I read tonight a post that my friend Shelina made over in her blog Shelina's Creations.
Her topic was community and how Muslims are percieved in the United States and around the world. It made for very interesting reading and reflection.
I am a teacher in a private Christian school. I am a baptized, born-again Christian who many people would label as a "fundamentalist." I believe the Bible is the inspired word of God and I believe that Jesus is the only way to God.
NOW, DON'T SHUT ME DOWN!! READ A LITTLE FURTHER...
As I said, I am a Christian teacher. I am amazed to hear the prejudicial comments that come out of some of my students' mouths when we discuss other religions and ethnic groups. Oh, it is never: "Hey, let's go kill the ____, they're all stupid!" No, the comments are much more subtle than that: remarks about "the Mexicans" (immigrants to our area who have come to pick apples and often stay on and have developed a strong community in town,) or "the Muslims - they're all wacko!"
My students seemed surprised when I share with them that one of my best friends is Muslim. It is then that some of the most important lessons of the Bible and the constitution are learned (I'm teaching American history this year.)
I may not agree with someone's religious beliefs and, because I believe Jesus is the only way to heaven, I can mourn because I feel their souls may be lost. That, however, does not give me the right to condemn, ridicule or harass a certain group of people, be they Muslims, Buddhists or other religions. Christianity is not necessarily a religion of "tolerance" (in other words - I have to ACCEPT everything you believe) but it is, at the heart a religion of love.
How can we reach out to people if we paint them with the brushstrokes of prejudice and write them off before we even build relationships? How can you label a group of people as one certain way? I know - it's done all the time. It doesn't make it right.
I make sure my students understand that much evil has been done in the name of "Christianity" as well - people often use the name of Jesus as a shield for bigotry and hatred. This is not the way of Christ.
And - hello, kids!! We live in America! People DO have the right to their religion - including the public school children who may bow their heads and pray. I am glad I work in a place where I won't get into trouble when I lead my class in prayer or pray with a student who is hurting or in trouble. But BECAUSE WE LIVE IN AMERICA, we have those rights.
Yes, I know, there is a fine line between rights and caution. But if we can become a community and understand who it is standing on the sidewalk, who it is over the fence in the next yard, when we are no longer afraid to reach out a hand of fellowship to our neighbors - then we will have defeated the terrorists who would like nothing more to see an America divided.