About two weeks ago, I was walking home from work as I heard the sound of fireworks. And then I remembered the notice I’d seen on facebook inviting me to celebrate the end of Diwali in Edinburgh city centre one of my friends had posted.
It was a while before I got to a street where I could see the fireworks, but it made me smile.
I’m no expert, but thanks to Girlguiding, I know a little bit about Diwali. It’s a festival of light, and this year it feels like there has been no better to have such a festival.
There’s a moment in the film that is not in the book of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, when a death happens within the walls of Hogwarts. In the grief and shock, as the school gathers underneath a dark sky with the ‘Dark Mark’ hanging over them, one teacher raises her wand to do the “Lumos” spell. Gradually every staff member and pupil gather follows suit. Lots of little lights, making one big light in the darkness and the Dark Mark disappears.
I wasn’t surprised by what happened in France a couple of weeks ago. I was appalled and horrified, but not surprised. You may remember that last year I visited my friend who was studying in Paris and I came home from the trip feeling very uneasy at what I saw and experienced there. Don’t get me wrong, I loved walking along the River Seine, and browsing book stalls in the markets, sitting in the Jardin du Luxembourg reading in the sunshine and exploring the exhibits at the Centre Pompidou. But I’d never seen so many homeless mothers and children in the streets – sleeping with buggies in shop doorways at night. I’d never seen such prejudice and racism. From people asking me how I could possibly be friends with an ‘African’ because surely we are “such different people”, to hearing of a fellow student who was told by a restaurant owner she couldn’t sit at a table where she could be seen by members of the public coming in because she was wearing a hijab (not that the restaurant owner said that was the reason, he just stared at her and said no room at the inn…only for some other students who were lovely and white to ask to sit in the same place a few minutes later and given their choice of tables), to the atmosphere of ‘them’ and ‘us’ on the metro and in the streets and in the subconscious of the conversations… it left me with a bad taste in my mouth and a desire never to return to Paris ever again. What a beautiful city, but the inhumanity…ugh.
And now our leaders are trying to make out that the best idea is to start destroying a country that is already destroyed. Because Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya weren’t enough. Let’s bomb Syria too. Oh, and we won’t let the people trying to get away from violence find refuge here…oh no. We will send them bombs rather than aid.
Can we bring back Diwali and Remembrance Sunday? I think we need a reminder of the cost of violence, and we definitely need some more light in this dark world. Let’s fight evil with good…not more evil.