Working for peace in a world of Difference: Luton and the World.
I am a Christian called to peacemaking and reconciliation, based at St Mary's, the town centre Parish Church of Luton. In 2009 i found myself at the heart of events in the town, and i have been chasing them ever since. That has taken me into the world of understanding extremism, especially on the far right; into extensive engagement with our towns Muslim community; and work with the police and local government. That has led to my having close working relationships, friendships and goodwill, and a voice in our community I could never have dreamed of.
The peace of our town, Luton, has been challenged by the views of a few that seek to polarise the rest of us. At the heart of these extremes is the narrative of a clash of civilisations between the Christian West and the Muslim World. As Christians and Muslims our commitment early on in this journey in May 2009 was this: “in the face of extremist minorities that seek to separate us, we are united in the teaching of both our faiths, to love God and love our neighbour as ourselves.” In a very full two months we'd had a British Army Regiment Homecoming Parade in the town disrupted by Muslim extremists which provoked a near riot; we'd had two demonstration in response by angry Lutonians; and we'd had a mosque firebombed. A European election was to be held in early June, and we made up our minds we needed to do something. The commitment of which these words are part was made by Christian and Muslim leaders at a press conference and in the heated environment made national TV. You can read it here.
That commitment has been an anchor for our work since that time. My work is about applying it, extending and deepening the commitment.
Many of the challenges Luton has faced over recent years are recorded and pondered over in blog posts that you can access here. (The blog is in pretty bad shape currently but most of the content is there. hope to set that to rights in time. I have resurrected that blog recently and started a new blog -here.)