Opinion: �Loving Our Neighbour?�

February 17, 2006

Source: The Church of England Newspaper


On February 17, 2006 The Church of England Newspaper ran an opinion piece by The Rev Canon Dr Andrew Wingate, Director of St Philip’s Centre for Study and Engagement in a Multi-Faith Society and Bishop’s Inter-Faith Adviser, Leicester, on the controversy over cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Wingate writes, "One of the roles of churches is to enable such voices [of moderate Muslims] to be heard, above the deafening extremists. Patient dialogue, and hard work at developing understanding, is what bears fruit. We found that Churches in Denmark are way behind in dialogue. That is why 11 Bishops of the Church of Denmark are coming to Leicester in April, a visit long planned, but now strikingly topical. Several issues have now come together: the cartoons, the placards, the balance between free speech and responsibility, the question of how police and Home Office will respond to those placards, the role of the media, leadership in faith communities under crisis and the role of churches. Underlying all this, for religious believers, is the issue of reciprocity. This has been sharply illustrated by the depth of evil intent revealed in anti-Semitic cartoons published in the Middle East... If there is any encouragement in the present cartoon and placard incidents, it is to see moderate Muslims standing up and being counted, as they did after 9/11, though often unreported, and outstandingly after 7/7. One of the Muslim women on Newsnight said that it was the action of Muslim extremists which was setting back the development of British Islam by at least 10 years. As Christians, we are called to play a role in helping to ensure that does not happen. The Church of England has a particular national leadership role, recognised by Muslims, that we need to continue to use wisely, as shown outstandingly by the Archbishop of Canterbury. But national leadership is no replacement for the hard work of establishing friendship and dialogue and building up trust at a local level. Setbacks can also be opportunities, when our solidarity is put to the test. Do we really love our neighbours, when they are wounded and easily misunderstood?"