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Friday, February 20, 2015

A Brief Respite From A Tragedy Too Sad For Words

The pain from the horrific atrocities committed by ISIS against the 21 Coptic Christians was given a small, brief respite by a refreshing article (click here) written by Ramez Atallah (click here and look at the bio attached to the link there). 

In his article, Atallah gave a heartfelt tribute to fellow Christians who became martyrs as well as a sincere request for prayers on behalf of the Christian population there and Egypt itself, his home. But two of the most important parts of the article were his analysis of the attack and his recognition of the what Egyptian Muslims are doing to help the Christians there. Atallah writes this:

Those Islamic extremists clearly intended to provoke the 10 million Christians in Egypt to rise up violently against their Muslim neighbors. But the loving and caring response of Muslims all over the nation softened the blow that many Christians felt.

What Atallah saw in the cruel massacre conducted by ISIS is similar to what some saw in the 9/11 attacks. That the purpose of both attacks was to provoke violence against the larger group these terrorists often asymmetrically associate themselves with. Some feel that Bin Laden wanted the West to go to war against Islam to draw more Muslims into the fray. And so it is with ISIS and its brutality against Christians.

But that is not what the respite is in this article. The relief comes in his next sentence. For there he talks about how Egyptian Muslims have compassionately rallied around their fellow countrymen. 

Such a report provides a break from much of the us vs the world articles that have come from certain groups of Western Conservative Christians. For I've seen too many Conservative articles describing our plight as being that of fighting for our very survival against domestic atheists and foreign Muslims. Such articles take for granted the effects that Western Imperialism and violence have had on Muslims living in the Middle East as well as on other Muslims who feel solidarity with their suffering brothers and sisters.

But also it seems that the writers of such articles are deprived of both personal experiences with Muslims and awareness of the experiences of others who have been helped by Muslims. That many Muslims in Egypt have stood with the Christians there is not a surprise to me. After all, this is not the first time that Egyptian Muslims have stood by the Christians. In addition, I've read stories told by Western journalists who have been greatly helped by Muslims who took risks in providing aid. And not only that, I've had Muslim friends and students when I taught. One of my favorite former students is Muslim. She was not one of my favorites because of academic abilities; she was a good student, not a great one. But she was one of my favorite students because of the kind of person she was. She went into teaching and I wish that my kids could have had her as a teacher. One of my former colleagues is Muslim. And he wasn't just a colleague, he was a friend. 

In addition, I've protested with Muslims as well. As with any group, Muslims are not monolithic. But I have found kindness in many of my fellow protesters who are Muslim.

My experiences tell me to expect the kind of treatment which Atallah reported. And perhaps before many of us Christians judge Islam based on the actions of a relative few of its violent "representatives," we need to break out of our own small world to both learn of the experiences of others and gain some experiences of our own regarding the kindness which many Muslims display to people. Such may help us gain real insights into the conflicts in the Middle East. 

Now all of that does not imply that we must agree with what Islam says about Christ. Christians and Muslims have significant religious disagreements. But those differences do not mean that neither group can bless and teach the other. And proof of that is found in Atallah's article here.



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