The Cross and the Crescent
(The Clash of Faiths in an Age of Secularism)
The Beach Lecture, Newbold College, Bracknell
September 18th 2006
I must begin this lecture by thanking the College for the invitation to give this year’s Beach Lecture. I am so grateful to Dr.David Trim for his considerable administrative help in making this possible. It is for Eileen and myself a joy to meet Dr Beach again, whom we have known over the years and whose commitment to ecumenical co-operation is well known.
The subject I have chosen: The Cross and the Crescent emerges from my keen interest in developing healthy relationships with Islamic scholars and leaders, as well as from my many visits to Muslim countries ever since I took up office as Archbishop of Canterbury in 1991. In retirement I continue to work in the field of inter-faith collaboration.
In 1942 Dr. William Temple in a famous phrase described ecumenical relations as the ‘great new fact of our time’. I wonder how he would describe the relationships between faiths today, and particularly the relationship of Islamic countries and the West? For myself I would say of this relationship that it is the most dangerous, most important and potentially cataclysmic issue of our day. This lecture attempts to describe why this is so, and to suggest some ways that we might be able to strengthen links between this close neighbour, in religious terms, and overcome the hostilities that are driving the West and Middle East apart.
Thirteen years ago Professor Samuel Huntington makes his own position very clear. According to him we are witnessing in our time a ‘clash of civilisations’. His own conclusion shocked many:
“Islam’s borders are bloody and so are its innards. The fundamental problem for the West is not Islamic fundamentalism. It is Islam, a different civilisation whose people are convinced of the superiority of their culture and are obsessed with the inferiority of their power”.
The problem with statements like that- indeed, the most dangerous aspect- is that they run the risk of becoming self-fulfilling prophecies; that is, if enough people believe the thesis, a clash becomes more likely. A seriously disturbing feature of Huntington’s thesis is the assumption that the clash will arise not from extremists on the margins of Islam but from the very being, the heart of Islam. Once that assumption is believed then the ineluctable conclusion is reached- no dialogue is possible; a state of war exists between two quite different civilisations.
By the same token, there are those in the Muslim world who have concluded just as finally that no dialogue is possible with the West. In recent years a deep-seated westophobia has developed in the Muslim world. The controversy over the Danish cartoons in March of this year is a recent example of the so-called ‘clash of civilisations’. The irresponsibility of some European papers in publicising cartoons that the editors knew would be deeply offensive to Muslims, resulted in fatalities, destruction of churches and other properties, as well as proving to many to many faithful Muslims that the West is profoundly Islamophobic. The depressing thing about the cartoons is that this controversy and both the exaggerated Muslim reaction, and the defensive counter-reaction of western commentators, took exactly the same shape as the Salman Rushdie controversy 16 years ago . It is evidently the case that we have learned nothing from that notorious case, and that the two civilizations remain polarized and uncomprehending. No doubt the vast majority of Muslims in the UK, who were probably embarrassed by the over-reaction of their fellow Muslims extremists, were nevertheless ambivalent because many feel ‘got at’ by ‘the West’ in some way.
Picture of Osam bin Laden
The clash of cultures symbolised by that imposed example of ‘freedom to express one’s point of view’ is ultimately about two world views colliding in public space with no common point of reference. On one side, we have western democracies well used to the separation of church and state and, on the other, deeply religious societies for whom such separation is unthinkable.
For these and other reasons it is foolish to claim that Huntington’s thesis lacks total validity. It doesn’t because Islam and Christianity, and the Muslim world and western world, have clashed in the past and their relationships are currently under strain.
Let us consider the past.
Both religions have clashed in military conflict. President Bush’s statement following Sept 11th 2001 that the war against terrorism was now a ‘crusade’ revealed, no doubt, his ignorance of the way the Crusades are still perceived in Muslim history and folklore. Muslims often remind Christians of the bloody consequences of the Crusades. Although it is often forgotten that the reason lay in an attempt to regain former ‘Christian’ lands and to open up a route for pilgrims, the pillaging and devastation did little to enhance the faith of Christians to ordinary people in the Middle East. Nevertheless, the Crusades remain a shameful episode in Christian history.
