I didn’t doubt the presence of God.

Not once in that long night when I woke almost every hour to catch the latest news from Paris: the rising death toll, the emerging details of a coordinated onslaught and the wave of comments being made around the world.

Not once did I doubt that God was in the actions of those brave officers storming the Bataclan to end the siege, in the hands pressed hard onto gaping wounds in order to stem the flow of blood, in the reactions of those who threw themselves onto their friends and loved ones in cafes and on the streets to protect them from the bullets, in the casualty receiving centres, operating theatres and counselling rooms.

God was present in Paris, of that I am sure; but as one theologian replied when asked where was God in Auschwitz “the question ought to be ‘where was man?'”

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A letter to a Jihadist

18 November 2015

Dear Jihadist,

Did she wonder at the miracle of life when your mother gave birth to you? Did she marvel at your tiny toes, smile at your giggle and gaze into your eyes as they began to focus on the first person you saw and loved?

And when you learnt to walk and run, did you tumble and bruise, grazing your knee on the ground? Did you cry for your mother’s comforting arms, her soothing touch and reassuring words?

Beneath the sky at night did you look beyond the stars and imagine a far off place where there are no tears and no fear?

Were you ever upset or hurt by what those you tried to impress said about you?

And beauty? Was there a moment, just one brief, fleeting moment, when your heart quickened at the sight of someone who reciprocated your joy?

Tell me if any of this is true.

And if it is, then why it is that you do what you do?

Some thoughts on Paris

18 November 2015

Some had been predicting a Mumbai-style attack in one of Europe’s major cities, and the Charlie Hebdo attack earlier in the year highlighted the capacity of the jihadists to conduct a coordinated attack in Paris.

But still, when it came it was none the less shocking.

Like many others I rested uneasily that night as I kept waking to check on my phone the latest situation. As the death toll increased I grew more and more fearful of our future.

This has been the greatest loss of life from a deliberate attack on French soil since the 2nd world war.

Some leaders have said that this is an attack on our common humanity

There are a number of things I have been shying away from

Only earlier in the week someone asked what I thought was our future and it had taken some time for me to allow those thoughts to spill in to words

I had only spoken of my concerns to those very closest to me and those who could handle what I believe to be the fact that we have already entered a very dark age in human history.

Pope Francis said some time ago that the 3rd Word War had broken out but we hadn’t recognised it yet.

I believe that it broke out long before the Iraq war.

Bush and Blair may bear some responsibility for quickening the recruitment of jihadists with their unnecessary war on Saddam Hussein but all this took place after 9/11 and a number of other jihadist attacks on western interests around the world.

Bin Laden knew what he was doing when he initiated the attack on the twin towers in such a way as to capitalise on TV coverage ie flying the 2nd plane into the south tower 17 mins after the 1st plane had struck the north tower ensuring that the camera crews would be focussed on the World Trade Centre.

He rightly calculated that the US would react in such a way as to whip up further hatred of us.

This was, as one paper stated on its front page on the morning after the attacks ‘A Declaration of War’

It was.

The Pope may be wrong in his terminology – this should not be referred to as the 3rd Word War because it is not a continuation of the 1st and 2nd World Wars but a wholly new form of global conflict.

There is some mileage in recognising that some of the consequences of the 1st World War have helped create the destabilisation of the Middle East and Gulf but we are beginning to move so far from the mapping of the region by Gertrude Bell as to make them inconsequential.

No this is war, we must not make any mistake about it.

An evil is stalking our planet, every bit as bent on purpose as the evil of fascism 80 years ago

Hitler and his henchmen had to be defeated before they destroyed Western civilisation and ISIS, aL shabaab and all those other totalitarian, mindless thugs masquerading as Muslims have to be defeated too.

Victory will not come cheaply; nor will it come swiftly

The war is to be waged in a way that is different to all previous conflicts.

Soldiers will not dig into trenches.

Tank squadrons will not face each other across desert plains.

Great navies will not launch volleys at one another on the high seas.

Aircraft will not wage aerial combat above our skies.

This will be a war of minds fought over decades.

It is a sombre thought, but the sooner we get beyond our denial and the belief that appeasement will be sufficient and move into action the better.

But what can we do?

Is it so huge this conflict, so beyond our experience and imagining, that we are left impotent in the face of it?

No.

No – it is not.

This, if you like, is the ‘so what’ part of the address. A sermon or address that leaves us without something to do has failed.

Every single one of us has a duty to wage this war.

We shall do so by redoubling our efforts to love one another.

We must put aside our petty prejudices of those who are different, those who express their faith in a way different to ours but only do so as consequence of their culture and upbringing.

We must re visit our own faith and acknowledge our shortcomings, the times when our religion has been used to oppress and maim, to divide and destroy.

Even the faith we have received from the church, transmitted over the centuries, finely tuned to accommodate the changing seasons and new insights and discoveries, does not have a monopoly on truth.

It is time to be honest

It is time admit our mistakes and our doubts,

It is time to see in the other the beauty and the grace of God.

This is the truth: that only God knows the truth without blemish, without shadow.

Only God can save us, not ideologies and certainly not attempts to make the rest of the world like me or believe what I believe.

Thousands upon thousands are in fear and looking for direction.

We can leave it to the extremists who will only make matters worse – or we can be of great courage and good cheer.

We can preach and live out the Good News.

We are to welcome the stranger in our midst.

We are to love one another as Christ has loved us.

For love has transformed the world before and it still has the capacity to do so again.