‘But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’. Matthew 5:44

For me, reading this usually brings to mind someone who particularly irritates me, but upon consideration I decide that they’re probably not an enemy so I’m probably doing okay. At the recent New Parish Conference I went to a seminar led by David Blower entitled The Politics of Enemy Love which really challenged that way of thinking.

Where in your life do you see another group of people as the ‘other’?

He began by asking us to think of ‘lines of enmity’ in our own communities. As the Western political landscape is dramatically changing, with the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump, the divisions in our society have been revealed between old and young, rich and poor, North and South and that’s before addressing the abuse that some people have been facing on religious and ethnic grounds.

David then made the question slightly harder; where do you see lines of enmity in your own life?  Where in your life do you see another group of people as the ‘other’, perhaps groups that you do not understand or do not interact with? The answers that came from around the room were suddenly a lot more personal, and a lot more relatable. For one person the ‘other’ was the council who seemed to enforce changes upon her estate with no personal engagement. For another, although they had friendships with their neighbours who were from very diverse backgrounds, there was a particular group with whom they hadn’t had much contact. Divisions extended into the political realm as one person found their line of enmity with those who worked with the British Legion to sell red poppies as she found it challenging that the the poppies aren’t to remember war-time civilian deaths as well.

Everyone recognised that divisions compounded themselves: the more you thought of someone else as different or unconnected to you, the easier it was to reduce them down to a single characteristic, ignoring their complexity as an individual and their life experience, as well as the many things that you have in common.

In a world where the rhetoric of division, hate and fear features strongly in some traditional and social media channels, it is up to us, individuals within communities, to start to get to know the ‘other’, to recognise ‘lines of enmity’ in our community and to cross them. It is by building relationships that we will break down the fear and distrust of difference.

At CUF we want to support people to get to know one another within communities and to overcome the division and fear that we are told is so endemic. One of the key ways we do this is through the Near Neighbours programme which encourages people in diverse communities to get to know each other better and collaborate on initiatives that improve the communities in which they live. In addition, we have recently launched the Common Good Fund. This covers the whole of England, and through this grants programme we will facilitate people who want to promote an alternative to hate, intolerance and prejudice through the development of meaningful relationships and shared understanding. People can work for the common good in their area, helping more people to participate in the change.

Where are the lines of enmity in your life and your community and what could you do to overcome them?

Learn more about the Common Good Fund here http://www.cuf.org.uk/common-good-fund