Islam had its darker moments too. It is undeniably the case that its expansion was largely due to military conquest, reaching at times, the heart of Europe. Early medieval Spanish writers viewed the conquest of Portugal and Spain as an alien invasion by fierce peoples intent on imposing their will on Christian lands. The cry ‘the Moors have landed’ had a mythic power on the minds of Christians in Portugal and beyond. In the 16th and 17th centuries militant Islam invaded Hungary, Poland, Ukraine and even reached the gates of Vienna.
However, neither faith can take the high moral ground and accuse the other of violence. Even today, religion is used as a means to offer legitimacy to acts of terrorism. We must deplore violence wherever it is found and especially deplore its association with religion.
Nonetheless, relations between the three Abrahamic faiths were not always hostile. Apart from the well-known clashes that I have mentioned, Jews, Christians and Muslims were able to live in peace and harmony, even though the cost of it for many Christians and Jews in some Muslim lands was to accept the position as ‘protected’ (Dhimmi) citizens and pay a corresponding tax .
If history has coloured the relations between our faiths, Muslim encounter with the West at the political level has not always been positive and harmonious. The west has largely been responsible in redrawing the map of the Middle East. Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Iraq, Israel, Palestine and Jordan have all been the recipients of our attention and not always benignly. But it is often the moral relativism of the West that has outraged Muslim society. Robert Fisk’s recent book The Great War for Civilisation details the sorry history of our moral obloquy in the region. He cites Iraq at the time of Saddam Hussein’s ascendancy and points out that the permanent state of mass killing across Iraq was known to the West in the 70’s and 80’s. Yet US aid and chemicals and helicopters, French jets, German gas and British hardware poured into Iraq for 15 years. It is the firm view of most Muslims that the invasion of Iraq in 2004 is solely about oil. It is important to disabuse them of that notion by a rigid commitment to stand alongside Iraq until its infrastructure is rebuilt and there is a return to something approaching normality in that ancient land.
But such moral duplicity is not confined to Western attitudes to Iraq. Most Western countries share the propensity to put commercial interests before moral demands. In the case of Saudia Arabia Robert Fisk studies the way the United States and other countries were able to turn a blind eye to Saudi Arabia’s human rights record, the plight of Christians visiting the country and indeed living there, the rights of women.
Yet, something has changed with regard to the Middle East, power is being regained by the people themselves. As Kenneth Cragg writes “The chief external fact about 20th century Islam is that almost everywhere it has recovered its political self… Political power is almost everywhere back in Muslim hands where there are Muslim people. The years since the Second World War and even before it, have recorded the recession of western empire and the emergence, in Asia and Africa of Muslim states, independent and autonomous. Islamic ideology is not now an academic matter, as it may have been under Queen Victoria or the Dutch. Islam is back where it belongs with Muslims. True, political self-responsibility does not mean economic autonomy. But at least the exile from the political self of Islam is at an end.”
However, this does not imply that power is back with the people as understood in a western democratic sense. Here again western powers seem to be duplicitous when it comes to the power of the people. We insist on it in Iraq but question it in Palestine, if it suits us. The jury is still out on the long term future of democracy in Iraq. We know from our own experience of electoral reform that it took a long time for working men to get the vote, and even later for women. That the people in Palestine have voted in a certain way by knowingly electing a party associated with terrorism should not automatically frighten us. We have only to consider the way the IRA is now regarded as a serious political player to see that there comes times when new realities face us. Hamas has certainly had a political agenda which has expressed itself in violence. The same, of course, was true of post 1947 Israel as it sought to throw off the yoke of the British. However, Hamas in power, at the wont of the people, may offer a fresh opportunity to find a lasting peace for that troubled and greatly loved region. It remains to be seen if the post-Lebanon war situation may provide an opportunity for healing of the Holy Land, but a pre-condition is surely to find a political solution to the conflict between Israel and Hizbollah and Hamas. What is certain is that some rapprochement between the religions is an essential part of such healing.
If politics have divided west from the middle east we should not forget the impact of a region teeming with young people which considers that it has been left behind by the growing prosperity of the rest of the human family. Again, the facts speak for themselves. The 22 member countries of the Arab League have a total population of 300 millions, larger than the US and almost as large as the EU before its expansion. They have a land area larger either than the United States or that of the whole of Europe. Yet, these 22 nations, with all their oil and natural resources, have a combined GDP smaller than the Netherlands plus Belgium or half of California alone. To this meagre GDP we must add the implications of high levels of illiteracy, poverty, excessively high birth rates and unevenness in human rights. According to a report prepared by a committee of Arab intellectuals and published by the UN the total number of scientific publications of 300million Arabs is fewer than that of 6 million Jews. It is hardly surprising then that such lack of opportunities to education and scholarship, to learning and creativity creates a fertile soil for exploitation of frustrated and alienated young people by the unscrupulous and evil.
