Friends and Enemies

By Tracy Keenan

January 19, 2015

Michael and his young family are trying to avoid being targets of blame for the Charlie Hebdo situation, and he asks us to avoid blaming all Muslims for the reaction.

There’s something beautiful about that, even as we worry and wring hands and pray.

Yesterday morning we got an email from Michael and Rachel, friends of ours who are in Niger (in Central Africa) to teach English with their two preschool-aged children. The recent uproar over the Charlie Hebdo situation has touched them as protests arise (some of them violent) over the continuing publication of the images of the Prophet Mohammed. Some churches and Christian businesses have been destroyed, but no lives taken, and our friends are safe. One thing they mentioned in their email was so powerful that I made certain to read it aloud at all church services. Michael wrote:

It's very hard for people here to get past the misconception that whatever happens in Europe or America is directly done by Christians and therefore supported by all Christians.  That last statement sounds very similar to our Western misconceptions about what is done by people we associate with Islam.  The violent reaction seen here should not be interpreted as the majority Muslim reaction, in fact we’ve heard many stories of Muslims helping Christians escape the danger.

It’s easy for us all to paint other groups with wide brush strokes.
The truth is that not all Muslims think alike any more than all Christians think alike, or all Jews think alike, or all black people, all white people, or all Americans.

People – all of us – are easily pulled into popular opinion, which easily becomes mob mentality or even a kind of collective malevolence, especially when we feel threatened. It is not nuanced or thoughtful, but rather a visceral reaction that blinds us to the humanity of others.

We may think we are immune to it, but the only antidote to it is love.

Faith – a connection with a loving God as the Source of all life – needs to awaken us to the kind of love that goes beyond knee-jerk retaliation or revenge, whether those around us are raging against others, or when others are caught up in it against us.  In other words, as Jesus said, love your enemies.

There may be nothing harder to do in this world than that. 

We invite your prayers for the safety of Michael's family and for all who are helping them.
At the same time, we invite your prayers for those who see them as representing a threat, representing what theythink we Christians stand for. 
We invite your prayers for peace.
For everyone.

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