On Sunday, a shooter walked into a Sikh temple in Wisconsin and killed six people. Monday, a Missouri mosque burned to the ground. The fire was labeled “suspicious” on Thursday, and officials ruled a July 4 fire at the same mosque was arson.
The enemy of all people of faith, even of Americans and humanity is not a shooter, or an arsonist, as much as they should face responsibility for their crimes. Our enemy is the hatred and ignorance that caused them to act in the first place.
“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote. “Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate. So it goes. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
Many inspiring stories have come out of these tragedies, but my favorite is a story on the CNN Religion Blog about 20-year-old Ashley Carter, a student at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, who is organizing a rally to support and raise funds for Islamic Society of Joplin.
“Carter said she was inspired by ‘my love for Jesus. And I know that Jesus calls us to love people … When there’s an act of hate, you have a choice to make it something beautiful. So that’s what this is all about: making things beautiful from things that aren’t.”
Eboo Patel is the founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), a Chicago-based institution building the global interfaith youth movement. Patel is a Muslim, but this week his thoughts were published in a Christian publication, Relevant Magazine. Patel talked about the benefits that can come from different faiths working together for the common good.
“It’s important to say that ‘interfaith cooperation’ doesn’t mean all religions are the same at the core, or our differences should be watered down,” he said. “It also doesn’t mean we don’t have real disagreements and exclusive truth claims that may come into conflict with one another. It does mean, however, that we have shared values in common, values that diverse religious traditions insist their followers act on, like mercy, compassion, hospitality and service … As a Muslim, why do I care about Christians’ ability to articulate a theology of interfaith cooperation? First, because I believe the only way I can make a dent on the issues my faith calls me to care about is if I work with you. And I suspect you realize you can accomplish more, too, if we work together. Rick Warren once told me he started thinking about interfaith work when he realized the two most powerful forces in the countries where he does development work were the local church and the local mosque, and that they had unmatched social capital to solve the problems he felt called to address as a Christian.”
Have faith all these things can happen, in time. We must each be brave enough to resist the noise of fear and anger, and remember that the real power lies in exercising love, even in the midst of hate.