The Libyan attack and related unrest on 9/11 and beyond is a deadly outgrowth of religious extremism. It can only lead to increased tension and further tragedy – if we let it.
We cannot prevent all such attacks. No one can. These horrific acts did not happen in isolation and current atrocities are not new. They build on long-standing issues and people everywhere pay the price, not just the obvious victims.
A highly offensive amateur film created by extremists, promoted by extremists, and reacted to by extremists does not represent the vast majority of religious people. Yet we are guilty by association. Muslims are once again seen as violent and all Americans, including Christians, Jews and atheists, are seen as hateful and intolerant. This is not true, but buildings are burning, riots are spreading, and people are dying. Extremists at home and abroad are dictating the conversation. We become bystanders – forgetting that peace-making is action.
Most of us cannot change the world, but we can change us. We need to look at ourselves, and our religion, for complicity, provocation, and complacency. We are called to treat others, and by extension, religions, as we expect (and often demand) to be treated ourselves.
Get to know the 'other'. Experiment by having a conversation with someone of another religion. Ask them about meaning, values, and experience. Share the sadness of world events. Then share about your faith – not to convert, but to express what it means to you. Be surprised how respectful conversation with the ‘other’ deepens your own faith.
Building peace through interfaith dialogue is a gift we can give each other – and the world.
In honor of International Peace Day, you are invited to join people of all ages and faiths to an Interfaith Picnic this Saturday from 11-2 at Grasslawn Park in Redmond. (Shelter near west end parking lot) Bring your favorite picnic food. Get ready for conversation, activities, and making friends with your neighbors.
Rev. Marian Stewart
Minister, Northlake Unitarian Universalist Church, Kirkland, WA
Coordinator, F.I.R.E. (Fostering Interfaith Relationships on the Eastside)