Crossing to the Other Side: Living as People of Peace in a Time of Fear and Terror: 2015 Peace Sunday Packet

2015, 26 pp
Use on November 8, Peace Sunday 2015, or at another convenient opportunity.

We live in a context of growing fear—fear about terrorism.

Terrorist acts are nothing new. People have used violent extremism for ideological or political gain for centuries. But since the attacks on the World Trade Towers on September 11, 2001 (9/11) and the ensuing “War on Terror,” the specter of terrorism both at home and abroad has gained urgency in our homes, churches and communities.

During the past years, the headlines have brought news of terrorist attacks on an Indonesian resort, a Madrid train, a Chechen school, the London subway and a Mumbai hotel. Other desperate events include: Boko Haram’s kidnapping of hundreds of young girls in Nigeria, Al-Shabaab’s attack on shopping malls and universities in Kenya (specifically targeting Christians), and countless suicide bombings from Afghanistan to Tunisia.

In the summer of 2014, we learned about a violent extremist group taking over a swath of territory in Syria and western Iraq. This group—called Islamic State or ISIS or ISIL—was particularly brutal in attacking and killing Christians, Yezidis (another religious minority) and Shia Muslims. Canada quickly joined a U.S.- led military airstrike campaign against ISIS in Iraq, and then also in Syria. Our country is once again at war. (See page 22 for additional contextual analysis.)

All these developments have fostered a climate of fear in Canada. ISIS videos depicting brutal killings and beheadings (even if we haven’t watched them), stories of young Canadians being recruited by terrorist groups, and images of Parliament Hill under attack a year ago have shaken many of us deeply. At the same time, the increased media and political attention on terrorist attacks seems to exacerbate collective fear.

One of the unfortunate products of the climate of fear is the reflexive association of terrorism with Islam. In many ways, Muslims have become the feared “other.”

Although many of the high-profile attacks in recent years have been committed by extremists purportedly acting in the name of Islam, many Muslims deplore this violence.

How do followers of Jesus live faithfully in this context? How do we address the climate of fear? How do we relate to those identified as “other”? How do we share the peace of Christ?

MCC humbly offers this packet as a tool for your congregation or group to engage in worship, reflection, and conversation about a hopeful peace church response in a time of fear and terror and what it might look like. Additionally, we offer suggestions for advocacy and action beyond Sunday morning.

The packet does not provide easy answers to the complex questions of our time. But it does invite all of us to live faithfully in a world permeated by the fear caused by extremist violence. It encourages us to face our fears, even while refusing to be consumed by them. It invites us to reach out in friendship and love to Muslim neighbours and newcomers and to resist stereotyping Muslims as terrorists. It calls us to renounce all violence and place our trust and hope more deeply—not in military might—but in the One who stills the storm and calls us to cross nonviolently to the other side.

Also see the related Supplement.

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