Wednesday, 30 April 2008

One hand loves, one hand hates

Last week, I went to a meeting of Jews, Muslims, Christians and others at the local Islamic Center. The attire ranged from hijabs and robes to tank tops and jeans. The youngest was, I think my daughter, age 10. The eldest was probably well into her 80's, maybe 90's. This group of about 100 or so people represented countries around the globe.

The one thing we shared? A desire to learn, to come together, to understand our neighbors and ourselves. To dispel the fear that comes from misinformation, stereotypes and media-fed hysteria.

For three hours, we sat there and talked. At the direction of the leader, each table was mixed to represent a good cross section of the religions and ethnicities present. Also at her direction, we discussed our backgrounds, our spiritual journey, our beliefs. We mulled over similarities and differences -- and found the similarities to be a MUCH longer list. We ate sweet pastries, and talked some more. At the end of the evening, each table sent a representative to the front to summarize what we had found.

It was a wonderful inspiring experience. And just the beginning. Our next meeting will be at a synagogue, where the learning and dialog will continue.

The very next day, I opened my e-mail to find a forward from my uncle. A former federal agent, now retired. It was a top to bottom diatribe of hatred against Muslims. A no-holds barred rage that "they" would dare to be in "our" country. He had not written it, but he had forwarded it. This particular uncle has forwarded hateful e-mails to me before and I have privately asked, each time, that I be left off his list. But he has not stopped.

Among my very religiously mixed family, this uncle happens to be Christian. Practicing. So I responded to him (and everyone on his sent-to list) with a message suggesting love and understanding as the only truly brave answer to such an e-mail. I then proposed that instead of forwarding messages of hatred, which of course only increases hatred and violence, perhaps he would consider forwarding a quote from the Christian Bible....

5:43-48

"Ye have heard that it hath been said, 'Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.' "But I say unto you, 'Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and them which despitefully use you, persecute you, that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.' For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do no even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."


That, I wrote, would be a true act of bravery in the face of hateful messages.

The response from my family was ANGER! My answer was labeled "uncalled for" and "inappropriate" They were enraged at me. I was told to "Read a little about the Koran....and don't live in a shell."

I am saddened. Stunned. The contrast between the meeting and the message is too great.

I cannot remain silent in the face of hatred and distorted half-truths. But must I lose my family to stand up for what I know to be right? Does anyone have a suggestion?

5 comments:

Barimalch said...

Well to start with my father was decades old kommunist party member and a deep believer in kommunist "happiness" I am young guy who supports newly democratic views in Mongolia.

We both not really interested in to raise personal view/belief matter between us. Father needs son and son needs father which means your personal family feelings and relationships are simply matter above any religious or political views. Of course there were minor disagreements and talks between us, but not to a level of voice raising.

Well in your culture it is kind of different that many kids mostly accuse their parents or elder members in the family but still family feelings must OVERRULE any views from outside.

Barimalch said...

oops the last sentence has certain inappropriate tones, please cancel that. What better phrasing is: eastern and western family culture are quite distinctive but many people can filter out a lot of stuffs out of that.

Seeker said...

I would love to leave politics out of family relationships, but my Uncle would not stop sending these hateful e-mails....and to do nothing in the face of injustice is forbidden, even among family.

Kievas said...

I'm sorry to hear of your family's reaction...please know that they do not speak for all Christians.

The meeting you attended sounds inspiring. I would have enjoyed being a part of it.

Seeker said...

Kievas...

No problem, my friend. I know that they are not what Christianity is all about.

I'm sure you would have loved the meeting!