Over-to-you. BBC Radio Humberside 8th April 2009
There just seems to be so much news around at present that there is ever the danger that you miss the really interesting, but less sensational, stories. This was particularly true yesterday, all the international attention was on President Obama’s visit to Iraq and a story from the Iraqi Appeal Court received little attention. But the court ruled that the sentence given to c the journalist who hurled his shoes at President Bush, had been too severe and it was cut from 3 years in prison to one – which is still a long time for him to ponder the wisdom of his acts. Zadai claimed that had thrown his shoes, a grave insult in Arab culture, as a protest on behalf of the Iraqis who had been killed, orphaned or widowed since the US-led invasion of their country and in President Bush’s own words “it is one way to gain attention”.
It raises the question – how do we gain attention when we feel that everything is going wrong? It comes as we absorb the concerning video footage associated with the death of Ian Tomlinson at last week’s G20 protest, scenes which ask serious questions about police behaviour. When the powerful stop listening, how do we gain their attention and make them aware of our disquiet?
One of the stories about Jesus, which we read during these days leading up to Good Friday, is about him wreaking havoc in the Temple, turning over the tables of the money changers. It is a story of protest, a violent protest and Jesus’ actions were every bit as insulting in Jewish culture as an Arab throwing his shoe. Yet Jesus had found that the powerful had stopped listening and as the story unfolds it has a very modern feel, for the powerful used all the apparatus of their power to resist the truth Jesus was expounding. The nature of Jesus’ protest against the abuse and corruption of truth becomes increasingly silent and the authority of his protest becomes greater as he offers a contrast to the anger, threats and violence of those who seek his death.
I think that to protest is to exercise our God given freedom to use our minds, to have an opinion and to speak about how we understand truth in this world. Yet like all freedoms, there has to be responsibility and those who protest have to keep a fine balance between on the one hand making the powerful listen to their views and on the other becoming so forceful that the powerful have an excuse not to listen. Over the years there have been many protests at the G8 meetings about the way the world economy was being run – they became very violent and the violence ensured that the protesters were not listened to by those with the power to change the economy. As we now live in the grip of a terrible recession which is wreaking havoc in the lives of so many people, we may well feel that wisdom was actually found to be with the protesters, for it is painfully clear that the powerful who ran our economy got it very wrong.