Grace, hope, love should drive people of faith

The peoples of three world religions trace some of their roots back to one man, Abraham.

Still others, like Moses and David, play important roles as recorded in holy books read by Jews, Muslims and Christians.

Unfortunately, instead of celebrating common themes, including compassion and mercy, some leaders of all three faiths insist on speaking of differences.

Often they do so to purposefully drive wedges among peoples, stirring passions generating mistrust and a downward spiral leading to fear and all too often to hatred.

As people of faith, no matter our religion or sect, we ought to be driven by grace, hope, and love. That does not mean all belief systems are the same.

As a Christian, there are distinct differences between my view of God and that of my Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters. In many ways, my world view is different from others. Just one example is my interpretation of the role of women in society.

Recently, my 95-year-old mother died, and she was in every sense my father’s equal. So, while I know the dissimilarities, I still see all persons, those of varying faiths and those with none, as people I am to embrace and understand.

A significant way to lower the threshold of prejudice born of fear is to take the time and effort to learn about others, to reject what so often passes for truth but are only half-truths if not half-baked ones.

How often do we need to be reminded of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s admonition that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself?” Does not fear only serve to generate more of the same?

It is fear that invites mistrust of foreigners and refugees. Except for Native Americans, the rest of us are here because we, if not our forbearers, were immigrants, foreigners, and, in many instances, refugees.

It is disturbing how religious zealots want to categorically exclude all foreigners and refugees when we find passages like this in the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures:

The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

— Leviticus 19:34

Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow. Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”

— Deuteronomy 27:19

From April 27 to May 5, I will be part of a six-person delegation from the New York Conference of the United Church of Christ who will meet with members of our sister Protestant churches in Frankfurt and Wiesbaden, Germany. The purpose of the trip is to discover how churches in Germany work to welcome and integrate refugees into their society. We will meet with various leaders and groups, some who work with unaccompanied minors, those who assist refugees with educational and employment opportunities, and still others who provide temporary housing and in the end relocation.

Many churches in New York already work with refugee populations seeking to be welcoming communities for peoples fleeing war and persecution. The purpose of the trip is to discover what the churches in Germany encounter including all that goes right and the difficulties they face, including, as we can imagine, opposition to letting refugees arrive in the first place. What we learn will shape the work some of us hope to accomplish on behalf of refugees wishing to live in this country.

We all agree that we need to make sure those who would do us harm do not “slip through the cracks,” but most refugees, including those from Syria, wishing to enter our country have been vetted for two years or more. We also know that violent, terrorist acts are committed by some who claim to be Christian. How is it possible to “vet,” evaluate them?

I regret, that while I am in Germany, I will miss a local opportunity to better understand Muslim principles. On the evening of May 1, the public is invited to a special event at Fulton Montgomery Community College. From 7 to 8:30 p.m., a guest speaker, Nadia Shahram, an attorney, professor, and activist, will address the role of women in Muslim culture. T

he program will be held in the new Student Union Building on the FMCC campus and is jointly sponsored by FMCC and the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Hometown Association.

I am ever thankful for all the ways we come to understand others better ever hopeful that one day all might live in peace.

Ralph English is the pastor at Congregational United Church of Christ in Gloversville.

By Patricia Older

Leave a Reply