On Sunday night (Jan29/17) the unthinkable happened. Faithful people gathered in prayer in Quebec City were violated in a horrific manner as a hatefully misguided person stormed their sanctuary killing 6 worshippers and wounding 19 others. If we didn’t know the rest of the story we would probably assume that a terrorist poisoned by extremist Islam had barged into a Quebec City church and killed the “infidel” Catholics. But the shocking reality is that the exact opposite is true. All information thus far indicates that a white supremacist French Canadian citizen invaded a mosque and killed peaceful Muslims at prayer.
Shock and outrage have rightly flowed from all over Canada, and yet we cannot ignore that this heinous act was partially fed by an ugly undercurrent present in our society. We find ourselves in a dangerously negatively charged environment with rampant fearmongering regarding Islamic people. I know I am preaching to the choir, but I think we need to keep saying this over and over until the truth of it sinks in for North Americans. Muslims are peaceful. Islam is a religion of peace. Of course you can find hateful things in the Quran, just as you can find hateful things in the Bible. And of course some people will take those writings and twist them for their own nefarious purposes. Our enemy is not Islam, it is extremism, and extremism is present in every religion.
I believe it all comes down to how we see the “other”. Many of us in the dominant Canadian culture are just getting to know some of these “others” and as we do our fear of the unknown dissipates, for we realize we are meeting ourselves. My friends, please do not give in to the hateful rhetoric that demeans and devalues “others” because they wear head coverings or have unique cultural traditions. Instead, pray for wisdom and openness, and let love guide your way.
I will leave you with these words from our Moderator, the Right Rev. Jordan Cantwell:
“The United Church of Canada stands with our Muslim neighbours. We share your grief, as we share your determination to stop the forces of hate that seek to divide and destroy us. Trusting in a compassionate and just God, we will resist fear and prejudice with love… You are not alone. As people of faith across this country hold prayer vigils for the victims of the shooting and their families, know that you are embraced by the arms of love.”