HATE or HOPE?
Aylesbury will have these two conflicting options on offer this weekend as the English Defence League (EDL) makes an unwelcome return visit to the town centre. Their message is one of hate, intolerance and Islamophobia. They paint all Muslims with the same extremist, unsavoury brush. With Islamic State adding their horrific hate of everyone who thinks differently to them and with some UK politicians and media cranking up their negative rhetoric on immigrants, hatred and intolerance can be found aplenty.
The good news and antidote to all this, is the huge amount of hope, not hate, raised by people of this town. Here are seven recent examples from this website alone.
Since our appeal for clothes and equipment went out last month for the thousands of, mainly Muslim, refugees in Calais (click here), the response has been overwhelming (click here). The large, full, transit van we took to the distribution centre had to wait in a huge queue of similar vehicles. The new warehouse rented for storage was soon filled and another one had to be quickly found and was also filled. Such was the generosity of heart of people in Aylesbury and the surrounding area.
Last weekend, we held a belated Big Coffee morning for Macmillan, (click here) raising funds to help ensure that people suffering from cancer need not suffer alone. This Friday, October 9th, it is epilepsy sufferers who will gain from the 'Tea and Cake' morning in our coffee bar (click here). The contributions given will add to the £364.48 raised at our summer Songs of Praise service.
This Sunday, October 11th, our harvest service will receive gifts for the homeless in London served by the Whitechapel Mission (click here). And further afield, the Aylesbury-based Karibuni trust have celebrated 20 years of supporting, feeding and educating some of Kenya's street children (click here). All these results, offering increased hope to their recipients, have only been possible through the generosity, kindness and compassion of ordinary people.
Finally, our youth exchange programme with a German sports club, the UK's longest running exchange of its kind, offers further cause for hope. When the exchange first started in 1963, memories of the Second World War were still vivid. Our respective leaders found they had been fighting on opposite sides of the same battles. Yet from this unpromising start, in 2013 we celebrated our 50th anniversary, renewing ongoing friendships of leaders, young people and their parents that have lasted for years. The exchange continued in Aylesbury this year (click here).
With our German exchange and our experiences of local inter-faith contacts, we find that when we get to know, work and play with people who are different to us, be it language, race, religion or whatever, those differences soon disappear in the face of our common, shared humanity.
So against any rhetoric of hate this weekend, we offer these practical examples of increasing hope. As a further sign of unity, Aylesbury's faith groups are making lots of paper swans for display around town to signify hope not hate. If you want to make some swans you can collect paper and instructions from the Methodist Church office this Thursday or Friday between 9.30am and 12.30pm. Hope not hate!