Sunday, 18 January 2015

I'm Not Charlie. Today I'm Nigerian.

This morning we had a lovely, quiet church service at St. CHL. Last Sunday was a dynamic, creatively chaotic children's Epiphany service. Yesterday our little church was packed for the funeral of Barbara's 104 year old Mum. Today - Morning Prayer (an adapted version of the 1962 BCP inserting inclusive language where possible). :-) Lovely hymns. Warm church family life.

We kept the Baptism of Jesus - since snow/ice storm on January 4th led us to kick Epiphany forward. We talked about water, life, meaning... the essential-ness of water to life - and also its capacity for destruction. Water, like power authority can be creative or destructive. We shared images we hold dear of water - Caribbean waves and calm waters, learning to swim in a dam at Rawdon many years ago or in the icy cold Bay of Fundy, tossed like a football from Dad's shoulders and paddling back to him... 

What really touched me, though, was the response to a question I posed: How many of you felt "I am Charlie" this past week? I've felt almost guilty that I couldn't see myself as Charlie, and as if I might be in a minority and somehow lacking. Not one person said they felt they were Charlie. Not because they didn't care or hadn't watched the news. Not because the murders in Paris weren't terrible. Because they are aware of other tragedies happening now - and because of the disrespect of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons.

What a relief. I'm not alone.

I'm not Charlie. I believe fervently in freedom of speech. I believe in respecting people of all faiths and no faith. The murders in Paris were reprehensible. Plain wrong. I'm still not Charlie.

I looked at a few of the cartoons artists at Charlie Hebdo had produced and was disgusted and horrified. The one that will never leave my mind is of the Prophet on his knees - well, you know the one. More description isn't necessary. It reminded me of the horrors at Abu Graibh prison, and the torture and despicable behaviour of American soldiers towards Muslim prisoners. 

Even if the Muslim faith supported the use of benign images of the Prophet, (and it doesn't) how can these Charlie cartoons be accepted as examples of free speech? Does free speech not come with responsibility to respect people who are different? Does free speech give us the right to portray what is sacred to some in such a manner? Does free speech mean we can, it would seem deliberately, provoke the ire and resentment of millions of honourable Muslims?

The consequences were inexcusable. I grieve with and for the families of those killed in Paris.

And I ask, as I did this morning at church a second question: Why is there so much uproar - why are so many saying "I am Charlie" rather than I am Nigerian? 2,000 innocents massacred by Boco Haram. Why is this allowed to continue? Why is the world not as outraged about 2,000+ deaths as it is about 17? Why do 40 world leaders come together in Paris with arms linked - "I am Charlie" - Why are they not standing with and for the innocents of Africa? Oh - my cynical side says, " Ohhh - right, Ros. They aren't as outraged, because this is Africa."

I don't want to live cynically. Not innocently, either - or is it naive? To live cynically is to live without hope. And to live without hope is to be paralyzed into thinking we can't make a difference. That it will never be otherwise. That we have learned nothing from the Holocaust, from the Armenian and Rwandan genocides, from the outside influences (you can fill in the blanks) that, in part, keep Haiti and other countries unstable and poor.

I will not live without hope. Today I am Nigerian. I don't know what I can do to make a difference, but for the moment it is a beginning to recognize the tragedy - the tragedy of the massacres and the tragedy that the world powers don't seem to care. Or worse, that the world powers have an investment in the poverty and de-stabilization of these countries.

At the end of the shared homily we read the promises made at baptism - in the more recent liturgies -  paying special attention to:
"Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbour as yourself?"
"Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?"

Both of these questions include people of all faiths, colours, languages, gender and sexual orientation... there are no exceptions... 

The people in Paris didn't deserve to die. I'm not blaming the victims. I still can't condone the dis-respectful and ugly cartoons that offend our Muslim brothers and sisters. I can't. They make me sick.

Removed Rex Murphy after credible reasons presented by our organist, tom Mennier, not to accept everything Rex says. Or pretty much anything in the media. Sigh.... He presents as facts what we don't know to be facts - eg - the men were killed - so we're not sure what their motive was or who they were. And rather than interfering in Nigeria, for instance - as I asked about DRC at a meeting on Thursday - what are the outside influences on these troubled areas. Who created the borders? What resources are western countries after? Not that that excuses Boco Haram. and do we simply wait while they massacre more people? I don't know the answers - we do need to ask the questions. And challenge our governments. Which group(s) in Africa is our Canadian government selling arms to? Bad grammar. Sorry, Mrs. Tudor.


  1. I agree wholeheartedly with you Ros. I haven't been able to understand how so many people can keep going on about freedom of speech and bizzarly they've also said 'freedom to offend'. By all means we should have freedom of speech but surely with that comes respect not offence. If there was more respect around there would be more tolerance and less conflict. I was glad to hear Pope Francis say that while he absolutely condemned the killings in Paris he advocated respect for the religions and beliefs of others. Hurray, I thought, someone talking senstively and sensibly and then David Cameron , who is supposed to lead this country and speak for us all, responded saying how he disagreed with the Pope and saying again it all comes down to absolute freedom of speech. Crazy, crazy, crazy! There are plenty of descriptive words that by law we are prevented from using because they cause offence related to race and disability.....why should it not apply to religion also. You speak the truth again Ros!

