Friends are really important to me – I look forward to time to chat, reflect, laugh and listen. In the last few years my life has been immeasurably enriched by friendships with people who are quite different from me in a variety of ways. One friend who is living with a terminal illness shares amazing wisdom with us, friends from the Muslim community talk with me about scriptures, about feminism and family, friends who have to negotiate the asylum system and the benefits systems teach me and my family politics and friends who share with me the richness of their diverse cultures give me a fresh perspective.
Rowan Williams said somewhere: “There is no-one inside or outside the church who cannot help us read our Bible better.” That has become my mantra. For me, my understanding of what it means to be a Christian is changing all the time as I listen to the stories of my friends. My ideas about justice, charity and neighbourliness have been challenged and the stories I hear feed me and disturb me at a deep level. Reading the Bible with someone who has fled civil war or is fighting for a democracy thousands of miles away shakes me out of complacency and gives a new urgency to the promise of a kingdom of joy, justice and peace. Friendships and building friendships is at the core of my work with Near Neighbours and that’s why we chose to sum up our work in a photographic exhibition called Faithful Friends.
Today I have been reading for an essay about Christian non-violence and have learned that it all comes back to friendship. I was really struck by a quote by theologian Stanley Hauerwas who said: “Nonviolence cannot be explained. It can only be shown by the attractiveness of the friendships that constitute our lives.” I love it when things connect and it has got my brain working on the connection between global peacemaking and our grassroots interfaith work. I am also really interested in the link between this work of building bridges and our work to tackle poverty and the connections there. I think there are connections too between global violence and the violence of systems that punish the poor. I heard yesterday that a friend from church has been given £6.53 a week to live on – that makes me furious. SO I really should get back to my essay but these are the kinds of things I will be thinking about aloud. Please join in the conversation