Saturday, 4 February 2012


The Bishop of Leicester's First Person column appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Whose are the voices of sanity and reason?
The Bishop of Leicester asks what we can learn from the marches that take place today
As copies of this newspaper are being distributed today, the city of Leicester will be holding its breath. Hundreds of people will have been working hard to keep the city safe and secure as the marchers from the English Defence League (EDL) and Unite Against Fascism (UAF) take over different parts of the city centre.
This public drama takes on to the streets some of the enmities, resentments and anger which can be generated in complex urban societies. When the marchers have gone and the crowds have dispersed, we shall no doubt heave a collective sigh of relief.
But what might we learn from the great effort which the police and the authorities have to put into preventing outbreaks of violence?
As we look around the world we can see how divided societies can gradually erupt into public violence.
We have been watching the signs from Syria and Egypt recently on our television sets and hoping that nothing similar could happen here.
And yet, closer to home, the voices that set us against each other seem to get louder and louder.
All this raises a series of questions about which voices we can trust in the noisy public space which we all inhabit.
Can we trust Church leaders, or do we turn to the newspapers for sound advice? Or what about other institutions which historically have been regarded as trustworthy: the medical profession, the BBC, schoolteachers, or legal institutions and so on?
As we hold our breath this weekend and hope and pray that the city emerges unscathed, so we need to ask where we should turn now to hear the voices of sanity and reason.
Those will not always be the voices that shout the loudest or attract the most media attention.
But I have a feeling they are the quiet voices of those who have worked so hard for peace this weekend.
They are the voices of community leaders, good neighbours, competent public servants, professional police officers, faith leaders and many many others. It is upon those people that the functioning of a civilised society depends. It is to those people that the city has looked this weekend.
And it is those people; in whom we should learn to place our trust.
The shrill clamour of so many voices appealing to our baser instincts and turning us against each other needs to be resisted. A headline, a news exclusive, or an eye-catching interview are one thing, but peace building is something else.
It is hard work, unglamorous, time consuming and labour intensive.
And it is the peace builders whom our whole city looks to at a time like this. I hope they will get their just reward and that after this weekend the city will once again learn who its true friends and most faithful servants really are.

The Rt Revd Tim Stevens is Patron of Leicester Council of Faiths.

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