Blessed are the Peacemakers

Lots of positive philosophical pieces on Martin McGuinness trajectory from murderer to peacemaker. R.I.P. The realism expressed simply by Tony Blair “You only make peace with your enemies” speaking on BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning.

With ever more conflict and potentially conflicting views on any number of issues swirling around us the lesson is important.

It’s about balance.

When the conflict is based in real significant difference – Secularism vs Islamism say – then the balance has to be between drawing attention to the need for the root difference to be addressed, and the need not to turn the topic into a dividing issue in which the entire population must declare itself to be “with us or against us” in some universal campaign.

For mainstream media, like the BBC, the editorial balance is between not to overly publicising the difference, creating distorted or exaggerated impressions, whilst nevertheless reporting key examples in the process of debate needed to support constructive public action.

UN freedoms of thought and expression, includes rights and tolerances for different religious and non-religious positions. It supports secularism, that people may hold and express multiple religious and non-religious positions, but that these positions must not form the legal basis of social arrangements.

Like many Arabic / Muslim / Koranic terms “sharia” means many different things, but put simply:

Sharia “law” can never be tolerated in a free secular democracy.

Sharia “counsel” could be a valid part of community governance, provided all participants understand and have access to their secular rights, freedoms and responsibilities.

It’s the difference between democracy and populism. We need a few key credible commentators to tirelessly point out the difference and abuses to the media and the rest of us. What we don’t need is a growing mob using the (real, factual) difference as a rallying cry. The “we vs other” narrative. Populism wants to use abuses of the underlying factual difference as a weapon to win against the other, the would-be losers. In a democracy, the prevailing majority cares about working with the interests of the minority.

It’s not about denying factual truths, it’s about recognising their significance and understanding how to achieve the best outcome.

[PS BBC Radio 4 Jonathan Freedland’s “Long View” on William of Norwich and the Jews … same story … nothing new under the sun.]

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