BY DAVID V BARRETT
ARCHBISHOP Vincent Nichols of Birmingham has condemned the desecration of 45 Muslim graves at Birmingham’s Handsworth Cemetery.
“Those who desecrate the resting places of the dead have forsaken our fundamental values and are eaten up with hatred,” he said last Sunday.
“Their actions, and any action like that, have no part in the ordering of our society. I hope they are soon brought to justice.” The vandalism at the cemetery came less than two weeks after rioting between blacks and Asians in the neighbouring Lozells area of Birmingham over an alleged rape of a 14-year-old black girl by a group of Asian men.
During the riots, mosques and churches were attacked by the rival factions.
Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Bar, said he believed the desecration had deliberately been timed to coincide with the Muslim festival of Eid, and was “a heinous attempt to inflame tensions in the community”.
Archbishop Nichols also focused on the attempt to foment division. “It is because we respect and honour every human being that we are disgusted by the actions of those who seek to spread conflict and division,” he said. “The strength of our feelings is a measure of our commitment to all that is right and decent in our society. To know how deeply we feel, and to share those feelings, is part of resisting the evil that others want to perpetrate.” Instead of conflict and division, he said, we need to focus on working together.
“For our part, we continue the solid, patient work of building understanding and harmony between all groups in our society. In order to achieve this, I encourage Catholics in the Archdiocese of Birmingham to join with people of every race, colour and creed in resisting racism in our midst.” The archbishop called for restraint rather than retaliation against those who promote racial and religious hatred.
“We must not imitate those who do evil by retaliating in their way. Then we are no better. But this pathway of peaceful resistance is hard. That is why true religious convictions that direct our feet in the way of peace are so important to our well-being,” he said.
“During this week we, as a society, remember the dead, especially those who have died in the course of wars and conflicts,” the archbishop concluded.
“This week reminds us always to honour the dead, to hold them in our hearts, to commend them to God.”