OPINION MONDAY • December 16, 2002
INTERNATIONAL ATLANTA: People of good faith, your duties are clear
Monday, December 16, 2002
A leader of the Southern Baptist Convention calls the Islamic prophet Muhammad a pedophile. Conservative clergyman Jerry Falwell calls Muhammad a terrorist. Anti-Semitism is spreading again, especially in Europe and the Middle East. Anti-Christian activities occur in various parts of the world, including China. Religious and ethnic rivalries kill large numbers of people in Africa and in India. Wars and attacks in the names of the world's great religions seethe across the globe.
We are in an age of anxiety, hair triggers and harsh language, of bigoted stereotyping and unfounded scapegoating, of violent activity and bitter recrimination. But it does not have to be that way. One job of people of good faith is to urge others of good faith to speak out against the falsehoods of fanaticism.
Another job of people of good faith is to build a realm of mutual respect. There is an urgent need to show mutual respect for every person's faith, despite the grim realities affecting all parts of our planet. The world has become too small to trample or ignore the rights and privileges of peoples different from ourselves who have done no wrong. We must not allow the extremists and radicals of all religions to consign the human race to a world with no compassion, humanity or hope.
A person may be judged on the basis of his or her actions, but it is inappropriate to judge a person simply because he or she may be a Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist, a Bahai or the adherent of any other religion. Religion itself is not the problem; it is how certain practitioners use religion that creates the problem.
People of faith must act and speak out in productive ways. First, people of honor within each faith must not be disrespected. The demonization of symbols of religion should not be tolerated, and we three condemn it. We ask that all persons respect one another, whether they look to Muhammad, Jesus, Moses or other persons or symbols of faith (peace be upon them all).
Second, we must promote the creation of respect for each faith. Such respect can only come from education. The "bearers of light" in each religion must help educate the community about their respective religions and the positive values of life found within each. And every inhabitant must open up himself or herself to learn about those values in order to enrich the diversity of our society and make our world a better place.
Third, it is the duty of leaders of each religion to speak out in favor of mutual respect so as to minimize the impact of those who disrespect the faith of others. These leaders must speak out clearly and directly that disrespect is wrong and that it must stop. We three step forward in that process, as a few already have, and unambiguously state that disrespect must end.
Let us pray for respect that transcends toleration and for mutuality that annuls the need for dominance. In so doing, we seek to live at peace with one another.
Rev. James Lamkin is senior pastor for Northside Drive Baptist Church and president of the Board of the Christian Council for Metropolitan Atlanta.
Dr. Khalid Siddiq is director of Al-Farooq Mosque in Atlanta.
Harold Kirtz is chairman of the Community Relations Committee of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.
©Copyright 2002, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution