News / Reflections on how to support communities facing acts of hate and terrorism

Reflections on how to support communities facing acts of hate and terrorism


The Faith & Belief Forum

29 / 03 / 19

Nabeela Shah

When you consider community, what does it make you think of? What picture does it conjure up? Something warm, cooperative and welcoming perhaps? According to the Cambridge English Dictionary `community’ is: `the people living in one particular area or people who are considered as a unit because of their common interests, social group, or nationality’. In short, it boils down to a shared identity. This can indeed be a very positive experience, manifesting itself around a particular set of beliefs you may share, around an area you may live in or even an interest you may have in common.

What the New Zealand Prime Minister and citizens have managed to do since the attack on two mosques in Christchurch, is show that they are a part of that `community’ that was attacked. A week after the shooting that killed 50 Muslims, Jacinda Ardern led a gathering of about 5,000 outside the Al-Noor mosque. The Muslim call to prayer rang out before a two-minute silence was held to honour the dead. During that ceremony Ardern delivered these words, “New Zealand mourns with you. We are one,” and that epitomises how we should respond to all acts of terror or hate.

We need to find that common ground that unites us and use it to strengthen us. It is quite ironic that it is often during the worst times that the best of humanity shines through. You may not belong to any church, mosque, synagogue or temple, you may live a completely self-contained life, content in yourself as a unit so quite oblivious of the power of community around you. However, it would seem this urge to act as a unit, to help one another and stand together seems to be a latent force that just needs an emergency or disaster to galvanize us into action.

In the almost-terror incident at Parsons Green station on 15th September 2017, you may recall how a restaurant owner, Teo Catino, was handing out free pizzas to the emergency services who had been working at the scene. Following the bomb blast in Manchester Arena in May 2017, many acts of kindness abounded. A homeless man, Chris Parker, helped to carry a girl who had lost her legs to safety. While a taxi firm run by Sam Arshad, was offering free lifts home to people caught up in the blast. Who could forget the outpouring of support in terms of clothes, donations and food following the Grenfell fire in June 2017? Chris Ship, from ITV News, summed up the sight quite justly when he wrote:

The people in the estates nearby and the people who came from the other side of the capital were all motivated by a desire to help.

By August of that year, it was being reported that a staggering £18.9 million was raised in total from various charities and funds including Muslim Aid, The Evening Standard and London Emergencies Trust. These instances serve to show how ordinary members of the public can suddenly come together in times to need, to affirm the power of the community. They just follow their instinct and do what feels right, be that offering a victim a helping hand or donating clothes and money afterwards.

However, isn’t it a shame that we seem to need an act of terror or hate to galvanize our inner community spirit? Maybe we need to do more to pre-empt these incidents and bolster community as we go? I suggest we get out there and engage positively with the different people around us – make the world a better place before it is made worse by those with a different agenda.

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