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Thought for the weekend: Isis and a fragmented Church

By Rev Allen Sleith

We're not exactly short of big issues to grapple with on the world stage at present. To name just one, the Syrian crisis with its so-called Isis dimension spilling overseas is hugely important and mega-complex. One thing that's struck me in the coverage of it in recent days is that it admits of no single, simple response; indeed, the more you ponder, the more you become aware of an almost dizzying array of perspectives on the topic.

This week's parliamentary decision to allow RAF air strikes against Isis 'targets' highlighted just how complex the conflict is, never mind how we as a nation or even a coalition should act in the foreseeable future

Indeed, because it's so hard to fathom or predict how things might 'pan out' a worthy search for clarity is dogged by the shadow of confusion. And what place for dissent?

While a strong majority in the House of Commons did indeed back the extension of air strikes, surely a healthy and mature democracy has to accommodate the continuing existence of different views without having such people demonised or persecuted.

I've been asked by several people what the Church should say on the issue.

My answer to that is that it depends what you mean by 'the Church' - one's own congregation, denomination or tradition?

Is it the Church in Northern Ireland, the Republic, the United Kingdom, Europe, the so-called 'West', the World Church?

The more you ponder that, the more you realise, with some degree of exasperation, that talk of 'the Church' as a coherent community or a united body is a pipe dream in the extreme. It's not just the Labour Party that has tensions in terms of identity and policy!

Unless we give up altogether on the notion that God's will is to ultimately bring about a world of justice, peace and well-being, the Church, however construed, believes that prayer is, in some real but mysterious way, part of the outworking of divine providence.

Properly practised, it's also an antidote to self-righteousness when debating and responding to the issues of the day.

Belfast Telegraph


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