New Year

I wish everyone a happy, more accepting and peaceful new year.

1st January has become a date when communities around the world speak of world peace. 1st January, and our calendar system of dating is, of course, a human construct, rather than the natural calendar of solstices, equinoxes and seasonal changes that indicate a shift in the growing season. But it is a construct that is accepted and made use of by our diverse human tribe- a construct that unites that very inclusive species known as Homo sapiens. The Pagan community is no stranger to diversity, containing within its number, a wide range of spiritual worldviews, people of all races, colours, ages, abilities, genders, sexual orientations- a cross section of humanity, in fact.

Diversity can be challenging. As humans, we have a tendency to tribal behaviour. In identifying ourselves as part of our tribe, we also identify those we perceive to be ‘other’. We may not know much about the ‘other’. But we note that they’re not us. They are different in a bad way. We demonise the ‘other’, suggesting they are all that is wrong with the world, that they seek to bring an end to our ordered world, even that our concept of the divine finds the ‘other’ an abomination and their existence and acceptance will lead to the end of our world. We create divisions, platforms for conflict and animosity. We create obstacles to understanding and peace.

The Pagan community is no different to other communities in this. Whilst we acknowledge, and fairly successfully manage the diversity within our number, we still identify the ‘other’, and sometimes choose to demonise that ‘other’. But that other is still part of the inclusive species known to us as Homo Sapiens, still part of the tribe of humans that will be marking the turning of another calendar year, hoping that the new year will bring good things for our tribe, hoping that the ‘other’ will change their ways and be more like us.

So what might this Pagan wish for 2013? We have heard World Peace day statements from some ‘other’ communities that appear to mark some within the species known as Homo Sapiens as a threat to the world simply for being who they are and wanting to be accepted. This Pagan would hope that those ‘other’ communities might realise that their words could lead not to world peace, but to conflict, harm and even the death of people simply because they are different.
I have been following the Human rights issue of ‘accusations of witchcraft’ and subsequent abuse and murders. In our globalised world, this issue is no longer isolated to small communities in rural areas of nations struggling to survive. The results of these crimes against humanity have accompanied human migration around our planet and have appeared in the most cosmopolitan cities around the globe. I would hope that much greater attention is given to putting an end to such horrors.

The Pagan community is, by its very nature, aware of many environmental issues. Even within our own community there are different views on the issue of a possible badger cull to combat bovine TB. We are aware and concerned about the continuation of whale and dolphin hunts, fracking procedures engaged in to extract more fossil fuels, but at the expense of our natural landscapes and the health of our land. We are concerned about deforestation and the continuation of policy to create more space for housing and agriculture at the expense of the healthy biodiversity of the planet. I would hope that these environmental issues were reviewed in ways that considered the wider implications for our species and for all species that inhabit our world.

I am very aware of conflict between people of different faiths and spiritual perspectives. I would hope that respectful dialogue will be more apparent as this can reduce tensions and improve understanding between people who perceive the world in different ways.
I am aware of our global period of austerity and the threat it poses to peace and equality. We would hope that a desire for peace and equality could help in coping with austerity. By choosing not to demonise the ‘other’, but to seek understanding with the ‘other’, we might discover that together we can support each other through testing times. We may find that combining our strengths can balance out our weaknesses. But this will not be possible if we see difference as a threat. This will not be possible if we choose to put the continuation of our artificial differences above the artificial differences of others. I would hope that we might all find a way to fear the ‘other’ less and to try to understand and appreciate the range of diversity inherent in being part of the community of living things on our planet.

I wish the world peace and a happy and more accepting new year.

Mike Stygal

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