6 dead, 19 critically wounded while attending a prayer service in Quebec City. Thousands of refugees and nationals from 7 Muslim-majority countries banned from entering the US. 24 hate crimes were reported in Quebec within a week of the Quebec City attack. And this is just a taste of the conflicts and injustices that are a daily reality for us. As Dr. Charles Taylor – McGill Professor, winner of the Templeton Prize, and co-chair of the Quebec 2007 hearings on reasonable accommodation of religious and cultural beliefs – put it, it really does seem that this world is going to hell in a handcart.
But we have also seen hope; a glimmer that the world is not as bad as it would appear. Within the last two weeks, millions of people around the world have joined together to protest the injustices they see. From the women’s marches, to the protests concerning the travel ban, to the vigils for the mosque shooting victims where thousands stood with their Muslim neighbours to mourn their loss and show their support.
We are in a war against racism, bigotry, misogyny, sexism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and white supremacy. As Dr. Taylor encouraged us, contact – not isolation – is the most vital weapon we can deploy in our fight. A Christ follower is called to love people, to shun the belief that ‘the other’ is dangerous; to reject the belief that we need to insulate ourselves. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another,” (John 13:34-35).
Before we can truly love someone, we have to get to know them, and that is where contact comes in. Dr. Fariha Khan summed up the impact contact can have when she said, “It starts with a letter, a phone call, an email, but I think what we need to do is take it to the next level where we actually spend time with each other. Let’s get to know each other. It’s wonderful that we are strong within our communities, but between our communities; that’s what we need to see happen. Get to know your neighbours, get to know your teachers, get to know your students, get to know the people in your community beyond the services they offer you. Get to know who they are. I think that once we develop this comfort level, there’s a comfort in knowing our similarities, but there’s a beauty in recognizing our differences.”
So meet your neighbours, have coffee with them, learn the differences, celebrate the similarities, break the chains of bigotry, isolation, and hate. Most of all, seek the peace and prosperity of the place that God has called you to; pray to God for it because when it prospers, you too shall prosper (paraphrased from Jeremiah 29:7).
Below is the transcript of an interview Lorna Dueck recorded with McGill Professor Charles Taylor on February 1, 2017.
Lorna Dueck: Joining me now is McGill Professor Charles Taylor, winner of the Templeton Prize. Dr. Taylor co-chaired the Quebec 2007 hearings on reasonable accommodation of religious and cultural beliefs in Quebec. Dr. Taylor, 10 years ago you listened to hundreds of Quebecers over the tension on identity and religion. Did you fear an attack like Quebec City was coming?
Taylor: No. I mean I must say also that Quebecers have a reputation for being more pacific then most other people, certainly more than in the States. So I am deeply shaken when that happens here. I didn’t think we’d ever get the anger or to the point where that kind of thing could happen.
Dueck: The Montreal Police have seen 14 hate crimes reported since Sunday’s attack. What do you sense is going on now over religious identity?
Taylor: What I think across the West is going on is that there is also a minority of people who are perfectly ready to hate whatever. In this case foreign religions. Most cases they feel restrained because it’s just not done as it is something that is considered terrible. When respected politicians in high positions begin to adopt those attitudes, maybe in a milder form just restricting peoples’ rights not necessarily saying throw them out. Then they think, “Okay, well if they say that, like Trump, the President of the United States, thinks that…Why should I stop myself?” So they begin to have these instances, most of which are verbal. They tell people, “Why don’t you go back to where you belong?” It is already terribly divisive and an awful experience for the targets of these attacks, but it starts like that. When you get leading people in a society saying that’s okay. It’s okay to think they are terrible.
Dueck: Ten years ago, Dr. Taylor, you disagreed with the Quebec Charter of Values which was eventually voted down. What made you so opposed?
Taylor: Well there is two things. Number one it is terrible because it reduces the rights of certain categories of people without any valid reason to do that. In this case of the Charter in Quebec, for instance women wearing the hijab or Jewish men wearing a Kippah or Seikhs wearing turbans would be excluded from a whole lot of jobs in the public sector; a very large proportion of Quebec jobs. Now, why reduce their rights? Is there a danger? No. It was really pandering to a feeling in the electorate of identity threat. That feeling in itself, I don’t think is terrible and is something that is natural in a way when people have been living among certain kinds of people and then new people come in. The answer to that is not to restrict the rights of these people. The answer to that is more contact. So this is going totally against that.
Dueck: Okay. So the answer is more contact. Let’s talk about the post-Quebec Mosque tragedy. What do we need to do now?
Taylor: Well, the thing is that I already saw it within the [Quebec] Charter that this had the effect of unleashing all those attacks and then I’ve seen it in England with the Brexit debate, I’ve seen it in France with the burqa debate, and we see in the States it is sociologically established. So we are on a spiral and we have to stop the spiral. The first thing we have to do is come down very hard on people who want to refuel those kinds of debates because they are putting us in the barrel where terrible things are done to Muslims here. The Islamic State is just drooling and waiting for that because that is their greatest recruiting instrument, right? The recruiting instrument is ‘these Westerners they hate you, they despise you’, and people like Trump and people like this unfortunate young criminal are just giving weight to that argument. So we could get into a ding dong battle.
Dueck: Dr. Taylor, thank you very much.
Taylor: Ok, thank you.