In this divided world, I find our common humanity in these 2 words: hopes and fears.

Deep down we are all moved by these forces.  Fears that threaten to consume us.  Hopes that inspire us, or crush us in their un-fulfilment.

Hope and fear

And in this outlook I discover empathy for those who seemed beyond hope or understanding.

The Russians love their children too‘.

Excepting the odd psychopath, even the most irrational or heinous acts probably once had a rationale in hope or fear.   So the seeds of heinous deeds may be familiar to us all, though we don’t all allow them to grow so far out of control.

Fear and suspicion threaten to poison our communities, both local and global.  The solution is outlandish hope and love, but such radical emotions can’t be faked. And they can’t grow in us as long as our own hearts are constrained by fear.

We can plant hope’s seed when we realise those we fear are themselves driven by fear.  Then we see hurting people, not enemies.  People just like us beneath the foreign shell of culture, colour or religion.

We begin to break the cycle of fear and its fruits by loving our enemies, praying for those who persecute us, and giving our lives for the cause of love.  Not in unexpressed intentions or doormat-like weakness, but through powerful acts of risk-taking, peacemaking, intervention.

We must not sit on the sidelines with fear in our hearts.

For me this means starting where I am, in the majority Pakistani Muslim community where I live, with small steps.  I have been the focus of suspicion but I choose to keep chipping away at that with honesty, openness and willingness to help.

So it was a great joy to me when 2 weeks ago, the lad at the youth club who kept threatening me, saw that I refused to either fear him or disengage from him, and then, after I invited him to join me on the PS3 playing Street Fighter, after a few rounds in which I neither crowed nor condemned when he lost a round, said to me quietly, ‘can you give me an apprenticeship?’

Just a lad, like I was, afraid of what the future might hold, needing an opportunity and someone to give him guidance.  And I knew that in the midst of all the suspicion, my efforts for good have also been observed, and it has all been worth it.

I said he’d be welcome anytime at the workshop, and we’ll see what happens.