Priest Attacked and Chased by Racist Thug

My mother was black. My father was white. While he was born in England, his mother and father were Irish and French, respectively. The result of the European influence on my appearance means that, while most people can see that I am obviously not predominantly black, they also do not easily identify me as mixed white/Afro-Caribbean but instead mistake me for Asian. As I am also bearded and often wear a cassock, people make the additional assumption that I am Muslim.

This often elicits various reactions from people, from warm but misguided acceptance, through wonder and perhaps a little discomfort, to outright hostility. This isn't usually too bad in Manchester, which is very cosmopolitan and where one would not expect to walk through the city centre without passing people of various ethnic backgrounds and in various forms of cultural dress, (although one lady at a bus stop did once tell me to go back to Iraq). I used to take this for granted until I had cause to regularly be in other parts of the country which are much less ethnically and culturally diverse, and even some of Manchester's suburbs can be fairly scary.

I worked in Chester for a year and was approached by a lady handing out leaflets for the mystery plays. She said, very slowly and deliberately, 'Stories from the Bible. It will help your English'. My friend (who was very embarrassed) and I thought this was rather amusing but waited until the lady had gone before we started laughing. Yet, on another occasion, as I was crossing the bridge at the railway station in the same city, I was passed by a young man travelling in the opposite direction. He was speaking on his mobile phone and I overheard him tell his interlocutor that a terrorist had just walked past, clearly referring to me! I have been on the receiving end of a fair amount of anti-Muslim abuse. It seems that so convincing is my Asian appearance that Asian men often approach me in public and greet me, assuming that I am Muslim. When I politely explain that I am Christian, most give an embarrassed smile and switch to English, apologising or wishing me well, as happened yesterday. However, on more than one occasion, they have become angry and abusive, presumably assuming that I am a convert from Islam to Christianity.

This can be very intimidating at times, and I sometimes fear for my safety and occasionally resent being made to feel this way. It is for this reason that I was filled with anger when I began to read this story. It is an actual realisation of precisely what I fear happening to me from day to day. Here is a Christian priest, dressed as a Christian priest, beaten with a tyre iron, chased for three blocks, and pinned to the ground. His offence? He got lost and asked for directions. It turns out that his sat-nav had given him wrong directions, and that the person he asked for help, after attacking and chasing him, telephoned the emergency services claiming to have captured a terrorist who was trying to rob him. He later changed his story to say that the "terrorist" had sexually assaulted him. However, the sat-nav corroborated the priest's story of having been lost.

The one saving grace of the entire story is that the priest refused to press charges, showing the forgiveness that Christ taught. Part of me was put to shame when I read this, as his response was so different from my own feelings. Yet I still am not at the point where I can so easily lay aside the way I feel about this. The priest is truly a holy man, and perhaps this just shows how much further I have to go. I just feel sick about the whole affair.

Update.

3 responses:

ex_fide said...

People are pretty damn ignorant.

Michael said...

I agree, Joseph, although there seems to be more going on here. I have to wonder how much of the "terrorist" claim was due to ignorance and how much of it was a not-very-well-thought-through attempt to cover his violent actions after he realised what he had done. You'll see from the update I have added to the post that he isn't a stranger to violence. I think that a break from the steroids and artificial supplements he takes may be a good thing. I don't know how much potential these things have to alter a person's mood or perceptions.

louenn said...

I sometimes wonder about the world we're living in, when people can't just ask for directions if they get lost.

And people think that that we should be tolerant of other religions, but intolerant of terrorism and it all gets muddled.

I think I'm going to go and live on the moon. Care to join me?

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