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Faith Comment published in the Petersfield Post

9 September 2020: Rev'd Chris Williams, St Mary, Liss

Difference and Diversity

August saw the death of the great Irish peacemaker John Hume. Hume said, “Difference is the essence of humanity. Difference is an accident of birth, and it should therefore never be the source of hatred or conflict. Therein lies a most fundamental principle of peace: respect for diversity.”

Stop for a moment and ask who it is you find yourself despising, belittling or even hating. I wonder, would your life be more peaceful if you didn’t harbour such feelings?

I suggest one of the reasons we find ourselves in conflict with others is that, as Hume said, we don’t respect diversity: we struggle to accept those who are different to us. Let’s face it, we create division over so many issues: race, colour, class, money, politics, sexuality, sex, age - and I could go on.

St Paul, in the Bible, says we are like a body. He’s speaking about the church, but this principle surely applies to the whole of humanity. Simply, a body is made up of many different parts. Some parts look nothing like other parts and have different functions. A body works when all the varied parts are working well and each part, despite their difference - or because of their difference - adds something unique and vital to the whole. A hand may not like an eye, but if it gouges it out, the whole body will suffer – including the hand.

The polarisation we see in so many spheres of life, is almost like an act of cannibalism as we turn on each other and fail to recognise the gifts we all bring to the whole. If we can accept and work with those who are different to us, we all benefit and, as Hume says, we find peace. Are you really at peace in your heart and life? Surely peace is a goal worth striving towards and a ground for challenging our petty and destructive prejudices.

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