Barbara Down
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12 January, 2015

Where did we go wrong?

Barbara Down
Barbara Down
Like so many of us, I have been horrified by the recent events that have unfolded in France last week. Nearly every day we see on our TV screens violent conflict around the rest of the world, but it has now become more evident as a reality here in Europe too.

France will not be alone in facing further violent action – this week the head of MI5 in Britain has said that the security services cannot be expected to stop every plot. Those involved are likely to include second or third generation British, who may have received training overseas.

I fear for our future, wondering where we have gone wrong, that has resulted in people who were born and grew up here hating the system and presumably 'us' so much that they are willing to kill and even die for their cause. In Europe we have failed to make new arrivals feel that they are welcome and can belong – and things are getting worse, with the rise of racist or nationalist political parties that are gaining in popularity.

We have had students and asylum seekers from other countries come to our home, and all too often it has been the only time they have ever been welcomed in this way. I was a mentor for a Zimbabwean refugee, having responded to an appeal that I heard on local radio from the North of England Refugee Service for people being willing to train as mentors for refugees to help them feel welcome and integrate. It was an eye opener learning about what it involves to leave a conflict situation, and then to come up against other challenges and prejudice here. Fortunately he overcame various hurdles, helped greatly by his positive and calm approach to life, and eventually settled in Manchester, working as an aircraft engineer and he has been joined by his wife and two children.

My hope and prayer is that something good, of a permanent nature, can come out of the attacks on Charlie Hebdo magazine and the kosher supermarket. We need to find clarity on what kind of world we want our children to grow up in – and then dare to bring about any changes in ourselves that are needed to achieve creating that world. Prejudice, recrimination and holding on to things for ourselves won't achieve that, perhaps getting to know our neighbours and people from the different communities who live not so very far from us will. It is always amazing how much richer life becomes by taking a risk and moving out of our comfort zone.

Barbara Down lives in Newcastle upon Tyne with her husband David. They have two grown up sons, Chris and Andrew. She is website manager of the IofC International website.

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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