Monday, January 24, 2005

A Letter Seeking Peace and Justice

“If they seek peace, then seek you peace. And trust in God for He is the one that heareth and knoweth all things.” Qur’an 8:61.

I received this Eid letter from a rabbi working for peace among the Abrahamic peoples. As you may know, there are many Jewish and even Israeli peace and justice activists, but as with others working for the same causes, their activities go un- or under-reported, while violence is always assured of headlines. I think you'll enjoy the truths and practical suggestions below.

Asalaam aleikum, eid mubarak!

May the festival bring you even closer to God, and fill you and all of us with deeper willingness to join in God's call that we seek peace and justice. May you find joy and fulfillment in this celebration. I am struck that once Ibrahim has made clear he is willing to offer God what is dearest to him, God turns from demanding the death of his son to inviting Ibrahim to use the sheep that has appeared to feed the poor. I am espccially struck that Muslim families to this very day celebrate Eid by feeding the poor. We might almost say that one teaching we receive from this moment is to feed the poor instead of killing our children. We are all at this moment caught in a war that is robbing the poor in order to kill our children -- a travesty, a disaster, a denial of God's Will. May we all receive the blessing that next year at Eid, we will have been able to turn America back to truly serving the God of compassion.

Next fall, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the Jewish holy month of Tishrei (which begins with Rosh Hashanah and includes Yom Kippur and the harvest festival, Sukkot) will coincide. They will begin on or about October 3, and the saint's day for Francis of Assisi falls on October 4.This confluence offers us an extraordinary moment for interweaving our celebrations in these three traditions - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam - the families of Abraham. We have nine months to prepare - time to conceive, gestate, and bring to birth this joyful moment. Nine months to create open hearts where now there are clenched teeth, to share tears with each other where now we shed each other's blood.We are tottering on the precipice of religious and civilizational war. GOD HAS GIVEN US A SPECIAL GIFT to help us step away from the cliff: THE GIFT OF TIME. Time to help us walk hand-in-hand, listening to the Spirit alongside each other.A few possible ways to share:

Congregations can agree to share dinner after nightfall on any of the evenings of Ramadan, and carefully shape the dinner as a spiritual meal with prayer, meditation, storytelling.

Perhaps groups of six - including two people from each tradition - could share the stories of important moments in their own spiritual journeys.

Perhaps groups of three congregations - a church, a synagogue, a mosque - could each host one meal during the month for members of all three.

Churches could invite Jews and Muslims to join in learning about and celebrating Francis of Assisi. (He was one of the few Christian saints who learned in a serious way from Muslim teachers.)

Jews could invite Muslims and Christians into the "sukkah" - the leafy hut of the harvest festival. Traditionally, "ushpizin" - holy guests - are invited in and blessings are invoked upon "the seventy nations" of the world. Jewish prayers implore God to "spread the sukkah of shalom" over us. These are perfect rubrics for peacemaking among the children of Abraham.

Muslims could invite Jews and Christians to join in celebrating some aspects of Eid el-Fitr, and Jews and Christians could (as in Morocco) bring food to the celebration of the end of Ramadan's fasting. It marks and underlines the month-long commitment to fast so as to offer food and life-abundance to God as a sacrifice, and to focus on devotion to God instead of to material success.

Synagogues could invite Muslim scholars and spiritual leaders to teach in the synagogue on Rosh Hashanah how it is that Muslims understand the story of Abraham, Hagar, and Ishmael. (The biblical version of the story is part of the Torah reading for Rosh Hashanah.) Then there could be open discussion of the differences, the similarities, the wisdom held in each of the versions of the story.

Perhaps most important, in the light of standing on the precipice of religious war and repression: Together, rabbis, priests, nuns, ministers, and imams - perhaps with their congregants - could take some action to change public policy - for human rights, for healing of the earth, for peace in the whole region where Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah sojourned.WE WELCOME YOUR SUGGESTIONS FOR SHARING PRAYER, LEARNING, EMOTIONAL CONNECTION, SOCIAL ACTION, AND FOOD DURING AND BEYOND THIS TIME. Please write me your ideas. We hope to begin NOW to plan with others of the Abrahamic faiths in our own cities and neighborhood, as well as nationally and internationally.

Shalom, salaam - Arthur

Rabbi Arthur Waskow directs The Shalom Center, voicing a new prophetic agenda in Jewish, multireligious, and American life. To subscribe to The Shalom Report (weekly on-line newsletter) and for a wealth of information on social action and its spiritual roots, click to -- http://www.shalomctr.org

2 comment(s):

  • Wow, Karima, what a powerful piece. I hope that we can remember this so that we can make this happen next Ramadan. I know that if our Imam, Dr. Mavani were still here with us, he would be spearheading the effort here in Oakland. Rabbi Waskow is a truly blessed visionary.

    Thanks for posting this.

    Khuda hafiz,

    By Blogger Bobbe, at 1/26/2005 03:36:00 AM  

  • Salam Karima
    I, like Bobbe, found it moving and inspirational. He sounds like a good and honorable man.

    By Blogger Anna in PDX, at 1/26/2005 10:24:00 AM  

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