Fear - the game changer that deals death

Beware of FEAR, particularly fear of others. Fear of others drives humans to do horrendous things, things that they would never have thought they were capable of doing.

Fear drove the silence in Nazi Germany allowing for the millions to be butchered in the Holocaust. In a land I know well, Rwanda, fear was the tool used by the political leaders to try and maintain power, and husbands murdered wives, friends murdered their next door neighbours, as fear gripped communities that ‘the others’ were coming and would wipe them out.

Today FEAR is rising in Europe after the attack in Paris. It wasn’t the attack on the Russian plane where many more were killed. It wasn’t the attack on Beirut that could have been so much worse. It wasn’t the attack in Pakistan where hundreds of children were killed. Only when it is at our door do we react, fear grips us, love and logic depart in the red mist of anxiety.

It is then always ‘the other’ that is blamed. Those who are not ‘us’. Those who are from a different place, different skin colour, different language, different people. They are the ones to be feared. ‘We have to look after our people first’ I heard on the television from a woman in Colchester. ‘Our people’?

One photo of a dead child washed up on the shores of Europe swung public opinion to support the refugees from Syria. One photo, that was all. One, probably fake, passport in the hands of an extremist gunman in Paris is swinging public opinion away from support for the Syrian refugees. They now become no longer symbols of horrendous suffering, but a threat. They could be the next terrorist that kills us.

Yet which people group has suffered more at the hands of ISIS and extremism than any other? The answer is abundantly clear, it is the Muslim community around the world. The brutality, viciousness, and death meted out on Muslims by those that claim to be the ‘best Muslims’ is of many times greater magnitude than we have received in the West. That is why we have such a flow of people fleeing Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan. They are far more victims than we are. YET – we now fear them, the noises are growing to keep them out FEAR is winning an illogical battle.

The vast majority of the attackers in Paris were resident in France and Belgium. They were our neighbours. The threat from within is far more dangerous than the threat from people coming from the Middle East seeking refuge here.

For the Christian fear should be an anathema. 1 John 4.18 says ‘There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment’ (punishment can be translated as torment or pain) and ‘The one who fears is not made perfect in love.’ The commentator Stephen Smalley (1,2,3 John Word Biblical Commentary) says ‘In the present context ??βο? (the Greek word translated as fear) means servile, self-regarding fear. Servile – a slave to another, self-regarding – almost contradictory to being servile, but then by being self-regarding we put ourselves in a vulnerable position, a destructive position, in fact a self-destructive position that we serve to our deaths.

Fear shuts our ears to hear, it blinds us from seeing, it locks us into ourselves. Fear then kills us as we die to others.

Yes we must be wise and not fools. Yes we need to carry out identity checks on those arriving from outside our shores, but let us not tar them all as dangerous and a threat, that is the way to serve death itself and to open the doors to even more threats. Love covers over a multitude of sins and it must be love, not fear that should drive us now. Let’s open our arms to those who are coming to our communities from the camps around Syria, and let’s embrace those already here who are living themselves in increasing fear - of us and our fear as well as the fear of the extremist. Make love drive out fear, for ‘God is love’.

Revd Canon Paul Daltry
Minister of Church and Community Engagement, Ipswich

(The views expressed here are those of the author, not of Heart 4 Ipswich, and are intended to stimulate constructive debate. We welcome your thoughts upon the ideas expressed here, posted as comments below)

Paul Daltry, 19/11/2015
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