Thursday, April 13, 2017

A smile that says: you do not scare me, you are not stronger than me.

Martin Wroe - Reflection 
at Easter Time

'Good Morning.' It's the smile that gets you. A smile that says: you do not scare me, you are not stronger than me.

Saffiyah Khan, a young woman from Birmingham, was photographed at the weekend, leaping to support a woman wearing a hijab, at a demonstration by the English Defence League.The image of Saffiyah - calm as you like in the face of a furious male opponent - has gone viral. 'Sometimes,' she told the Daily Mail, 'it's more important to smile than to shout.'

Some days of course we wake to the news of another terrorist attack - or atrocity like the one on the Borussia Dortmund football team last night - and words fail us. We take to the streets, hold a silence together and light a candle in solidarity with those who suffer. This is part of our resistance.

The resistance of Saffiyah in Birmingham chimes with that of the young American, Iesha Evans, two years ago, standing calm and alone as she faced down a line of riot police at a Black Lives Matters protest.
And both images resonate with that famous soul in Tianammen Square in 1989 - he became known as Tank Man or The Unknown Protestor. The lone figure with a shopping bag - holding up the Chinese tanks with the simple power of his spirit.

For Christians this week is known as Holy Week, a time to recall the similar quiet resistance of a man who said:

* If any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also;

* If any one would take your coat, let him have your shirt as well;

* If any one forces you to go one mile, go also the second.

* A man who told his friends, when they were about to take up arms at his unjust arrest, that: All who live by the sword die by the sword.

Christians often recall Jesus of Nazareth as the 'man of sorrows, acquainted with grief' … but he was also a man of mischief acquainted with theatre.
At the height of his fame he rode through the crowds on a donkey. During his trial, he said very little and wouldn't play along with the forces of power. He looked his enemies in the eye, and, I like to think, sometimes he was smiling.

Religions tend to tame their charismatic founders, hiding them in temples or churches - replacing the subversive with the saintly.
But what is holiness if it's not courage and resilience in favour of another way of seeing life - drawing on a mysterious inner strength you never even knew you had.

Sometimes the holy is less about piety and purity and more about defiance and cheek. A quiet, disruptive resistance.
Not inside the walls of religion but outside in the street, thumbing a nose at the powers that be. A twinkle in the eye of a storm.

The American Biblical scholar, Professor Walter Wink, used to tell a story of how, during apartheid in South Africa, Desmond Tutu was walking past a building site on a temporary gangway when a white man, a racist, recognized him and said, 'I don't make way for gorillas.'

At which Tutu stepped aside, made a deep sweeping gesture, and said, 'Ah, yes, but I do.’