Respect for others, and in particular for those who differ from us, is of utmost importance. It is all right to be different. God has wonderfully made us of different races and colours. Managing our differences is a life-long challenge. Unfortunately, there are people who find it difficult dealing with and being respectful of others who are different from them. The level of intolerance displayed by many towards others who do not share their religious, political, or philosophical views is amazing. Among such are those who choose to be extreme in their thinking and behaviour. It is most unfortunate that extreme behaviour has a way of hurting people and destroying relationships.
Some examples of extreme behaviours are seen in events currently taking place in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Egypt, to name a few. These are very disturbing, as perpetrators carry out violent and barbaric acts against other humans in the name of religion – Islam. We must really question whether Islamic values would support such behaviours. Islam, Judaism and Christianity all have Abraham as their great forefather, and they believe in and worship one God. They share values that include respect for the dignity of each person.
Although we live in an era of great advancement in terms of scientific and technological achievements, some behaviours and ways of thinking seem to contradict such progress. There is disquiet and skepticism among many persons who are unhappy about what is taking place in their communities. They do not have much confidence in authority figures, whether social, political or religious. Some of these persons are extremists in their thinking and actions. When these actions become violent, they must always to be abhorred and condemned, irrespective of who carries them out. There is no place in our communities, nations or world for violence in any form.
There are individuals, as well as some groups, who are extreme in their behaviours, which betray the bodies to which they claim affiliation. Consequently, there is increasing negativity leveled against the Islamic religion, because extremist members of that religion carry out acts of horrendous violence in the name of Islam.
In many parts of the world, including here in Canada, there are very healthy and positive relationships among members of these three religions. There are inter-faith groups who seek to promote harmonious relationships. We must not be misguided or misled by extremists’ inhumane acts, and we should also be careful about how we accept views that are portrayed in the media.
Many readers of this paper are familiar with the core values of Judaism and Christianity. It is important to know that Islam shares many of those core values as well. Adherents to Judaism, Christianity and Islam believe in the sacredness of life.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is the chairman of Cordoba Initiative, a multi-national, multi-faith organization dedicated to improving Muslim-West relations in the United States, writes: “Muslim values, as explicitly described in the Quran and in the teachings of the Prophet, guarantee the right to life, the right to family, the right to property, the right to pursue our beliefs the way we want. This is why early Muslim societies were successful and were welcomed by people of other faith traditions, because the earliest Muslim rulers ensured freedom of religion under their rule. Only in the last century has a different interpretation of Islam become oppressive to other faith traditions.”
The Imam goes on to point out: “That’s why it is so important not to let a bunch of terrorist thugs be given the mantle of an ‘Islamic State.’ We may be decades away from achieving a true Islamic state in Iraq and Syria. The region must heal from more than a century of colonial domination, Cold War conflict, despotic regimes, and economic stagnation that has left so much of the population grasping for anything to assert their power and address political grievances. But in the end, Muslims will want to create governing systems that allow them to embrace Islam while engaging in the modern world.”
I have raised this matter because so often, by our silence on erroneous teachings or characterization of other religions or Christian denominations, we contribute to myths and stories about others that are untrue, degrading and uncharitable.
I believe that most people are good-natured and well-intentioned. Love for God, others, as well as self are fundamentally important to all three faiths. There is virtue in being tolerant and respectful of others, particularly those who are different from us, whether because of race, colour, religion, sexual orientation or political persuasion. I encourage us to continue to work harder at building healthy relationships in our communities among those who are different from us. Our communities are very multicultural and require that we make every effort to learn about each other in order to develop better relationships. We as church have a vital role in influencing others in the practice of good neighbourliness. When our relationships are healthy, then our communities and nations will be healthy.