The Archbishop of Canterbury, The Most Rev. Justin Welby, in an address to an interfaith dinner at Cardiff City Hall hosted by the Muslim Council of Wales, has offered a sobering analysis of British society that is a cautionary tale for the direction of Canadian society.

The Archbishop described British culture saying,

We are living in a time of tension and fear.

That fear has seeped into our society in a way that is new to me in my lifetime and begins to work at the cracks between us in our diversity, deepening them into barriers between us.

In his comments, the Archbishop acknowledged “accountability” for the role Christian faith has played in “many atrocities” throughout history even into the present:

I must not deny the accountability of the Christian faith over the centuries for miscellaneous and many atrocities.

I cannot stand here and say to you that those who professed Christ and committed the atrocity of Srebrenica were not Christians I can only say they acted in a way contrary to all the teaching of Christ.

He suggested however that the answer to violence and fear is not to paper over differences pretending that all expressions of faith and all cultures are identical.

Rather, Welby called for

more honesty, a willingness to take responsibility for those in our own faith traditions who interpret our texts differently and resort to violence.

He argued that

We have unequivocally to condemn those who misuse our own scriptures for their own ends but condemnation, a negative, is never enough.

Welby went on to say that, we must move beyond condemnation and understand that,

It is not the common good simply to condemn, it does not show anyone anything of the goodness of God.

The answer to fear is truth and love not force, truth about each other and confidence in each other.

The mainstream faiths ought to generate a positive, not just condemnatory, a positive counter-narrative that acknowledges our differences and commits to resource and support one another in defiance of those who wish to divide us.

The counter-narrative must be so exciting and so beautiful that it defeats the radicalisers with their message of hate, despair and destruction.

Justin Welby MuslimIt is too easy to hurl insults at those with whom we have disagreements or whose practices seem strange and foreign. Too often Christians have taken the cheap root of trying to prove how others are in error and demanding they simply sign on to our version of “the Truth.”

It is much more challenging to heed the Archbishop’s call to embody an authentic alternative to the pattern of prejudice and intolerance that seems to be on the rise throughout the world.

Any viable Christian “counter-narrative” must begin with how we live together as followers of Jesus. When we embody the vision of human community to which our sacred texts call us, we may be able to offer an antidote to the poison that is spreading in the world. We will only be able to offer with integrity an alternative to the vision that prevails in so much of the world when we

lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called,
with all humility and gentleness,
with patience,
bearing with one another in love,
making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit
in the bond of peace.

(Ephesians 4:1-3)