I need to emphasise again that the vast majority of Muslim people are decent, good and honest people and would be the last to associate with extremists but, after 911 find themselves double victims; first of an outside world which now regards all Muslims with suspicion and, secondly, of their national settings which, if not dysfunctional, seems locked in cultures looking to the past, power in the hands of unelected people and insufficient resources to meet their aspirations.
If, then, Muslims in their traditional homelands feel a sense of burning grievance by the way they have been left behind by growing prosperity elsewhere in the world, this reaction is echoed in the experience of Muslims living among us. Globalisation is now a reality wherever we live. Over ten million Muslims are now European. Their children are being educated in western schools, they speak European languages and hold citizenship in a European country. Although many Muslims integrate successfully with the dominant culture whilst remaining Muslim, far too many young Muslims in Britain feel marginalized and alienated from Western life, through unemployment and poor education. In England the unemployment among young Muslims is three times greater than for the rest of the population. As Gilles Kepel observes: ‘The fact remains that populations of immigrant Muslim descent- like all migratory waves in history- are mostly disenfranchised groups. Many obstacles hinder their upward social mobility..’
Dr.Kepel does not elaborate on the obstacles but they are plain enough. Islamophobia is a real enemy to developing healthy links with the non-Muslim world. The majority of non-Muslims in the Uk and America are ignorant of Islam, bewildered by its association with violence and often dismissive of its creed. While Islam is more visible in British society than it used to be, it is a visibility associated with the strangeness of veiled women and bearded men in non-Western garments.
Gilles Kepel, whom I have quoted already states in the same book: ‘The most important battle in the war for Muslim minds during the next decade will be fought not in Palestine or Iraq, but in those communities of believers on the outskirts of London, Paris, and other European cities, where Islam is already a growing part of the West. If European societies are able to integrate these Muslim populations, handicapped as they are by dispossession, and steer them to toward prosperity, this new generation of Muslims may become the Islamic vanguard of the next decade, offering their co-religionists a new vision of the faith and a way out of the dead-end politics that have paralysed their countries of origin’.
Although Kepel is correct to observe that participation in life’s goods is an important element in the inclusion of Muslims in Western societies, his statement is an all-too-simplistic solution to the problem and will smack of Western arrogance to the very people he wishes to befriend. Economic integration is a small part of the problem. Of greater importance by far is inclusion of Islamic faith in Western societies based upon a dialogue that flows from co-operation, tolerance, and understanding.
I now turn to forms this might take.
i. The opportunity to form a new mental map of relationships between the Abrahamic Faiths.
Thirty years ago one of the great pioneers of comparative religion, Professor Wilfred Cantwell-Smith, proposed a different way of perceiving the relationship of Islam and Christianity. The traditional way has visualised the two religions as separate circles with touching circumferences; each self-contained and each with its own values, observances and traditions. The assumption has been that the two religious worlds have little in common- they are separate geographically, historically and spiritually. They disagreed profoundly with respect to the roles of women and men, human rights and democratic expression and individual freedom. This classical model, argued Cantwell-Smith, was based on a geographical separation that assumed Christendom’s identification with the West over against an Islamic world that is situated the Middle East, Asia and North Africa. He concluded that the time has come to form a new mental map based upon a reshaping of our world where both religions are now occupying different geographical space.
Islam is seeing significant growth in the West, mainly by way of migration. As it does so it is presenting itself to the West as part of its way of life and, in the words of Ibraham Abu Rabi, Muslims ‘are paving the way for the formation of a universal Islamic culture with unique American characteristics within the boundaries of secularism’.
The new mental map that Cantwell Smith is encouraging us to develop is one without confrontational boundaries but overlapping boundaries, with shared values and common interests. The common values may relate to commitment to the importance of marriage and the family, the centrality of spirituality, and finding space for Muslims and other ethnic minorities to make their contribution to our nation.
