To start out a new week -- and take a little break from the recipes -- I thought I'd post something topical. I recognize that this is a hot topic, and I know the opposing side of my argument. Feel free to post your thoughts in the comments, as always.
We've been having a bit of a conflict in the US of A. Well, we've been having a few, but this is the one I want to talk about. In case you've been living under a rock, I thought I'd inform you that there is a group of Americans who want to build a Muslim community center in Manhattan. The proposed site is near Ground Zero, and many Americans think it's disprespectful to the memory of the lives lost to build it near the place of the September 11 attacks. Truth is, there was a mosque there previously (as well Muslim religious facilities within the Twin Towers themselves).
The argument has become: does religious freedom exist in America? "Tasteful" or otherwise, the project has been deemed perfectly legal. The outcome is yet undetermined. The funds aren't even in place to actually build the community center, and the plan isn't to construct it in the immediate future. But, in my humble opinion, that's not the real issue. The issue is whether or not we're assuming that all Muslims are terrorists. It turns out that a great many Americans are making that assumption.
Then, just before September 11 of this year, a pastor in Florida by the name of Terry Jones tried to start a "holiday" called National Burn a Quran Day. Luckily, he called it off, but not before he posed as a Christian representative to the rest of the world. If the terrorists are a case of extreme Islam, then Pastor Jones is surely an example of extreme Christianity. And I feel sad about that image. I realize that most Christians don't feel the way Pastor Jones does, but with the press he received and the attention we all gave him...it validated his opinion. So loving, isn't it...burning another person's holy book? So kind, isn't it...spewing that kind of hatred for an entire group of people?
I've always maintained that one of President Obama's major accomplishments has been restoring our reputation in the world. I think he is a great diplomat, and the rest of the world listens. In the midst of the controversy, he made a statement (in part, please feel free to seek out the entire speech):
But let me be clear. As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure.
Last week, out of the blue, I got an email from a friend of mine in Denmark. She and I have recently become reacquainted and I assume she knew little of my political opinions prior to this email. When I asked her if I could post her email on my blog her response was: "Go ahead and post it, whatever it takes to change the mind of just one person ;-)"
So. Here it is. Enjoy.
"By the way, I wanted to congratulate you on your president (Obama) again! I heard parts of his speech on 9/11 - or the day before - in which he insisted that we should not fight muslims but terrorists and that if you could build a church or a synagogue, then you could build a mosque as well. I really do believe that he is doing a HUGE leap for world peace saying those things. People in the entire world listens to what he is saying, and I know that for the many Muslims in Europe, this is so important. Especially the young Muslims here, when they become teenagers they often get this "who-am-I?" feeling, because they realize they are not REALLY turks (or whereever their parents come from) and if they feel excluded from the West as well, their only identity is being fundamental, extreme Muslims. However, when Obama says those things about being equal, I think they feel welcome and included and part of the society they live in. And it is strange, that what the American president says has this effect on Europeans - but that's just the way it is :-)"
So don't take it from me. Take it from my sweet friend in Europe, who offers us another perspective and gives us something else to mull over. We are not the only citizens of the world. I think we'd do ourselves a service by looking outside of our own lives and loving everyone. And as Christians, let our light truly shine. Not only when it's painless and comfortable, but all the time. Instead of carrying around signs of protest that speak of hatred and fear, can we not reach out with love? Especially in a time when the world is fragile and people are hurting...can we not seek out peace?
"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:15-16