One of my holiday [year] highlights was going along to see U2 play Twickenham. An awesome show, well performed and it was excellent to experience some of the songs that I weren’t played on Elevation tour [well obviously none from the new album] like Wild horses; still haven’t found what I’m looking for and the Fly…
A U2 show is more than just the music though it’s about the message! Make Poverty History campaign… compassion for Africa… Burma civil rights all were imprinted on the consciousness by the music, the images and the words…
For me though the most powerful message was the stringing together of three religious icons to spell out the word "coexist." The sign is a crucial element of one of the most emotional and memorable portions of the Vertigo show: U2 concludes the heart-wrenching "Sometimes you can't make it on your own," and with the show's mood growing increasingly intense, a white headband appears on Bono's forehead for the opening chords of "Lone and Peace or Else."
The headband bears the handwritten message "COEXIST" with the Muslim crescent symbol representing the "C;" the Jewish Star of David, the "X;" and the Christian cross, the "T." As the next few songs progress, Bono kneels down, wrists crossed above his head, conjuring images of a hostage, now blindfolded with the CoeXisT band covering his eyes.
As shown above the CoeXisT sign dominates the giant screen behind the band. And in the midst of "Sunday Bloody Sunday" (which, according to Bono, doesn't just belong to Ireland anymore) Bono points to each religious icon and declares:
"Jesus, Jew, Muhammad, its true... all sons of Abraham. Father Abraham, speak to your sons. Tell them, No more!"
A message that is even more powerful after the bomb attacks on London last week. No more! No Revenge! Co-exist!!
For those who are interested Bono’s message reminds Christians, Jews and Muslims that we all have a shared heritage, we are all distant cousins – family as well as neighbours. Neighbours who have a lot in common to talk about. Jews and Arabs [who are mostly Muslims] can trace their ancestry back to Abraham and Christians through faith are recognised as his “spiritual” sons. Abraham was the guy who God agreed a special relationship with – he would bless Abraham and in turn Abraham and all his generations of children would be a blessing to the world.
I know that Bono’s comments provoked discussion amongst some of my Christian friends – what is Bono saying – are all faiths the same? All paths lead to God? It doesn’t matter what you believe? Incidentally If you are interested in exploring for yourself these questions I can’t recommend highly enough a book by Brian McClaren called Finding Faith: A Self-discovery Guide for Your Spiritual Quest
I don’t think U2 were saying that at all. I think they was making a very Jesus point…love your neighbour, love those who oppose you, are different to you, who maybe even persecute you. Jesus didn’t say conquer, suppress, hate, fear, take revenge or attack… I think he would have said embrace love, peace, justice, mercy… coexist...
It also turns out that U2 are not the creator of the symbol. The image is actually the work of Piotr Mlodozeniec, a Polish graphic designer living in Warsaw. He created the CoeXisT image in 2001 for a contest hosted by The Museum on the Seam for Dialogue, Understanding and Coexistence in Jerusalem. For the past four years, the image has been travelling the world in the form of a three meter by five meter poster as a part of The Museum on the Seam's "Coexistence" exhibition.
CoeXisT branded products are available from the museum shop.