Jodie Marshall
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19 June, 2017

As we progressively see images of extremism, violence and revenge in the UK, on our television sets, in our newspapers and on our news feeds, I have been reflecting on the action I take as an individual and possible actions those of us within our network across our country and internationally might take. I wanted to share some of these reflections and thoughts with you, as I continue to discern what this means within my role as a National Coordinator for IofC UK as well as within the work of my own organisation A Mind Apart.

As I woke up this morning to the news of what had happened in Finsbury Park, the thought that went through my head was ‘we should not allow violence to beget violence’. Martin Luther King once used these words to tell his followers and the world that violence is not the answer to how one stands up to an oppressor. He stated very clearly in his Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech in 1964 how he felt oppression and violence needed to be dealt with:

'Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.'

Over 50 years later, his words are as relevant today as they were then. It is sad that society has become so desperate with - our world leaders, those misusing the teachings of our faiths and the circumstances we are left in personally and individually - that people are beginning to feel the need to take things into their own hands. It is one thing to take on such things peacefully, but it is quite another to do so violently. Unfortunately, today’s events in Finsbury Park have demonstrated that there are those in society willing to take matters into their own hands and beget violence with yet more violence, adding to the numbers of those that are already innocent and dead.

As peacemakers and individuals who have signed up to working towards a peaceful and tolerable society, it is our duty and responsibility to stand together and work with those around us to seek peaceful and effective ways of working with and supporting our direct and immediate communities through such difficult times. From my time working with the young people in A Mind Apart, I have learnt the value and importance of the work on the ground, and alongside the individuals that often get forgotten about or who feel they are not listened to by professionals, the system and in some cases their own families. These are the individuals that it has been demonstrated, are most vulnerable to being recruited into extremist groups. I believe as a network, we are in a unique position to be able to have a direct, instrumental and urgent effect in the communities we are living in across the UK.

In such times, it is not always so easy to have access to a political leader (although some of us do have this privilege), but it is easy to have access to your direct communities like your street, your area, your place of work, your church, mosque or other place of worship. We have direct access to our neighbours who sometimes we even forget to say hello to.

After the Manchester attack, there were arrests in Sheffield of two young men suspected of terrorism. They were arrested in their flat just down the road from where I live and work. It made me think about whether they had relationships with their neighbours and whether I have a strong enough relationship with my own neighbours. If they were involved in something, would I know and would I feel close enough to them to speak into their lives about what really matters and how to stand up peacefully?

As we watch the local communities come together over recent weeks in London Bridge, Westminster, Manchester, West London and now Islington, it only reaffirms my thoughts that this is where we must start. In our own homes, in our own communities and alongside those we may always see but rarely speak to. What I know from working closely with inner city communities, both in the UK and Brazil, is that once you buy into the community of your area, you quickly learn the families, individuals and those that need the extra support to be able to get them through life. In turn, they quickly get to know you and know that they can call on you when they need you and have another voice shouting with them when they need to be heard.

We must counteract the violence from all extremists with peace and love and by planting ourselves like lights within our communities, so that hope can be re-found and so that there is no space for darkness to get in and for our young people and vulnerable people to be influenced by someone telling them they can be heard if they fight with violence. We must counteract this with supporting them, offering them safe spaces where they can be guided in being effective members of society and future leaders without turning to violence from desperation.

It is easy for us to feel hopeless at such times and that perhaps we are not doing enough, but by each of us starting on our own doorsteps, promoting relationship, love and peace, up and down the country, perhaps we can have a bigger impact than we think. More than anything it’s a place for us to start, that can feel real, effective and honest. The rest is up to the higher being to guide us to those we need to be guided towards within our own communities that we are working and living in and with.

As you consider who or where your direct community might be, I want to leave you with this questions to consider:

What are you doing in your immediate community, where you live and work, to be a light in the current darkness?

Connect with an IofC programme and let us work with you in your communities to support the relationships you are creating.

Jodie Marshall is one of three National Coordinators in IofC-UK. She works with the national team and volunteers around supporting them in their community driven projects and work throughout the UK. She is passionate about creating effective projects from the ground upwards to enable real change in society through empowerment and education. Based in Sheffield, Jodie is also the founder and Managing Director of A Mind Apart, a social enterprise working with young people and children using performing arts as a tool for social change. A Mind Apart specialises in working with vulnerable young people not in full time education, and supports them in challenges and conflicts they face daily from gang warfare and extremism to sexual exploitation and mental health issues.

NOTE: Individuals of many cultures, nationalities, religions, and beliefs are actively involved with Initiatives of Change. These commentaries represent the views of the writer and not necessarily those of Initiatives of Change as a whole.

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