Crooked Spire vicar's column: Violent protest stokes hatred and injustice

Mohandas Gandhi was seen by many as a strange figure, yet ultimately he was to be the figure behind the independence of the Indian subcontinent from British rule and domination.

By Reverend Patrick Coleman, vicar of Chesterfield's Crooked Spire church
Monday, 8th June 2020, 11:38 am
Updated Monday, 8th June 2020, 11:47 am

For all the many good things brought by the Raj, there was also violence, subjugation and exploitation.

It’s no use pretending that this suddenly stopped once the British were gone.

The exodus and resettlement of Hindus and Muslims with the partition of India and Pakistan was only one example of continued hatred and oppression.

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Reverend Patrick Coleman, vicar of Chesterfield's Crooked Spire church.

Today many still live in abject poverty, and child slavery is just one of the major issues that local forces of law and order struggle to deal with.

The heroism of Gandhi lay not in the patchy success of his efforts but in his determination not to be drawn into the violence and power-play of human society.

He had learned this the hard way in his early years as a lawyer in South Africa, and had returned to India in order to try out peaceful resistance and civil disobedience as means of countering violence and destruction.

I know the majority of those protesting against the racism that remains in society are also aiming at peaceful resistance, and that the rioting of the past weekend, with its shameful acts of violence, has not been their intention.

Perhaps they have been hijacked by anarchists, or maybe it’s just bottled-up frustration – I wasn’t there; I don’t know for certain.

What I do know is that violent protest stokes hatred and injustice – it simply puts one form of oppression in place of another.

If you want a peaceful society where all people are genuinely equal, it starts by having peace and respect for others at the centre of your own life and all that you do.

As I wrote last week, it means that you take other people and their views seriously, and don’t run them down (in person, behind their backs, with violent words or violent deeds) just because you disagree with them.

In other news, we learned this weekend that places of worship may open for individuals to visit and pray from June 15.

At the Crooked Spire we are ready for this, and we’ll start off with limited opening times of 10am to noon Monday-Saturday, with team members to supervise hygiene and distancing, and access to parts of the building only.

It makes me happy that the people of Chesterfield can use their own church for the purpose for which it was built – to be a place of worship and peace.

It makes me happy for those individuals who find the church building the right place for them to be at peace.

That includes the key workers who call in before or after shifts, or during breaks, and also the many autistic people, those with learning difficulties, those with mental health issues – all who find peace and healing in that very special place.

Working for peace is first and foremost about changing our own attitudes.

Tut-tutting at violent protestors is not enough.

We need to be peaceful in ourselves before we can bring peace and justice for others.

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