I was in Sweden last week visiting our link diocese and cathedral in Vasteras. In Sweden there is a tense debate going on about economic migrancy and in particular, the influx of Moslem people from the East. In a country of only 8 million people, 10% of the population are now from a new ethnic minority, and this has happened in a very short time. There is concern and indeed, in some places, fear. Over Christmas, three mosques were firebombed and Bishop Thomas has spoken out against such darkness. This peaceful and polite society has yet to discover how to cope with its new makeup and new identity.
Being faithful Christians is the new identity we share. Our response to the darkness of the terrorism in France has to be robust, and peaceful and prayerful after the example of Jesus Christ. In becoming flesh, God has chosen to experience not only our joys but also our sorrows and had to endure a climate of terrorism with the slaughter of the Bethlehem innocents, the derision of those in authority and even capital punishment for crimes he did not commit. Jesus was held hostage by our sins and gave himself that a new way may be found for life not death.
In France, in Sweden, in England – Christians must proclaim louder and louder that faith is not exclusive, that belief is about light not darkness and that hope is for all. Secularism is not the answer and neither is religious fundamentalism. Engagement that costs like the ultimate costly engagement – the incarnation – is the only way forward for people of faith and no faith alike. Status without sacrifice is merely arrogance and leads to violence.
Lighten our darkness, we beseech thee, O Lord; and by thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of thy only Son, our Saviour, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The Very Revd Stephen Lake, Dean of Gloucester Cathedral