“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. For whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.” Peter 3:8-11
Friends, we live in times that can test our faith in humanity and the divine. We are facing a wave of xenophobia, Christian dominance, and paternalism toward those who some declare as “other,” our Muslim siblings. We cannot give into this darkness and let our imaginations and will be hijacked by those who would use our imagined fears to their political ends. Nor can we live in willful ignorance of how the oppression of our neighbors uplifts our own privileges. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu reminds us, to be neutral in times of oppression, or to choose the side of the oppressor, are choices that run counter to the fundamental base of Christianity.
Too long we have nurtured the darkness that sits at the heart of the American soul—the darkness that exterminated Native Americans on the basis of Manifest Destiny, enslaved Africans in the name of Christendom, and threw Japanese Americans in internment camps in the name of patriotism. Today we see Islam demonized in the name of the “clash of civilizations” without much outcry from Christians called to witness a greater truth. We as Christians must stand alongside those who have been cast out by our communities, and declare that they are also children of God. This is what it means to be a Christian.
We choose to unconditionally love; we choose to put our bodies, our relationships, our souls, and the basis for our faith on the line to defend those who have been demonized by the society of whom we are members. It will not be easy. Perhaps we will count fewer friends among those whose interests are served by inveighing against Islam, the political punching bag of our time. We may alienate family who have bought into the message of hate that is broadcast every time we pick up a newspaper, turn on the news, or listen to the radio. That is the cost of liberation, because if we stand aside and do nothing, we face a greater cost, to let go of the message of Jesus in order to secure a comfortable existence here on Earth in the time that we have on this planet.
Yours in struggle,
Friends of Sabeel - North America
If you are interested in taking action against Islamophobia in your church:
Bring a local representative from an organization like the Council on American Islamic Relations to speak at your church.
If you see something Islamophobic posted on social media by a friend, say something! Here’s a report by the Muslim Advocates on Islamophobia in Social Media.
Draft a letter to local mosques letting them know that you stand with them in this hard time. Ask if there is anything that you can do to help.
Educate yourself about the industry behind Islamophobia, about who stands to benefit. Perhaps form a discussion group with your congregation.