Faithfully yours - Getting to the root of the problem


Neil Strohschein
The Neepawa Banner

Two weeks ago, Statistics Canada released its latest report: “Police Reported Hate Crimes in Canada—2015.” Its contents should concern every Canadian. According to the report, hate crimes against identifiable groups in this country are increasing, and Canada’s Muslim community is seeing the biggest increase (almost double the number reported in 2014).

But hate crimes against Muslims accounted for only 12 percent of the 1,362 hate crimes reported. Overall, police reported 469 hate crimes against religious groups—178 against Jews, 159 against Muslims, 55 against Catholics and 77 against all other religions. A further 641 incidents were based on race. Blacks were targeted three times as much as all other races combined. Of the remaining 252, sexual orientation was the most prominent reason given.

But, and this is a big “but,” the figures only tell one side of the story. They give us some data on the age and gender of those accused of these crimes. But they do not (because they cannot) tell us what motivated specific people to commit specific criminal acts; and that, in my view, is a good thing. Hindsight is always 20/20; but hindsight can never undo the damage done by hate crimes. In fact, nothing can ever really undo it. The only way to address the damage done by hate crimes is to keep them from happening in the first place. We must get to the root of the problem; understand the origins of hate and eradicate those attitudes from our lives.

Last July (2016), England’s Equality and Human Rights Commission released a study on causes and motivations of hate crime. For purposes of their study, the writers defined a hate crime as “any criminal offense which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice.” After spending several months reviewing hundreds of pages of material, the writers had to admit: “We don’t know precisely why some people commit hate crimes, while others, in identical circumstances, do not. More studies are needed.”

They did, however, identify a common thread in the statistics they examined. Most hate crimes, they argue, happen when one identifiable group perceives another to be a threat to their safety, security, way of life or well-being. Instead of taking the time to determine if their perceptions are accurate, these perpetrators act to intimidate, mock, ridicule and in extreme cases, physically harm their victims; hoping to eliminate the perceived threat. When asked to justify their actions, they say something like this: “We must protect our group’s interests because nobody else (especially the government and law enforcement) will do it for us.”

This attitude is far from new. It was evident in Jesus’ day, prompting him to urge his disciples to follow a different law—the law of love. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength,” he said; “and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” We are to love, accept and forgive others as God has loved, accepted and forgiven us.
This principle (or its equivalent) can be found in the sacred writings of virtually every religious system on earth. The growth of hate crimes world-wide is an indication of just how far we have strayed from the standard set for all of us in our sacred books.
Can we change? Yes! We can acknowledge our lack of love and seek God’s forgiveness. He will forgive and by his spirit, will enable us to replace suspicion and hate with genuine love.