To Cantwell Smith’s new mental map we should ask a new and important question: What aspects of interiority do we share? Or, to put it another way, Is there a basic spirituality we share? To begin this will take us into what Pope John Paul II called ‘the dialogue of the spirit’. This is not to deny the differences that still exist between the two great faiths but instead of starting from differences, the ‘dialogue of the spirit’ begins at the place of honouring the devotion of another faith. A Nigerian friend of mine, Archbishop Josiah Idowu-Fearon echoes this view from an area in his country where Islam dominates the region and where there have been many clashes between the two faiths. He argues that appreciating the spirituality of the other faith will deepen our understanding and enlarge our own perspectives.
So, forming new mental maps of the world of faith will deepen the dialogue between the religions because they will inform our knowledge, enlarge our sympathies and make us ready to engage with greater understanding.
A second aspect of the new mental map is to challenge the secular world to see religious faith as a potentially constructive partner in healing the world’s problems.
Regrettably the secular mind see religion through the distorting lens of ‘fundamentalism’, ‘extremism’, ‘terrorism’ and ‘the clash of civilisation’. To the secular extremist and secularism does have its fundamentalists, bigots and zealots, just as much as religion has - religion is considered an aberration, an obstacle to modernity and, the sooner it is gone, the better. All of us have to beware of the temptation of ‘cultural condescension’- that my culture is better than yours. It is a very prevalent attitude among some humanists who regard all forms of religious belief as at best misguided. This narrow and limited view has failed to see that a living religious tradition is far more than a set of beliefs that holds it together; it is a community of faith that fuses belief, faith and action into an indivisible whole and produces what sociologists describe as ‘social capital’. In the words of Kumi Naidoo, General Secretary of CIVICUS: ‘faith based organisations probably provide the best social and physical infrastructure in the poorest countries… because churches, temples, mosques and other places of worship are focal points for the communities they serve’ . Governments and international development agencies rely increasingly on faith-based bodies to deliver services in areas of social provision, education and health. The reason is that they are trusted by the communities they serve.
However, it is with regret that I have to observe that politicians and diplomats fail to note the importance of religion in resolving conflict and as partners in development. There are many reasons, for example, why the 1993 Oslo Peace Agreement failed but one of them was the lack of engagement with the religious communities of the Middle East. But how can one possibly bring peace to that part of world without recognising that religion has to be part of the solution? How can one talk about the future of Jerusalem without considering the claims of Jews, Christians and Muslims? How can one talk about issues to do with the ‘holy land’, without examining the ‘theologies’ behind claims that this land belongs to us and our group? Perhaps it is because so many Western politicians have lost the sense of the numinous from their own lives that they become blind to its importance in the world around them.
A third form of dialogue may spring from the new situation that we face today. As I have indicated, 911 faced the world with a wholly new crisis. It seemed that relationships between the West and the Muslim world had reached an all-time low. The invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq seemed to imperil the world still further. The post 9-11 situation affected the Muslim world and the West. Muslims living in the West never felt so isolated and misunderstood. Some mosques were attacked and Muslims threatened. It had its repercussions abroad for Christians too: churches in Pakistan and Iraq were damaged and some Christians lost their lives. Five years on, it is clearly a fact that the ongoing war in Iraq and Afghanistan continues to affect most gravely the relationships of the West with the Muslim world.
However, this fraught relationship that I described at the commencement of my lecture as ‘potentially cataclysmic’ could provide us with us with an agenda for change and action, if conducted in the proper spirit.
Let me explore some of the dimensions this might take.
i. Grassroots engagement.
Earlier I spoke of the new mental map we should have in which Islam is no longer ‘out there’ but ‘here’ with us. As I remarked, Muslim communities are present with us in the Western world and are now part of our society. Gilles Kepel is right- we must urgently seek to help Muslim communities where young Muslims are reported to feel alienated from the wider secular society through poor education and unemployment. Clearly more resources must be made available to disaffected young Muslims to avoid them being thrust into the arms of extremists. But, in all honesty, what choices do young Muslims in Western secular society face as they consider their future? It seems but three- alienation, assimilation or integration. Assimilation is a route feared by devout Muslim parents whose dread is that their children will lose their Muslim identity as they settle down in western cultures; cultures so profoundly different from their homeland. This is entirely understandable and familiar to all minorities. Even white Christian families are aware of the enticing appeal of a secular world to their own young people.
