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by Pete Millington

There was a very powerful poem written by Carole Satyamurti in 1998 called Striking Distance. I won't quote all three verses as I don't want to breach copyright, but it begins:

'Was there one moment when the woman

who's always lived next door turned stranger to you?'

.and ends:

'And as they drive her away, will her face

be unfamiliar, her voice, bearable:

a woman crying from a long way off?'

Think of the space between these first and last lines as being like the gutter between frames in a cartoon strip and allow your imagination to fill in the missing pictures.

Carole Satyamurti wrote the poem in response to the terrible conflict between Muslims, Serbs and Croats during the 1990s. How people who had lived as next door neighbours for generations, one day began to hate one another.

Hatred strong enough to distrust one another, to suspect one another, to betray one another and ultimately to murder one another.

Can you remember the horrors of that horrible, brutal conflict on television every night, week in, week out for months on end back in the 1990s?

Slaughter, sadness, terror, displacement, fear, hatred, bombs, blood, tears, desolation, deep despair.

And aren't we glad that that particular conflict is history now?

Yes we can see it in perspective now that some years have passed. Can we assume that wounds have healed by now and old friends and neighbours reconciled?

Hindsight is a marvellous thing… but foresight is much more useful.

Our prayer today should be that the majority of good people in our world recognise the futility and destructiveness of distrust and hatred between communities and neighbours before events get out of our control, not ten years afterwards.

There is no pre-ordained script that says we have to make war on one another, there is no more a higher power intent on declaring either Jihad or a Crusade than there is Father Christmas getting stuck in the chimney.

Just us foolish human beings intent on destroying the home we all share. For whatever we do to a leaf or branch, we do to the whole tree.

It's time to make the paradigm leap brothers and sisters. It's time to listen to the other side and meet one another half way. The alternative is dark and full of fear and violence and sadness.

Perhaps just one more line from Carole Satyamurti, this time from the middle of her beautiful poem:

'Do you sometimes think, she could be you,

the woman who's trying to be invisible?'

If Mohammed, Jesus, Buddha, Krishna and Moses (peace upon them) all met today, do you think they would throw stones at one another?

Or more likely, would they embrace …and weep?


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