More than one million people marched in Paris, in solidarity with the victims of the violence perpetrated by some thugs masquerading as devoted followers of Allah and the Prophet Mohammed. They also marched in support of free speech for all.
Of course, such speech does not, and cannot, include violence. It must be peaceful speech, albeit often passionate and unsettling and irritating and even enraging to those who disagree.
The perpetrators cited what they called “blasphemy” against the Prophet in a cartoon in an irreverent publication. That was their alleged reason to kill twelve people, and terrorize many more, attempting to terrorize a nation, indeed the world.
Never mind that the Quran does not speak of blasphemy. The medieval image (right) of Mohammed preaching is from “Depicting the Prophet Mohammed” on a blog by Clouddragon (click here to read and see more). Images of the Prophet are common in the history of Islam (although not in mosques and other holy places, to guard against idol worship). According to Fareed Zakaria, “On several occasions, Muhammad treated people who ridiculed him and his teachings with understanding and kindness.” (you can read more from Zakaria here).
We are having a hard time with dialogue these days. Our national leaders seem unable to engage in meaningful conversation across the political party divide. Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and so many of their people, have so little regard for, or trust of, the other that it seems most doubt their shared humanity.
How can we change this? It seems clear to me that these leaders–and others around the globe–cannot be trusted to do it. It is up to people, ordinary people, people like you and me.
It starts with living our own lives as peacefully as possible. That means setting our intention to be peaceful. And loving. Caring. Trusting. Inviting trust by being trustworthy ourselves.
That means loving our enemies as we love ourselves, loving our neighbor as ourselves (Leviticus 19:18, and Matthew 19:19, Mark 12:33, and Luke 10:27).
Neighbors are important in this. It is not enough for us to be loving in ourselves; the seriousness of these times require that we band together with others to practice love more fully and actively, relying on each other to encourage us in difficult times and to hold us accountable for our shortcomings.
We need a new peace movement, from the ground up. We must, I believe, learn to be more God-like. I don’t mean to be God, but live grounded in the family inheritance of godliness, to live as the children of God we are.
The poet Mark Nepo quotes Orest Bedrij, scientist, businessman and author (Seeing God Face to Face), as saying, “To know God without being God-like is like trying to swim without entering water.”
Pollyanna? Maybe. But what else is there?
Jonathan and I have joined a small group, Richmonders for Peace in Israel and Palestine (RPIP), to help educate citizens here about the issues in that conflict and to work together to create peace. Yes, create peace.
Peace is created out of the chaos and anger and animosities and conflicts and poverty and wealth and hope and joy of life as it is lived every day. It takes work, more work than war, which is why we have so much war and so little real peace.
RPIP is committed to showing films and hosting discussions about the conflict between Israel and Palestine. We want people to have more information, not less. And we want the information to be less filtered than what we so often receive through our mainstream media. There is not one of us in RPIP who wants Israel to die, indeed a safe and thriving Israel is our goal, side by side with a safe and thriving Palestine, but we also recognize that, like our own country, Israel has made many mistakes and bears significant responsibility (though far from all responsibility) for the rise of an angry Palestinian/Islamist movement.
This is not to let the hoodlums in Paris off the hook, not at all, but it is to say that if all we–whatever we are–do is engage violence with more violence, no matter how righteous–or even just have a march–then they will keep on killing. And the killing will get worse and worse.
Mark Nepo offers a startling thought: “the best chance to be whole is to love whatever gets in the way, until it ceases to be an obstacle.” (The Book of Awakening, p. 13)
Who do I need to learn to love today? And you? And how do we show the love? How do we stay with it and nurture it even in the face of hate?
No answers here today, but a heart that yearns for peace. Join me, I hope.