Two weeks ago, I went for tea in a mosque. The West London Islamic Centre, on Brownlow Road, was taking part in the ‘Visit my Mosque’ scheme, inviting local people, who might not otherwise have occasion to enter a mosque, to see the building and meet the people.
WLIC is in the process of being completely rebuilt, so only the ground floor is properly open. Our guide showed us the remaining 4 floors: we saw concrete and steel, but he saw and described the prayer rooms, education centre, library, gym and other facilities that will one day take shape. I look forward to going back when it’s finished.
At the time it seemed no more than an interesting afternoon. I met nice people, and regretted missing out on a cup of tea (by the time we came back from the tour, they were clearing away). But this week came the news of the horrific shooting in the mosques in New Zealand, with 48 people killed in cold blood and the death toll still rising. More horrible still was the hatred that lay behind the attack, a hatred clearly shared by a great many people across the world. In the light of this, offering tea to strangers becomes an act of great courage and prophetic intent. Security measures can only do so much; what is needed is a network of love and goodness as powerful and urgent as the networks of hate. I hope that we, as people of faith, will stand beside our Muslim brothers and sisters, and people of other faiths, to share and proclaim the love we know.
It seems appropriate to reflect on this in the Christian season of Lent, as we prepare for Holy Week and Easter. We remember that Jesus was attacked for his religious views and for being a supposed threat to established secular power. We remember that he was killed in cold blood, without a fair trial; we remember the shock and grief of his friends. We remember the agony of Good Friday and the bleakness of Holy Saturday, and we see how these are echoed in the world today. There are no easy answers to violence.
But we also know the mystery of Easter Sunday – that after Jesus was dead and buried, and everything utterly finished, God brought new life in the risen Christ. This is the hope we have, that allows us to live among the pain of the world and not be defeated by it. May this hope give us the courage to counter hatred in whatever form it appears, and to build friendship and trust in whatever way we can.
Let us walk towards the cross with our eyes open to the world. And may you have a truly blessed and joyful Easter,