I probably should work a little harder at commenting in a more timely fashion about current events. Truthfully, it takes me a while to figure out how I feel about things. That was not true with recent events. I know how I immediately reacted and felt about the film depicting the Prophet Muhammad. I know how I felt about the French magazine that insisted on printing some cartoons. Offense intended, offense taken about sums it up. A friend once told me that if it feels like someone punched you in the stomach then they probably did. I feel hurt for my Muslim friends and neighbors at the pain deliberately inflicted. Yet, I was deeply grieved at the loss of life and the increasing political instability as a result of the terrible reactionary violence. What has taken me a while to figure out is the balance of these types of acts with freedoms we hold dear in the West. I enjoy these freedoms and am very grateful to those who defend these freedoms. I have traveled to many places where these freedoms do not exist. I suppose the real question is how do we use our freedom, for peace or for pain?
Just days before the recent unrest over the film, we hosted some Muslim friends in our home for lunch. It was a thoroughly enjoyable day which included good food and a walk in the park. One of them responded by saying, “I think you are true examples of love; love without any expectations.” Another emailed us a few days later. “I had hard time to get over the shock for the death of our ambassador in Libya, consul officers and the local people. My belief in dialog also has strengthened as a result of this incident as I can see that the dialog is the only way for people to know about each other. I m sure that people who was involved in the massacre of these innocent people are just ignorant about most Americans and probably did not even meet any real American in their lives. As a Muslim I felt offended by that stupid movie but I cannot embrace the behavior of those people who killed the ambassador and other people as a response to the movie.” He followed with a word of thanks for the hospitality. Neither of these friends was born in the U.S., but both consider it their home now. After reading their words and still processing the erupting violence, it occurred to me: world peace may not be possible until the end of time, but peace in my world is possible.
Do you know a Muslim? Ask them to dinner. Is there a mom in the pick up line at your children’s school who is wearing a scarf? Invite her for some coffee. Is there a mosque in your town? Go by and ask if you can come observe their Friday prayers. Is there a cultural center near you with activities open to the public? Go to an event and enjoy the diversity that globalization has brought us. Is there a refugee resettlement office near you? Drop by and ask them how you can help resettle refugees many of them coming from these areas of unrest. Is there a community college or university near you? Invite an international student over to your home for some American apple pie and ice cream. Take the responsibility to intentionally develop a relationship with a Muslim neighbor. Bring peace to your world.
Another Muslim friend told me how she and some of the women from her mosque were helping a church with a blood drive. One of the women at the church refused to have anything to do with her because she was angry and upset about the violence and deaths. What a perfect opportunity to use our freedom (and not just civil freedoms but spiritual freedom) for peace. Sadly, it was used for pain. With all my heart I believe if each one of us will reach out to our Muslim neighbors in genuine love, we will experience peace … at least in our world.