The football World Cup is underway; as I write, I am preparing for England’s latest game, against the USA. Earlier today I exchanged emails with a friend in Iran; we collaborate as scientists but share a friendship that is, at least in part, based on football. At its best, sport can bring people together and that often happens with the World Cup.
Of course, this World Cup has particularly issues, around the human rights record of Quatar, the host. It has been criticised for the way it treated migrant workers who built the stadiums, its treatment of women, the gay community and minorities. In turn, the president of FIFA very recently accused western countries of hypocrisy, questioning their right to criticise. This raises some interesting questions. It is not difficult to find examples of double standards in western countries including our own, where we find ways of side-tracking human rights when we want to deal with a country that has something we want. And of course, historically we may have only recently espoused the rights of groups we now seek to champion in other countries. But does that disqualify us from speaking out?
Jesus strongly condemned the hypocrisy of the religious rulers of his day but at the same time he sided with the marginalised in his society. He taught his followers to show a similar generous love. It seems to me that part of that love is to name injustice and wrong-doing when we see it. It is likely to be a costly love, because inevitably, we ourselves will fall short of the love that Jesus showed; we will be exposed as hypocrites. But I would rather speak out and be a hypocrite than stay silent and ignore wrong and evil.