A couple of articles on religion from The Washington Post caught my eye today. The first talks about the Coptic Christians withdrawing from Muslim society in Egypt. This is so sad to hear. Christians and Muslims have lived side-by-side in peace in Egypt for centuries. The one thing that struck me is that when Christians and Muslims live in the same neighborhoods, they are good friends. There are no violent clashes. It’s the Christians and Muslims that have separated themselves into separate enclaves that are clashing. In an article I wrote for Credo magazine, I said, “When we make friends outside of our own group–Muslims, Buddhists, or atheists–it is harder to consider an entire group an enemy” (p. 23 in upcoming November 2008 issue). We cannot consider a whole group of people an enemy when we have friends, and they put a human face on that group. Here is an excerpt from Egypt’s Coptic Christians are Choosing Isolation:
Sidhom said he has a simple rule for predicting where Muslim and Christian violence will break out. In a community where Muslims and Christians still live and work together, he said, there will be no problem.
At another auto parts store in Shobra, where Copts and Muslims intermingle, Copt and Muslim clerks laughed at the idea of religious strife.
“Any wedding, funeral, they will be there,” Hussein Mohammed Negem said of his Christian friends. A black bruise on his forehead showed Negem to be a Muslim who regularly bows his head to the floor in prayer.
Nagib Emed Aziz George, a Christian shopkeeper from next door, smiled as he leaned on Negem, his arm and chin propped on the Muslim man’s shoulder.
The worst thing about this is that Jesus taught that our worst enemy is our neighbor, and we are to love them and care for them (see The Good Samaritan, Luke ). This goes directly against the second greatest commandment: Love your neighbor as yourself. It doesn’t matter if you agree with their religion or not, we still love them as Christ loves us and loves them.
The second article is about a Jewish pilgrimage in Morocco:
While religious tensions flare in Jerusalem and beyond, in Morocco, Jews and Muslims say they nurture a legacy of tolerance and maintain common sanctuaries where adherents of both religions pray. Decades of emigration to Israel by Morocco’s Jews and terrorist bombings in Casablanca that targeted Jewish sites haven’t diminished the draw of these annual pilgrimages.
During the festival that began Friday, visitors prayed and feasted around the shrine of Abraham Ben Zmirro, a rabbi reputed to have fled persecution in Spain in the 15th century and then lived in Safi, where he is buried with six siblings.
A half-Jewish, half-Muslim band played local tunes during a banquet, including a song in French, Arabic and Hebrew with the line: “There is only one God, you worship Him sitting down and I while standing up.”
The pilgrims were joined Sunday by Aaron Monsenego, the great rabbi of Morocco, who prayed alongside the regional governor and several other Muslim officials at the shrine’s synagogue for the good health of Morocco’s King Mohammed VI and his family.
“It’s very important for us to pray altogether,” Monsenego told The Associated Press.
People of different faiths can come together, worship together, pray together, and live together. But first we have to listen to each other and actually get to know each other. And above all: respect each other!