When I think of my childhood growing up in the church, I find a hymn coming to mind which had the refrain - "they will know we are Christians by our love, by our love"... All too often that line seems like an indictment of my own failure to love rather than something I could sing with celebration...
Like so many others I've been moved, inspired and humbled by Nevine's photographs, just as i was no less inspired to hear that Egyptian Muslims held vigils and protected Coptic Christians going to church to celebrate Christmas eve on January 6th (in the wake of the bombing of the al-Qiddissin church in Alexandria on New Year's day).
I was inspired too when, last summer, churches here in Nashville, TN gathered to show their solidarity with the local Muslim community after Islamic community centers and mosques in Nashville and Murfreesboro, TN were vandalized and the subject of aggressive Islamophobic protests. I am painfully mindful that much of the anti-Islamic protest in this state has been led by people claiming to speak for Christianity. (They will know we are Christians by our love...?)
Working for love, justice & solidarity are by no means the exclusive claim of Christians, but I hope that in many churches this coming Sunday Christians, across the US and around the world, will hold up these stories & images coming from Egypt as a sign of hope & a call to prayer for the courageous multi-faith democratic movement there. But I also see that first image as a deeply serious reminder of what I firmly believe those of us who do identify as Christians are called to live out in our faith: non-violent peacemaking, deep love of our fellow human, active commitment to solidarity and working for justice when others are suffering. For myself, that is what I feel called to by these images.
As I contemplate Navine's photograph of those young men protecting those in prayer I am personally reminded that as a part of Christian community I am not instructed in the way of Jesus to only pray for peace & justice... I am called to be an active, living embodiment of those hopes. Just as peace is not the mere absence of violence but the presence of justice, it is not enough for me (if I claim to be Christian) to passively 'not hate' but instead I am meant to commit to a life of actively loving others -- in each moment of every day I have to make a choice to step out with courage and embody my hope for the future right here in the present.
2010 was marred by intense public debate and maligning of Muslim Americans centering around the community center in Manhattan. I hope 2011 will be taken by Christians across the US as an opportunity to commit as individuals and communities to put our faith in action -- with humility to serve, defend & protect our neighbors of every creed, in the US and beyond, so they may be able to freely live in peace.
I can't look at these iconic images and not think that while the defiantly raised fist is an embodied symbol of revolution, so too is the hand opened to clasp the hand of another. And I hope I find within me an ounce of the courage being shown by so many in Egypt.
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