It is exactly a year since a van was driven at worshippers outside Finsbury Park Mosque while the Mosque in Canterbury has suffered recent incidents. Father Kevin Maddy offers his thoughts
Not long before I arrived as a parish priest in Japan, the church building had been almost completely destroyed by an arson attack.
The young man who had carried out the attack had been upset by something that somebody had said to him and had set fire to the church, completely heedless of the fact that it stood within feet of several residential buildings.
Fortunately, no one was hurt in the incident, but the community was left deeply scarred and scared, and the worshipping community were devastated that they had lost something very dear to them.
The attack took place because someone’s feelings had been hurt, and those hurt feelings had become more important than things of value, including human life, for the young man who committed the attack. His vanity, or rather his damaged vanity, had given rise to a bonfire!
I recently became aware that the Mosque here in Canterbury has been attacked more than once over the last few weeks. The incidents were fortunately not too serious, but they highlight the fact that religious communities are very vulnerable to attack by those who have very little respect for the feelings of others.
Religious buildings are invested with a lot of emotional value – they are places that represent people’s hopes, fears, prayers, celebrations and sadness – and it is because they are places of prayer and worship that they come to be regarded as holy and set apart. Attacks on religious buildings are more than just attacks on property – they are attacks on communities and the things that they value.
In a civilised world, where the beliefs and values of others are respected and protected, these attacks should not take place. As a Christian, I want to say that I stand in sympathy with the Muslim community wherever it is attacked, simply because I know that good Muslims and good Christians everywhere support and look after one another.
I was welcomed and given hospitality by Muslims in Iraq and Oman when I served in those countries, and I have always hoped that my Christian communities at home would offer the same kind of welcome and hospitality.
Fortunately, religiously motivated attacks are few and those that do take place are usually committed by damaged people. Whether it is the wounded vanity of the person who burnt down the church in Yokohama, or the misguided prejudice of those who attack Mosques in UK, these people are to be pitied for their lack of feeling for others.
It is a lack of humanity, and especially a lack of humility, that causes individuals to harm others and the things that others value. In this, at the very least, Christians and Muslims are united: to be truly human means taking account of the values and feelings of others, being respectful of them, and generously welcoming difference.
There is no place for vanity – believing that my views, opinions and feelings are better than anyone else’s – in either religion, and certainly not the vanity that causes damage and destruction.
Father Kevin Maddy is Area Dean of Canterbury and Priest in Charge of St Stephen’s. He has spent most of his ministry in chaplaincy, serving in the Middle East and Japan, and is now Provincial Rector for the Anglican Society of Catholic Priests.