A brutal culture of binge drinking, gratuitous violence and pointless knife crime: that is the long forgotten world of the Icelandic Sagas. Someone wronged you and you were entitled to avenge your family violently. We might have hoped that in the last 1000 years we had moved on, but no. We have regressed. At least in Iceland all that time ago retaliation ended the matter. It might have been senseless but it stayed personal. You hurt me. I hurt you back. The matter ends. In our “civilised” world if I feel like you are a threat to me it seems I may decide to wipe out everyone who looks or seems a bit like you or at least work to keep them all away from my family or my country.

At the end of this week we were scheduled to leave the EU. As I write we still don’t know what will happen, but we do know that this is a watershed. Can we find the strength as a nation to challenge the toxic culture which is pervading our world and which is being played out intentionally or not in our self-destructive Brexit division? Wherever our views on Europe, the challenge now is to heal the divide which is widening in our nation.

The world has changed much in 1000 years and yet distrust of our neighbours and a desire for revenge against those whose only wrong is to be different, continue to tear us apart. Enough is enough. It is not just me who is made in the image of God. You are too. So is each person on this planet.

The response of New Zealander’s to the mosque attacks in Christchurch in standing together and sharing pain offers us hope. The leadership of their Prime Minister in refusing to speak the name of the attacker and in getting alongside those who have been hurt is an example to us all. We need to stand up and say that this is not ok. That the small and insidious acts which drove us apart and lead to this are also not part of who we are. In Manchester a white male resident stood outside a Mosque on the day of the Christchurch attack with a placard which simply read “You are my friends. I will keep watch while you pray.”

As individuals and as a nation finding a new place in the world we need to reach out in that spirit of friendship, crossing divides, watching whilst others pray and praying for this hurting world. Our calling is to reach out our arms to others, as Jesus spread his arms wide on the cross for us.

Rev Fran Kissack

images courtesy of pixabay.com