Skip to main content

Home-grown terrorism?

With the rapid rise and advance of ISIL in Northern Iraq and Syria, and the recent resurgence of radical groups in Libya, the Church has been grasping for ways to respond.
 
This week the new director of Britain’s surveillance agency, GCHQ, accused big US technology companies of denial, claiming they are becoming “control networks of choice” for terrorists.
 
It seems to me that British Christians often feel hamstrung in their capacity to offer tangible resistance to radical groups, despite knowing such groups are aggressively recruiting using the social media networks that run through our own country.
 
One London church community faces the reality of terrorism locally. London vicar and Westminster Theological College lecturer, Azariah France-Williams, leads a church that sits on the council estate that harboured the 21 July 2005 bombers and recently saw the arrest of four men on suspicion of plotting terrorism. 
 
The vicar recently met a family with a 7-year-old son, who fear he may be targeted as he gets older. They worry he is vulnerable to being groomed and indoctrinated. They want to move out of the estate.
 
Others want to put it behind them and embrace the 'keep calm and carry on' mentality, but a number of people who once enjoyed polite conversation with the arrested men say they now have a lens of suspicion on everyone, unsure of who can be trusted.
 
The estate has many disaffected young people. The absence of fathers is a factor blamed by some for the behaviour of these young men. Those on the estate who might be well-placed to be a father-figure tend to be wary or even afraid of the youth most in need their support.
 
It seems terrorist groups know they can lever Western military action to both recruit and harden people's resolve against Western powers. In today's technologically connected world, there is a distinct lack of boundaries.
 
Azariah says he’s seen the same resentment a Muslim Iraqi might feel in Mosul mirrored by a Muslim counterpart on his estate. He warns that young people’s access to inflammatory material and the ability to network with like-minded peers is dangerous when combined with economic factors.
 
The would-be bomber sees his dad disrespected and his mum working round the clock. They switch allegiance, wanting a different path. Their own gang on the estate becomes too small, so an international tribe is necessary to fuel and fund their new nomadic status as they exist within, but not of, the world of the estate.
 
Some Christians believe the Church needs to engage with this issue of home-grown terrorism by resisting Islam, or at least radical Islam. But Azariah doesn’t see the issues in his neighbourhood in those terms.

As a trustee of the local community centre, he was supportive of Muslim Eid prayers being held there because it brings families together. Eid provided a rare opportunity for these young men to spend time with mature elders who can help them construct a healthier personal narrative – one that supports citizenship and creative, positive protest for the issues they face.
 
St Francis Church on the estate is part of Citizens UK, which engages in deep listening to all aspects of the community. This listening is transformed into positive action. The church has a range of community building initiatives that centre around family, creative arts and space for different people to meet.

Isaiah 11:6 gives us the vision of the wolves and lambs, leopards and goats, and calves and lion lying down next to each other. Powerful predators alongside the weaker victims. This may be a place for the Church, refusing to alienate but rather ‘lying down’ next to these young people who have the potential of becoming the predator.
 
Some might call Isaiah 11’s vision of new creation escapist or even utopian. It doesn’t deal practically with problems on the ground. But we have to remember that Isaiah proposed that vision during one of Judah’s darkest hours, when the aggressors of the world were at the door.

Perhaps envisioning and seeing new alternatives is where the Church is — or should be — best equipped. It seems intrinsic to a worldview based on hope, and to a faith that claims to be good news. Maybe envisioning alternatives locally — with neighbourhood children and parents — can be a powerful witness in a world constantly clanging with alarm bells and security warnings. As all radical groups know, an alternative vision of reality can really mobilise.
 
Matt Lynch is dean of studies at Westminster Theological Centre

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

When God turns a deaf ear on prayers

Does God always hear people’s prayers, or do some pray in vain thinking that God hears them, when in reality He chooses to turn a deaf hear to their cries? Some may perhaps have a notion that all prayers are worthy, and God being who He is is by nature willing to listen and hear their prayers delightfully. They entertain the notion that it is their birth right for God to listen to their prayers and answer them accordingly. Also, there are some who come before the presence of the Lord with severe doubts, defeated by the devils whisper that they are such an unworthy soul that for them to lift up their cries to the Lord is an abomination. They are mute by their own wickedness, depressed and thus fail to pray.

What does the scripture say about God turning a deaf hear to prayers? It is to be said that God is sovereign and can choose to answer any prayer as He sees fit. He is altogether happy and never backed into a corner, God always does whatever He pleases for He is free to do as He wills…

What does it mean to live a godly life?

If you ever asked yourself the question, what does it mean to live a godly life? and if your not exactly sure what living a godly life involves, this extract taking from Charles Seet book 'A Christian in a non-Christian world' provides ample guidance on just what to do.

Now it is worth asking the question then, 'What does it mean to live godly?' It does not mean that we are just to confine ourselves within a set of rules and regulations. Some people reduce godly living to a list of 'do’s and don'ts.' But the meaning of godly living goes far deeper than that.

Godly living means living in the manner that God wants us to live. It means having the same feelings, attitudes and heart's desires that God has. It means that we love the things that God loves, care for the things that God cares for, and dislike those things which He dislikes. And since God loves righteousness, a godly person also loves righteousness. Since God hates sin, a godly person also hates …

Women of the Bible: Adah and Zillah

The Sin of Adam and Eve resulted in the fall of humanity. Every generation after them became wicked and that is why scripture affirms, ‘that there is no one righteous, no, not even one.’ Mankind became enslave to the passions of its flesh, its desires became its ruler and men followed the natural dictates of their hearts; and were it not for Sovereign grace, the race of men would now only be read of by angels in the library of extinct creatures. Adam and Eve witnessed the consequences of their sin in the death of their beloved son, Abel, by the hands of Cain who murdered his brother in anger and was thus sent away from the presence of God. My dear sisters, sin is not only sin when it is found in its extremes, sin is also sin in its subtlety and vanity. Sin is sin when one's affection is set on another and not on God, when one lives to please a thing or a being which is not God; this is also sin.
This becomes especially evident in the lives of Adah and Zillah the wives of Lamech. Th…