about st george's church st george's news advertisers Waterlooville Music Festival
printer info
From the Vicar Peace Conference Celebrations Waterlooville Music Festival Remembrance Sunday Naval War Memorials War Veteran's Recollections News from the Pews Mothers' Union Notes Book Corner The Osmond Diaries Article in Portsmouth News Who am I? Pamela Jean Dinneen Call the Midwife Crossword Puzzle time

St George’s News - Waterlooville’s Parish Magazine

The Website for St George’s Church, Waterlooville and its Parish Magazine St George’s News

Christmas 2018 issue

Peace conference at Waterlooville

An address given by Fr Colin at a Peace Conference organised by the Havant and Waterlooville Muslim community and held at Waterlooville Community Centre.

I am enormously grateful to the local Muslim community for inviting me to this event, and for asking me to speak. Having only just taken on the role of Vicar of St. George’s Church in Waterlooville a few weeks ago, it has given me the opportunity to meet with members of the wider community, police, councillors, community leaders, and other faith groups, and for that I am most grateful.

I am also grateful at being given the chance to say a few words at this very important event, as we reflect together on the theme of peace and the importance of dialogue.

Before my move to Waterlooville I was, for almost 20 years, the Lead Chaplain at the University of Brighton, managing a team of chaplains from a very diverse range of traditions and faith backgrounds.

Brighton University, like the city of Brighton and Hove, is enormously diverse in all sorts of ways. It was very evident to me from day one how important engagement and above all dialogue was, and clearly dialogue between faith communities, and with those of no faith, was a central part of this.

In the most recent years I worked extensively with our friends in the university’s Islamic community, not least because I sensed that many of our Muslim students were justifiably concerned at the negative press that ‘Islam’ was being subjected to. Many were afraid of the potential for Islamophobia - although thankfully there were few incidences of this at the university as far as I was aware.

But I sense also that for all people of faith there is a general anxiety about the way in which religion is often portrayed.

At the heart of this anxiety, I think, lies the ‘myth’, and it is a myth, that all wars are caused by religion - I am sure you have all heard that sentiment many times.

Even a rudimentary understanding of history would show this to be untrue: Take the wars of the last 100 years for example. 2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the end of one of the deadliest wars in human history. The First World War was perhaps the first industrialised war, in which some 16 million people were estimated to have died.

But that was little compared to the 60 million who died in World War 2.

The Korean War, Vietnam, the Falklands War,  even the first and second Gulf Wars - none of these were concerned with religion.

And most wars are not.

And even if we reflect on what is happening in our world today, in Syria, what we have is an extremely complex set of circumstances, but which started as an attempt at political regime change, which left a vacuum that was filled by so-called Islamic State and other groups whose interpretation of Islam would be unrecognisable to most Muslims.

Sadly, for all religions, the extremes are often seen by those outside as being normative, leading to all sorts of stereotyping.

That conflict can,  and sometimes does, exist between and even within faiths is self evident, but that is true of the human race in general, whether defined along lines of faith, or gender, or nationality, race or culture.

As a Christian I believe, along with members of many other faith groups, that human beings are made in the image and likeness of God. And therefore each human being has a dignity that is to be cherished, irrespective of religious affiliation, or culture, colour, nationality, gender, or whatever distinctions we might impose.

And so often when conflict occurs it occurs because of a lack of understanding the other.

And that is why dialogue is so important.

I have been involved over many years in teaching undergraduates on courses about world religions. Some of you may know that my principle academic interest is Islam, which may surprise you given my own background as a Christian priest.

You would be amazed at the bizarre stereotypes students can have about people of faith.

And one of the most effective ways of breaking down those stereotypes is getting young people to meet people of other faiths, particularly if it is people of their own age. To get them to dialogue with each other, and this is something that I have been involved with in the past. And when they do this they find that the stereotypes that they have gotten, from the media, from family, their peers, and sadly sometimes even from Religious Education at school, are misguided.

I have even had students become pen pals with people they have met in these discussions.

But it’s not just young people who would benefit from meeting with peoples of different traditions, different faiths and cultures is it? Their stereotypes often come from older generations.

So I hope that maybe out of today might come a greater opportunity for this to happen, perhaps on a regular basis. Because dialogue can lead to a better understanding, and ultimately a more peaceful future, not just at the micro level, within communities like the Havant Borough, but one would hope at the macro level too.

Fr Colin Lawlor