Thought for the Day
Dr. Amanullah De Sondy
Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Islam
University College Cork, Ireland
Friday 21st April 2017
The news of the shooting of policemen in Paris last night has put the city and the whole of France on alert again having suffered so many similar attacks in recent years. It’s also a sad reminder of the events in Westminster only a few weeks ago. And earlier this week a policeman was killed by gunmen, who opened fire at a checkpoint, near St Catherine's monastery in Egypt's south Sinai. Located at the foot of Mount Sinai, St Catherine's is one of the oldest Christian monasteries in the world, built in the 6th century, and a UNESCO world heritage site. I remember reading about the monastery years ago, especially its significance to Muslim/Christian relations. The prophet Muhammad is said to have issued a peace covenant to the monks at the monastery and to this day it is used to affirm peaceful co-existence.
However strong a testament there is to peace there always seems to be some on the side of war. The attack at the monastery comes just days after bombings at two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt.
Tolerance can never be over emphasized in the world we live in today but I think tolerance comes from lived experience. It helps shatter stereotypes we have about each other. Differences of opinion, faith or otherwise are always a challenge but it is appreciating them that makes for a colourful society. These questions came up at a recent Church of Scotland event I attended where we discussed the tension between mission, belief and interfaith work in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. We often lose sight of how differences within a faith tradition are more difficult to deal with than building bridges outside. A strong belief in anything should not demand the conversion of others, that mindset can lead to bloodshed, but accepting the challenges of doubt and the role of minorities in our lives is something that surely strengthen identities and society.