I recently met a black man who lamented the fact that humans are good at “building fences.” He should know. He is from South Africa and saw apartheid (from the Afrikaans word for “apartness”) up close and personal. I think he is right. It is often our nature to build unnecessary “fences” or “walls” between ourselves and people who are “different” than we are – people who look differently than we do, talk with a different accent, eat different foods, have different family and social customs, and worship differently – so we foolishly and unkindly separate ourselves from them.
Around Jerusalem and Bethlehem, I have seen “the wall” which keeps people apart. Many have painted pictures or written words of angst on it.
In and of itself, the wall is huge, ugly, and menacing. While it may have served a purpose in preventing a certain amount of violence, it has also served to further divide people from each other. It has kept Palestinian friends and relatives from seeing each other in times of weddings, childbirth, and death – they can’t get into Jerusalem without special permission that is often impossible to get! This has built “walls” of simmering resentment or deep anger. (Most of us have no idea what it is like to be stopped at a checkpoint and be treated as a sub-human. It doesn’t happen to every Palestinian by the Jewish soldiers, and it certainly doesn’t happen all the time, but it has happened and it is unjust and unconscionable).
As a “Christian” (although I much prefer to be called and known as a “follower of Jesus”), I have seen a great deal of fear and anger toward Muslims by Christians also. It breaks my heart. So much suspicion of each other. Walls, walls, and more walls. Having said that, I sincerely believe that there is a time and a place for legitimate suspicion, don’t you? For example, I believe there is a time and place for suspicion of those who call themselves “Muslims” but cite the Qur’an to justify their efforts to destroy and kill innocent people in the name of Allah – whether Christians or other Muslims (by the way, all of my Muslim friends detest these acts of violence). And. . .if I was a Muslim, I would certainly be justified in being suspicious of “Pastor” (I use the term very, very loosely) Terry Jones and people like him who call themselves Christians but speak with hateful words and commit hateful acts toward the people of Islam. If I was a Muslim, I would certainly be justified in being suspicious of people like Anders Behring Breivik, the murderer who stated that the purpose of his attack last summer was to save Norway and Western Europe from a Muslim takeover, and that the Labour Party had to “pay the price” for “letting down Norway and the Norwegian people.”
But most walls of suspicion between Muslims and Christians are not justified. They are simply a result of harmful stereotypes. They happen because people do not take the time and effort to get to know each other – to sit down and talk about life and feelings and faith. This blog exists to tear down unnecessary walls.
The question for all of us – Muslims and Christians alike – is this: How do we tear down the unnecessary walls of suspicion, fear, anger, and prejudice that so often come between us?