Religions at war and peace
: Are Christianity and Islam essentially anti-Semitic? No, of course not. But they have both rejected much of Judaism, too much to fully disavow that provocative statement. Of course, there is tension and hostility between Jews and Muslims. And these days, I am disturbed to see some of the religious left and Christian Europe turn against Israel.
If all three religions spring from the same fountain, from the same first contact with God, through Abraham (in what is now Iraq, by the way), then why don’t they share more traditions and rituals and holy days? Why, for example, don’t Christians and Muslims still celebrate Passover with Jews?
Well, Muslims do celebrate Passover in their way, says a Muslim columnist on Beliefnet:
Many may not know this, but Muslims also commemorate the Exodus of the Hebrews out of Egypt by fasting the ninth and 10th day of the first month of the Islamic lunar calendar. The event is called Ashura, stemming from the Arabic word for “ten.”
While this may be surprising to non-Muslims, it’s important to understand that Moses figures prominently in Muslim belief. The Exodus story is a happy one for Muslims; it is a tale of bitter bondage and hardship and the glory of God’s deliverance from that hardship….
Yet, as I think about Passover and Ashura, I lament. I lament the tension that exists between the American Muslim and Jewish communities.
And not just in America. And not just Muslims and Jews but Christians and Jews and Muslims and Christians. It is a tense triangle.
If the tensions spring from religion, so must the solutions. When I think about it, I’m shocked that I don’t see more of those solutions coming from religious leaders, of all people — other than the calls for peace and seminars here and there. But then, I’m naive if I think that there isn’t some truth in the question that begins this post.
So what do we do about it? I think we should start with rituals that take us all back to our common roots. It is a small beginning but it is a beginning that we need.
Why don’t we celebrate Passover — even just share a seder — all of us, Jews, Christians, Muslims? Why don’t we celebrate the freedom of Jews and rejoice for them? Why don’t we all call ourselves God’s people, freed from bondage, and celebrate freedom together?
When I preached at my small church a year after 9.11 — on the Jahrzeit — I ended by saying Kaddish and it felt very right. So why don’t we all pray this Jewish prayer of peace for our dead?
Even these small things, these symbolic acts, would tie us together, would remind us of our common ancestry, our common connection to God. They would start to make the other religions less alien to us. If religion does not create such shared actions to remind us of our shared belief and shared humanity, then religion will continue to be the reason that we fight. And that, clearly, is not God’s plan.