The recent blanket demonisation of all Muslims has not only caused hurt, bewilderment and anger among Irish and British Muslims, many Christians, people of other ethnicities and faith, and people of goodwill, also feel hurt and betrayed.
Our society still struggles with pervasive sectarianism, which is in large part the exclusion and demonisation of the other on religious and political grounds. Recent attacks have shown that racism is also present, and now as part of this same family, we have Islamophobia.
The destructive three arise from deep prejudice, which has its roots in ignorance, fear and insecurity. Recent comments revealed a serious ignorance of Islam and also of the history of Christianity.
When we don’t know, and more seriously, don’t know that we don’t know, we create out of fear, stereotypes and demons. We not only dehumanise the other, we dehumanise ourselves.
We now have the opportunity to reject sectarianism, racism and Islamophobia, and re-double our commitment to a truly shared future in Northern Ireland, a common good.
To this end we require political and religious leadership that will encourage us to build a democracy, which is plural, diverse, inclusive, respectful and positively tolerant.
Such a society will be truly democratic and not in any sense theocratic (human rule on behalf of God), one in which all count and the dignity of every human being is paramount. These are the ethical responsibilities of political and civil society.
We the undersigned therefore pledge ourselves to the building of a truly human, inclusive and ethical society, in which all people are cherished equally.
Maureen Hetherington, The Junction
Eamonn Deane, The Junction & Holywell Trust
Seamus Farrell, The Junction
Gerard Deane, Holywell Trust
Michael Doherty, Peace and Reconciliation Group
Eamonn Baker, Towards Understanding and Healing
Rev Dr Johnston McMaster, Ethical and Shared Remembering
Dr Cathy Higgins, Ethical and Shared Remembering
Richie Hetherington, The Junction
Roger McCallum, The Junction
Ursula Birthistle, Towards Understanding and Healing
Sr Catherine Boyle
Catherine Cooke, Foyle Women’s Information Network
Colin Devine, North West Community Network
Community Dialogue Committee
Mary Gethin, Community Outreach Group, Jethro Centre, Lurgan
James Greer, Europa Network for Peace and Europa Academe
David Holloway, Community Dialogue
Amanda Koser-Gillespie, Second Line NI
Frances McAneny, Towards Understanding and Healing
Carolyn Moffett, Ballymoney Community Resource Centre
Richard Moore, Children in Crossfire
Paul O’Connor, Pat Finucane Centre
Roisin O’Hagan, Holywell Consultancy
Gearoid O’hEara, Culturlann
Jim O’Neill, Community Dialogue
Bill Shaw, 174 Trust
Jill Tellez, Europa Network for Peace and Europa Academe