The Alf Keeling Memorial Lecture November 21st 2019

The Alf Keeling Memorial Lecture was our contribution to Interfaith Week 2019. About 50 people came to hear Rev Bruce Thompson from Lincoln, ex-minister at Timperley Methodist Church, talk on “The Responsibility of Faith Communities in an Age of Impunity.” He addressed the problem of hate crime, of people saying whatever they like without any thought of the consequences, and with no shame. How people in power have no qualms about lying and social media is a perfect platform for venting anger. How we seem to have lost our moral compass.

He structured his talk about an experience he had when a car driver nearly knocked him off his bicycle – he instinctively felt anger and was about to raise a clenched first when he saw the driver was a beloved, elderly parishioner, a “saint,” and so his fist changed into a wave and his angry shout to a mild “Hello Mary.” He concluded from this that there are people in charge of things that can endanger life. That people are prone to anger when their safety and security are threatened. That they are placated when they know the person who is making the threats and also that there are consequences if one follows through the intended actions (i.e. if he had denounced the parishioner in church). He talked about the breakdown in our society, and how anonymity is a factor in our behaviour these days. How society has become disconnected and we do not know each other anymore, which produces hostility. His response to this was a plea not to become complacent about anti-Semitism and islamophobia. Not to laugh at racist or anti-Semitic jokes and not to become complicit in hate. Instead, to eat, share food and laugh together with other faiths. Stand by each other and rise up against populism and prejudice. He told us not to lose heart but to fill social media with kindness and goodness to counteract the hate.
It was a passionate and very timely address – I think we were all moved by it, especially now when there is so much aggression and uncertainty in the country.
After his address there were some questions and then he was presented with a book token to swell his already large library. People then were able to mingle and chat over a drink and biscuits.
Once again our thanks go to St Ambrose Preparatory School for their generous hospitality.

Carolyn Jones (Hon. Sec., Altrincham Interfaith Group)