Last weekend, and in the days since, the news bulletins have focused heavily on events in Nairobi. A group of extremist Islamic militants took over a shopping centre and murdered dozens of bystanders. It is horrifying! In truth, it is only the latest in a very long list of inhuman acts.
We frequently hear reports of bombings and killings in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. We remember the violence in Rwanda and Burundi, in Croatia and Serbia, where neighbours turned on each other for no reason other than their tribal or national origin.
Over the last few weeks I've been watching Simon Schama's TV series on the history of the Jewish people. We remember the treatment of Jews in Nazi Germany, but do we remember what happened to them in the pogroms of eastern Europe?
Sometimes I find the behaviour of human beings depressing. There is an urge in us to give others labels which make them different from us ... and then persecute and destroy them. It seems to happen again and again. And often times religious purity is the excuse we use.
But then I remember the core of my faith. Our God is a god of love, grace, mercy. We human beings are deeply flawed, and we need to know that God if we are to be truly 'human'. Faith in God redeems us from the dark urge to persecute and destroy, enables us to see others as our equals, our brothers and sisters ... or at least it should!