Brendan Cox’s remarkable statement following the trial of Jo Cox’s killer is an extraordinary testament to both her and his vision, courage and love. He described her murder as
An act driven by hatred which instead has created an outpouring of love. An act designed to drive communities apart which has instead pulled them together. An act designed to silence a voice which instead has allowed millions of others to hear it. Jo is no longer with us, but her love, her example and her values live on.
We are living through times when the need both to be pulled together, and to pull together in the issues which confront us all feels more urgent that at any other period in my life.
Hatreds have been released across the globe. Most probably they have always been there, semi-covert, half-hiding, under the lid. But now Isis and affiliated terror organisations preach loathing and practise merciless killing. In the West, the referendum here has revealed new levels of racist abuse and attacks, as recorded by the CST for the Jewish, and by TellMAMA for the Muslim, community. In the United States a language of xenophobia and supremacism has reinvigorated groups on the far right, some of whose deeds in the past have gone well beyond words alone. I find myself thinking bleakly about Shakespeare’s line in Othello:
Humanity must perforce prey on itself / Like monsters of the deep.
In the face of these realities, ‘interfaith’ sounds like a weak combination of opposites: what’s ‘inter’ about ‘faith’? Don’t our faiths tug us towards different and often antagonistic identities and goals?
This is partly true; our faiths ask us to anchor our moral and spiritual lives in the culture, liturgy, and discipline of our respective ancient traditions.
Yet, beyond what differentiates us (and even here our distinctive paths traverse in their particular ways the same landscapes of human nature, with its hopes, fears and fallibility), what unites us is immeasurable in comparison.
We belong to the same oneness of life. We affirm the same commitments to justice and compassion. We have the same needs for sustenance and safety, fellowship and community. Ultimately, our faith, hope and trust, whether we are Christian, Muslim or Jewish, are not hope, faith and trust in different, but in the same values, the same humanity and the same God.
My teacher, Rabbi Hugo Gryn of beloved memory, used to say that the world is divided into bridge breakers and bridge builders. We have a choice; we can either be dividers, or uniters.
But we don’t really have a choice: at this stage in world history the price of hatred and division is unthinkable.
In our community, as everywhere, we must develop our relationships with other faiths and communities, local, national and beyond and increase our shared work for the common good. In widening our contact with other faiths, we also deepen our commitment to our own. Through seeking to understand others, we come to know ourselves more truly and are enriched both by the wisdom and ways of our own tradition and by the one God who embraces us all.