Sad thoughts on the war in Afganistan...

Tonight the CBS news program, 60 Minutes, ran a telling and sobering clip about Muslim extremism and the support British Muslims give to "the narrative" - a way of understanding the world in which the USA is seen as the key force of hatred against Islam. (go to for the story on YouTube.)

Add this to the NY Times story about the on-going collaboration between the Pakistani intelligence and Al Queda in Afghanistan and a very sad and frightening reality begins to take shape and form. (see: In a word, there is so much hatred and fear against the United States - for good and malicious reasons - that the work of building bridges seems futile, stupid and hopeless.

And yet, as one who trusts the Paschal Mystery more than the ways of this world, such bridge building is needed more than ever before. The scripture reminds me that "faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.' (Hebrews 11: 1-2) This, however, seems much too passive. I am more persuaded by Clarence Jordan's reworking of this same passage that says: "Faith is the turning of our dreams into deeds." I believe in a new heaven and new earth. I don't believe that the hatred and fear that exists so deeply is the end of the story - and it certainly is not the reality that resonates from within the heart of God whether Christian, Muslim or Jew.

Perhaps much of the work during my final years of ministry are to be given over to the slow and very tentative work of building bridges, hope and compassion between people of God who sense we are natural born enemies. We are not - we were all born into the image of God - Muslim, Christian and Jew - and Buddhist and atheist and Jain, too. To be sure, this is to be a fool for Christ but considering the alternatives... I like the way The Compassion Project puts it:

The Compassion project is inspired by a story about the Buddha told by the Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hahn. In a past life, prior to enlightenment, the Buddha was in Hell. He was with another man, and they were being tortured by a guard whose duty was to cause the two men suffering. The Buddha, tired of seeing his companion in pain, told the guard that he should not beat the man or cause suffering in others. The guard became very angry and stuck his fork in the heart of the Buddha. The Buddha died but was simultaneously reborn into a new life on earth. Even in Hell there is compassion.

The Compassion Project, which references previous well known religious ad campaigns, honors multiple ideas of god by drawing from a Buddhist legend. The project embraces compassion as a broad spiritual principal, true to the values of Jesus as a historical, political, and spiritual figure. Please feel free to contribute your thoughts by leaving a written comment or by calling 1-800-515-5690.

I have family and friends deploying to Afghanistan - you probably do, too. I grieve for the thousands of innocent civilians my nations has slaughtered in Iraq and Afghanistan. And my faith community has sent thousands of dollars to Greg Mortenson to build schools for girls in Afghanistan because we do not believe in the hatred and fear - of the US or Al Queda. This is a sad and ugly moment and yet I believe that one person can make a difference... especially when grounded in God's grace.


Philomena Ewing said…
Heartfelt post-thank you. Many years ago before 9/11 I was lecturing in the UK and one of my colleagues was a Muslim woman who had just moved to the area . Sh was the kindest and most caring person I could have wished to work alongside and she became a good friend.However she and her family were harassed and threatened by obscene phone calls and excreta pushed through the letter box by people who were bigots. As a Christian and a human being I was ashamed at their behaviour. Things have changed so much since then but bigotry is an awful thing to shift, I am also Irish born and lived through the troubles.You are right that small steps are the only way forward. Start with children and educate them. That is all we can hope and work for.
RJ said…
Thank you, Philomena, the small steps of kindness and quiet listening seem foolish, yes? But they change the world. I am so grateful for your words.

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