and more distant? The hate of extremist politicians in the ascendance? And all the time, thanks to the very politicians who preach extremism, inequality spreads.
My heart aches for the victims of Sri Lanka, as it does for the family and friends of the murdered journalist Lyra McKee, as it does for the victims of knife-crime as it does for everyone else on our planet who is being sidelined in the pursuit of equal misery.
On Easter Sunday, we need hope more than ever. Whether you believe that your God can provide it, we all need to hope that someone does soon.