In recent days there has been enormous public expression to “other” Muslims – to render them suspect, foreign, alien. We need to remember, and honor, the fact that Christianity and Islam are branches from the same religious root. Muslims are our brothers and sisters in the Abrahamic faith.
We have seen this before. At various points in history, public sentiment has scapegoated Jews, people of color, gays and lesbians, Roma, Japanese, Hutus, Tutsis, Serbs, Croatians and on and on and on. Not to mention Christians.
Scapegoating is putting down one group in order to build up another, and has long been part of the world’s landscape because it appeals to a perverse portion of the soul. It usually kicks up strong, sometimes virulent reactions – but it has never worked. All it has ever done is produce more confusion, chaos and tragedy.
In the 13th century, St. Thomas Aquinas declared that diversity is the perfection of the universe. Our diversity, our differences, makes for the incredible tapestry of the human family. Instead of “othering” one another, we need to learn from one another. The Torah is a holy book. The Bible is a holy book. The Koran is a holy book. We are all holy people – God’s beloved.
My teacher and mentor Henri Nouwen would often say that the challenge for us is not to see how we are different, but how we are the same. That we all laugh and weep and mourn and struggle. No matter where we come from. No matter how we search for meaning in the world.
Yes, there are differences among us and between us – yet those differences need not be barriers, but can serve as pathways for deeper understanding of what it means to be a child of God.