Thursday, August 26, 2010

Our Christian response to the proposed Islamic Center near Ground Zero in New York

I've been asked by a few parishioners about the proposed Islamic Center near "Ground Zero" in New York. One parishioner asked me "What should the Christian response be?" I would like to share with you today the gist of my reply:

Our Christian response should always be guided by compassion, love and striving to understand "the other."

In Leviticus 19:33-34, we are admonished: “You shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land.”

On Sunday, we shall hear the Letter to the Hebrews 13:1-8: “Let mutual love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels.”

We should never be guided by prejudice or election-year fear-mongering. Partisanship of any stripe should have no place in our response.

A few facts you should know: First, there is no mosque planned for Ground Zero. The proposal is for an Islamic Center several blocks away; it contains a prayer room. But there are already two mosques in the immediate vicinity, including a mosque a half-block away from the proposed center.

There are also churches in the vicinity, including our own St. Paul's Episcopal Chapel which is right there at Ground Zero and was used as a rest during the aftermath of the collapse of the towers. I think it would be a great gesture toward tolerance and peace to have all of the world's religions represented near the site of this great calamity.

Second, I think it is crucial that we as Christians understand there is no monolithic Islam, just as there is no monolithic Christianity. The Islamic Center is being proposed by Sufi Muslims who are mystical, peaceful and oppose the Islamic extremists at great risk to themselves. Why is it the media rarely mentions them? If we say we want to promote a moderate peaceful Islam, then we should be going out of our way to support this sect, not lumping them with Osma bin Laden. It would be the same as saying there is no difference between me and Jerry Fallwell.

Let me recommend this op-ed piece in The New York Times which goes into further detail about the sect that has proposed the center. To read it click HERE.

Also, The Right Rev. Mark S. Sisk, the Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of New York yesterday called for a "civil, respectful discussion." To read his remarks, click HERE.


Ilana DeBare said...

I'm Jewish but agree 100%! Boy, has this thing been blown up into an election-year zoo.

Paula said...

A very fine piece and I've posted a link to it on my Facebook page.