  2. I can only add my "voice" to you who are outraged at what has happened in France. I too object to the unlimited freedom of cartoonists. Clever? Yes. Disrespectful absolutely!
    It's no secret that the French, as part of the European Community have more power than Nigeria and other African countries.
    Where is the support for the African Nations? The horrors are newsworthy, but the West doesn't care enough to take the necessary action to stop the cruelty
    described avidly, satisfying a lust for cruelty for viewers.
    I am Every Person who suffers from acts of terrorism. Thanks Ros. Pat

  3. There is no correlation between the horrors in Nigeria and those inflicted by radical jihadists, how can you deem one horror to be more worthy of your concern than another?
    Why not ask why Muslim leaders are not banding together to condemn radical Islam? The reason is because the followers of Islam are commanded to “fight and kill the disbelievers wherever you find them, take them captive, harass them, lie in wait and ambush them using every stratagem of war” (Koran 9:5) “Fight them until all submit to the religion of Allah alone in the whole world” (Koran 8:39) The fact is that Muslim leaders cannot take a stance because what the jihadists are doing is what the Koran and the religion of Islam is all about.
    As Brigitte Gabriel said in her book 'They Must be Stopped', “even though the world is fighting a radical minority that minority is the one that needs to be addressed. If you have one cancerous tumor in your brain, the fact that you have many other healthy cells becomes irrelevant. You have to zero in on that one tumor and do whatever is required to eliminate it, otherwise the cancer is going to eliminate you and all your other healthy cells.” THAT is why 43 world leaders banded together in a march of solidarity.
    You might decry the Charlie Hebdo cartoons but I say ‘Bravo’ for bringing the issue – and the threat – to the attention of the world. It is not before time. 

    1. And, of course, Egypt sent a representative to Paris - and their approach to freedom of speech is beyond belief ... except it isn't beyond belief... it exists.

  4. I keep trying to respond and it doesn' allow me to. ?? The world leaders seem to take violence on their own soil more seriously (too close to home?) than violence in Africa for instance. Good question - why don't Arab leaders stand against jihadists? I don't know - but I am still not Charlie. The cartons don't challenge - they provoke. We have cartoonists who challenge without being as disgustingly disrespectful towards another faith.

  5. And - to take one verse or two of the Qu'ran is like taking one or two verses of the Bible - which Christians have been known to do ... and if we are all blown to bits, it will be the result of Christian, Muslim and Jewish peoples fighting to the death over land and resources in countries such as those of our African brothers and sisters. Except, it's really not that simplistic is it? If we look at the big picture, it's overwhelming but necessary. Depressing. MLK - "Hate breeds hate." The answer isn't in putting all Muslims in the same box, though I don't know why Muslim countries/leaders don't seem to stand against jihadists. Or some for freedom of speech. The cartoons were still, however, despicable and hate-filled.

  6. Interpreting the Bible is what we do, what we have always done. The Koran however was dictated to the Angel Gabriel, what is says is exactly what it means, there is no room in it, anywhere, for interpretation.
    In the last few hours 13 schoolboys have been executed for watching a soccer match. Two Japanese journalists have been seized by Islamic extremists and will be savagely beheaded in less than 72 hours. And we should be worried about cartoons and offending Muslims!

  7. If you are Muslim, you may speak with intelligence on the Qu'ran. If you are Christian, then perhaps you have forgotten that Christian nations (so-called) have invaded the oil fields of Muslim countries causing the deaths of tens of thousands of innocent civilians (just collateral damage, so-called) - but we don't see the damage because much of it is done from planes dropping bombs - or from drones. yes, in my opinion, we should be worried about offending Muslims with cartoons. Extremists, yes - not the majority of Muslims. Did you read Noam Chomsky? the west (of which I am part) has double standards re extremists, as well as terrorists. If you post further on this site your hatred, i will delete them. I notice you don't put your name.

  8. It is indeed disgraceful to witness the sheer hypocrisy of the We are Charlie brigade. What the crowd and the media ignore amidst the hysteria is the rapid dismantling of our civil liberties in the name of 'protecting our freedom'. One doesn't know whether to laugh or cry. Unfortunately, the Boko Harum case will likely be used as an excuse for Western powers to further arm Nigerian and other African police and militaries for the purpose of safeguarding Western interests (there are multiplying interests in minerals, gas, uranium, oil) and many of these Imperial pursuits are creating new tensions and exacerbating existing ones. So what do we do? Is it a catch-22? I say we should focus on exposing Western crimes and indicting the powerful world meddlers and murderers which are much closer to home than, say, 'Anonymous' would care to admit. The way to peace is to take the mote out of your own eye and examine our own role in the world. Hateful indeed. You said and did the right thing, Ros!