Christians, Muslims people of peace

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Today I struggled writing this column. Struggled because my heart knew what I wanted to write, but my head worried it was going to be misunderstood. It is not an easy place to be and one that comes every so often when words insist that I write them even if there is a struggle between my heart and my head.

So I leapt, giving voice to the sentences that insisted on being set free. Those who disagree will disagree. Perhaps others will understand. Either way, there are times we must speak from our hearts. So here goes.

This past weekend a minister in Florida did not burn the Quran. I am glad he changed his mind, but the emotions that led to him and his church considering such a thing are alive and well. And they are alive and well outside of that church, that community and that state.

Many people live behind walls that exclude anything that is not familiar or is not part of their history and their upbringing. Behind these walls, we separate ourselves; we come to believe more in our differences than in our similarities.

There are, in 2010, two huge walls that a great number of humans live behind. Their names are Christianity and Islam.

I don’t know much about Islam. It is not the faith into which I was born or the religion of my family or my community. It is as foreign to me as Christianity is to someone born into a family of Muslims.

What I’ve heard about Islam since 9/11 is often frightening, and, I learned by seeking on my own, not true for most of its followers. What I heard is that Muslims want to kill all Christians. That they believe Americans are devils and wish devastation upon us all.

While that may be true of some radical sects, I do not think it is true of all Muslims, anymore than all Christians agree with the more radical ideas of some claiming that faith.

What I do know is that people who were Muslims died in the Twin Towers on September 11. In fact, about 60 of them who worked there perished. I also learned that prior to that day, Muslims and Christians worked side-by-side honoring each other’s beliefs and traditions.

There was a prayer room in the South Tower used by those of the Islamic faith, and it was probably in that room that some of them died on Sept. 11, 2001. In another tower, Muslims used the stairwell for daily prayers with no opposition from anyone.

So, what is clear is that within both groups, Christian and Muslim, there are people who desire peace and who are able to live in harmony with those whose beliefs are different.

There are also those in both faiths who see only their rightness and the wrongness of any other belief. And from that place, tolerance is not such an easy practice. These believers often twist messages of peace and love and make the walls taller and stronger.

My challenge is to see over my wall, to focus on how we are alike rather than how we are different — to choose love always– as both faiths teach. To love even those with whom I disagree.

Perhaps the best way to express this is with words from the books each faith follows, the Quran and the Bible. If I focus on these messages, my struggle ends and my heart and head come into agreement.

“For every man there is a purpose which he sets up for his life and which he pursues. Let yours be the doing of all good deeds. “– Quran

“Do you love your creator? Love your fellow-beings first.” Quran – Prophet Muhammad

“Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.” Bible – Proverbs 10:12

“This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” Bible – John 15:12 — Jesus.