Alienation from the rest of society is a great peril for us all if young Muslims become bitter in their frustration to find secure futures and their interpretation of Islam takes a radical direction. Integration, however, is surely what the vast majority of citizens want for minority communities. We don’t expect them to be the same as us, but the expectation is that they will integrate with us, fulfil their obligation to be loyal citizens, obey our laws and make a positive contribution to the nation. That this can be done without losing one’s religious identity and cultural background is shown by the way that Jewish, Hindu and Sikh groups have done so successfully. Of course, integration is not costless. It is impossible for minority groups to live among us as isolated, distinct communities with different laws and wholly different expectations as to what it means to be British. It is hardly surprising that ‘multiculturalism’ has become an deeply problematic word. The challenge that Trevor Philips laid down some months ago has recently been deepened by Amartya Sens’ critique of British society. In his book Identity and Violence he argues that in spite of Britain’s brave attempt to include all nationalities and groups what we have produced is not multiculturalism but plural monoculturalism’ . The challenge, he states, is to inhabit the shared space together, adding our cultural diversity without retreating into ghettos, thus denying our national identity. For Roger Scruton, the challenge confronting minorities is to secure religious identity within a national identity that is shared and owned by all citizens. He states: ‘those who express doubts about multicultural society are not racist but trying to remind people that we in the West enjoy a single political culture, with the nation state as the object of a common loyalty and a secular conception of law, which makes religion a concern of family and society but not the state. People who see all law, all social identity as issuing from a religious source cannot really form part of this political culture, and will not recognise either the obligation to the state or the love of country on which it is founded’ . This is a challenge that will not away and it is important for us all to own and be proud of our national identity, whether we be Christian, Hindu, Muslim or humanist.
ii. A second engagement must be to accept that to live in a democracy means that we respect and honour diversity. It is also a tacit acceptance that discussion, examination and even argument have roles to play in reaching agreement. It is only in totalitarian states religious as well as political that minorities cannot argue. Our celebrated access to information through emails, Internet and so on has made us all too quick to pick up sound-bites and all too lazy to engage in thoughtful debates in attitudes of courtesy and respect. Last week’s lecture by Pope Benedict in Germany is an illustration of this. Muslims around the world were quick to take offence at the words the Pope quoted, without in most cases, in fact having read the actual lecture, and relying on sensational reporting and hearsay.
The words by now are well known: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached".
I am sure that the Pope and his advisors are now regretting that a few words separating his own views from that uttered by the 14th century Emperor were not added to the argument. That would have taken the offence out of it. But the actual essay is an extraordinarily effective and lucid thesis exploring the weakness of secularism and the way that faith and reason go hand in hand.
The incident is a sad reminder that political correctness rules these days. We find ourselves forbidden to ask awkward questions and to speak directly, without people concluding that we are attacking another faith.
So allow me to ask an awkward question which I believe was hovering in the background of the Pope’s thesis and which many westerners are asking frequently these days: ‘Why is Islam associated with violence?’ We are told, not unreasonably, that true Islam is not a violent religion and the true Muslim condemns violence. I understand and agree. My many Muslim friends tell me so. I believe them because I know, as I said earlier, that the majority of Muslims around the world are shocked and saddened by the way Islam is associated with violence. We need to bring the issue much more into the open. Perhaps the Pope’s unguarded words may encourage a ‘global conversation’ on the matter without either to polemics or, ironically, violence. That it seems a Nun in Somalia has been murdered by an extremist, as a direct result of the Pope’s lecture, rams home the need to bring out the best in religion, not the worst. The Muslim world must address this matter with great urgency.
However, I am heartened that Muslim leaders, particularly in British society do condemn violence done by their co-religionists, but I only wish this were done more emphatically by those in other countries.
It is in this context that I suggest that an open discussion should begin concerning the character of martyrdom as understood by both Christianity and Islam. That this is an element in current violence in modern terrorism cannot be refuted. I find it difficult to understand the argument that a person can be a blessed martyr if, in the cause of his conflict, he knowingly kills innocent people. Christian martyrdom is unlike this. We have no martyrology which honours people who kill innocent people. The martyr, for Christians, is one who does not kill but is killed for her or his faith. She or he suffers for God and his people and does so, not be fighting or killing, but by suffering. A terrorist by definition cannot be a martyr. The Pope’s argument is that all action has to be squared with the character of a loving God. This too is part of the global conversation that needs to take place.
