Religion is the cause of conflict in the world. People will often tell you this.
After all wasn’t Northern Ireland about Protestant v Catholic? And Bosnia was Orthodox Christians v Muslims? And the conflict in Israel is about Jews v Muslims? And Cyprus is about Muslims v Orthodox again? And isn’t terrorism often driven by religion - in Ireland in the past, in the Middle East in the present?
Of course, this is all too simple. People sometimes use religion as their badge of identity in a conflict. It doesn’t make them a good catholic or protestant or jew or whatever if they use that banner in their fight. Al-Qaeda don’t represent Muslims any more than the Provisional IRA represented catholics.
And today there is something more that we can say. On that first Christian Pentecost people of all races, all backgrounds and all languages were gathered in the city. Huge crowds with different cultures and customs. It may have felt threatening and uncomfortable for the local people. It is a recipe for misunderstanding and conflict. An opportunity for crime and division.
And the Gift of the Holy Spirit did not divide, but unite. He did not make everyone the same, but he celebrated their differences. He did not make people pretend they were all the same, but he helped them praise God for the colour and variety of the crowd. He did not set one against another, but brought them together in truth.