On San Bernardino and Paris

The tragic events in San Bernardino and Paris, perpetrated by self-described supporters of Islamic State, are dominating the headlines. Islamic State and similar jihadist movements represent a serious threat to the civilized world. At the same time, they do not reflect beliefs held by the vast majority of the world’s Muslims.

Presbyterians for Middle East Peace categorically condemns the appalling anti-Islam rhetoric being uttered in this country, Europe and elsewhere. Lumping all Muslims together as fanatics is the same as trying to link all Christians to the white separatism of groups like the Ku Klux Klan or all Jews with the actions of Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Jewish Defense League. Today is not a time for people of faith to attack one another. It is a pivotal moment in human history when reasoned, reasonable people of faith need to come together and isolate the fanatics in our ranks—whether they be Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Islamic or any other type of religious fanatics.

When visiting the archaeological treasures in and around Stonehenge in England, tour guides explain that some of them were destroyed by Puritans who saw them as pagan objects that needed to be eradicated much as ISIS is destroying ancient treasures in the Middle East. We remember the tragic Salem witch hunts perpetrated by Protestant fanatics in this country. We recall with disgust the way the Spanish Roman Catholic Church killed many who inhabited the Americas who refused to convert to Catholicism. The history of religious intolerance is long and bloody.

In this Advent season of hoping and waiting, we must hope but we cannot wait for justice. We must double-down on our work for justice and peace today with an unrelenting passion.

“The ultimate solution to extremism is to support moderate Muslim movements that espouse gender equality, democracy, pluralism, and tolerance. Abraham Lincoln once said, ’a house divided against itself cannot stand.’ Those words are as true today as they were 150 years ago. As a marginal and dangerous minority actively tries to corrupt the image of the world’s second largest faith in order to divide the whole of humanity, we must stand firm and united to defend our common civilization’s achievements, which include human rights, democracy, and women’s rights. Our future depends on it.” Sarvnaz Chitsaz is chairwoman of the Women’s Committee of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), which seeks the establishment of a democratic, secular and non-nuclear republic in Iran. From The Hill

“The Muslim community stands shoulder to shoulder with our fellow Americans in repudiating any twisted mindset that would claim to justify such sickening acts of violence.” Hussam Ayloush, Executive Director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, in The Religious News Service

“Faith is like a flame. Properly tended, it gives light and warmth, but let loose, it can burn and destroy. We need, in the 21st century, a global Hanukkah: a festival of freedom for all the world’s faiths. For thought my faith is not yours and your faith is not mine, if we are each free to light our own flame, together we can banish some of the darkness of the world.” Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks in The Washington Post

“We must learn to live together as brothers (and sisters) or perish together as fools.” Dr. Martin Luther King