Fourthly, the urgent need for reciprocity.
From a Christian and Western perspective, Christians will want to point to the need for reciprocity in regard to mission and the building of churches abroad. I find it very strange that Muslims, who plead and argue so strongly for their rights when minorities, are unaware of the plight of Christians in Muslim lands. The fact that Muslims may build their mosques and schools in the West, make converts and advertise their faith is, sadly, not reciprocated in Muslim lands. It is exceedingly difficult, if not dangerous, for a Muslim to convert to another faith. The case of Abdul Rahman in Afghanistan, widely reported in March is a current example of the problem. In the many speeches I have given in Muslim countries on the principle of reciprocity the response has been that the Koran says ‘there is no compulsion in religion’ (Sura). If Muslims are not allowed to choose, it is clearly the case that there is compulsion in religion. But Ahmed Rahman is far from being an isolated case. In the Herald Tribune of August 25th the story of a young Malaysian woman, Lina Joy, is told. Lina Joy converted to Christianity eight years ago. Five years ago she started proceedings in the civil courts for the right to marry and have children. In a series of decisions the civil courts ruled against her. Fearlessly, Lina joy has now appealed to the highest court in Malaysia on the grounds that her conversion is a right protected under the constitution and not a matter for the Shari`a court. Lina Joy is currently in hiding. Her lawyer points out the significance of this matter in this moderate Islamic state: ‘Malaysia is at the cross roads’ he said ‘Do we go down the Islamic road or do we maintain the secular character of the federal Constitution that has been eroding in the last ten years?’ Both Afghanistan and Malaysia accept the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which explicitly refers to freedom of thought, conscience and freedom to change one’s religious beliefs. An issue here is that of apostasy. As I understand it, all existing schools of Islamic law prescribe the death penalty for apostasy. Both Mr Rahman and Ms Lina Joy are accused of ‘attacking Islam’ by their defection to another faith. But is a change of religion an attack on another faith or is it a preference for another set of beliefs? In our opposition to such bigoted behaviour as might see it, we Europeans do need to recall that just a few centuries ago on our Continent we explicitly accepted the doctrine of ‘cuius regio, eius religio’ which means ‘to each region, its own religion’. The English were protestant Anglican, the French Catholic, the Scandinavians Lutheran and so on. If you were otherwise, you ran the risk of being considered a traitor. Our European experience reminds us that we should not be too quick to condemn, but rather pause and remember that we have been on this journey of freedom of religion too.
It remains the case, of course, that globalisation has changed the parameters of the matter. Muslims are now present in large numbers in western societies and assume, quite rightly, that they too should possess equal rights in matters of property, speech, education and treatment. This is what reciprocity is all about.
Saudi Arabia, as we know, presents the greatest difficulties for Christians in that no other religion than Islam is allowed public expression in that country. As a result Christianity is driven underground. Yet everyone is aware that Christian worship goes on in Saudi Arabia, behind closed doors, and sometimes under hazardous conditions. I know that there many Muslims who are embarrassed by this fact.
Muslim communities, however, are changing and will continue to change as they engage with secularism in the west and within themselves. There will be no significant material and economic progress until the Muslim mind is allowed to challenge the status quo of Muslim conventions and even their most cherished shibboleths.
But the same applies to us all. I want to conclude with this personal testimony that my experience of Islam and encounter with Muslim communities is of immense goodwill in this faith and community to all who are willing to understand the faith and the people. My journey started at the age of 18 when I served in the RAF in Egypt and Iraq and I know that the vast majority of Muslims earnestly desire to live in a world where we may all live in harmony and peace. Parlous though our situation is today with the threat of more terrorists attacks and further violence throughout the world to convince many of the truth of a ‘clash of civilisations’, our position is not irredeemable. A new mental map is required by us all to include rather than exclude, and together to prize the hard-earned gifts of free speech, liberty, equality and tolerance that we seek others to embrace, without endangering their faith or undermining their values. The Cross and the Crescent can and must live side by side in this overcrowded world of ours. Today’s situation reminds me of a line in a poem by Matthew Arnold in which he spoke of his age as ‘living between two worlds, one dead, the other powerless to be born’. We are living in dangerous and potentially cataclysmic times but we are far from powerless. The future depends on us all digging deeper into the differences with respect and tolerance - so that a new world may be born.
© George Carey