Phil Champain, 3FF DirectorPhil-Champain-portrait-200x200

There was unexpected, shocking violence in Paris on Friday evening. All the more shocking because it was close to home. We are used to seeing images of gunfights on streets, of bombs hitting homes and public spaces. But these images on our TV screens and smart phones are generally faraway. We tend to see them as disconnected from our everyday lives – unless of course we are from these “faraway” places in which case Friday’s violence will be all too familiar.

On Friday night the guns and bombs were on streets a relatively short train journey away from our homes, in nearby places, in our immediate neighbourhood. We know people who were there, close to the violence. A friend of the family. Immediate family. Close friends. More than 130 lives were lost.

This affects us directly, just as millions have been affected in Syria, the wider Middle East and more broadly. As such we are shocked into the realisation that faraway violent conflict is to do with us. Motivations for such violence are complex and contested. To what extent is motivation linked to faith? To ideology? To oppression? To greed? To a lack of belonging? To political agendas? How we engage with these questions will shape the societies we live in.

As we start Interfaith Week it is important for us to express our outrage and condemnation of these acts of violence. It is also necessary for those of different faiths, beliefs and cultures to embark on a more open sharing of what it is and is not about. Whilst we should not shy away from difference, we must be wary of misplaced labelling and division.

As Amartya Sen reminds us ‘Identity can be a source of richness and warmth as well as of violence and terror’. If it is to be the former we need to continue to explore the complexities of our lived faiths, beliefs and identities together. The violence in Paris makes this task even more important.