Howard Grace
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20 November, 2015

Building bridges

Howard Grace, who has talked alongside a young Nigerian Muslim to 60 Sixth Forms, sent this letter to the Newbury Weekly News on 19 November, wishing to address the alienation between Christians and Muslims. A slightly amended version was also published in the 27 November issue of 'the Friend', which is the national UK Quaker weekly magazine.

Howard Grace 2004
We are all sickened by the recent events in Paris.

After the London underground bombings in 2005, like many others I was concerned about the growing alienation between Muslims and the wider community.

So I teamed up with a young Nigerian Muslim who was equally concerned and went to 60 Sixth Forms, including in Newbury, to portray a counter narrative.

The students we met (often in groups of 100 – 150) were struck and challenged by a film we showed, about two men, Christian and Muslim who had led opposing militias in the conflict in Northern Nigeria.

Amongst other things we asked, 'Does it take more courage to do what those men were doing (leading armed militia to defend 'their people', and being prepared to die) or what they are doing now (crossing barriers to do peace building)?'

They usually said 'What they are doing now'. When we ask, 'Why?', they said that it takes courage to break away from your own people; also, that it takes strength not to react in anger if someone has killed your relatives or chopped off your hand, as had happened to the pastor.

More recently the brother of my colleague was killed by Boko Haram. He is a Muslim.

My Muslim friends in Newbury are equally appalled by events in Paris.

Four years ago local mainstream Christians, Muslims, Quakers and others came together to form the Peace and Integration Forum. We have had some very worthwhile occasions on topics like Forgiveness, and Cultural Conditioning. Our next event is a bring and share meal. All are welcome.

Let atrocities like those in Paris not divide us, but bring us closer together in common cause.

Howard Grace is one of the founders of the West Berkshire Peace and Integration Forum. Howard works with IofC and has conducted workshops in hundreds of Sixth Forms around the UK. He is also executive producer of the film Beyond Forgiving.

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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