No Peace on Earth
Among Christians, December 25th is the day to celebrate the birth (milad) of Christ, the Prince of Peace, the Son of God in the Christian trinity but still a major Prophet from God in Islamic teaching. Yesterday was the day to celebrate the birthday (mawlid) of the Prophet Muhammad and also the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. It is one of those rare times when all three monotheistic faiths worship in tandem.
Christmas is the time to sing carols about peace on earth, good will to men; devout Muslims begin each action by mentioning that Allah is gracious (Rahman) and merciful (Rahim); Jews celebrate the restoration of their sacred temple in Jerusalem during the Maccabean revolt by lighting candles as a symbol for religious freedom. Yet looking at the state of the geographical cradle for all three major faiths, these ideals are nowhere in sight. There are individual acts of tolerance and kindness, but overall the level of hatred and destruction is staggering from all sides.
Republican presidential front runner Donald Trump has notoriously called for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States. As Omid Safi writes, “Oh, how the birth of Jesus, a refugee, and Muhammad, an orphan, reminds me of the Christian-majority societies that are talking about turning away refugees and Muslim-majority societies that haven’t done their part.” The leader of a radical Jewish settler group has labeled Christians “vampires”and said they should not be in the Holy Land, as though he is Joshua leading the charge against the Canaanites. Where is this Christian peace on earth, the Gospel ethic of forgiving your enemies and loving your neighbors? Where is the religious freedom sought by generations of Jews in such calls?
Even more destructive than this incendiary hate rhetoric is the ongoing murder and mayhem in the Middle East, fueled in large part by a polarizing and politicized Sunni vs. Shi’a mega-war. The image above is the reality facing millions of citizens, mostly Muslim, in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Not a babe born in a manger with gifts of gold and myrrh from three wise men; not a call to end the very hatred that created pogroms and the Holocaust; not a sign of Rahman or Rahim among all the bullets and bombs. The reality is a daughter crying in tears over the blood of her dead father. How much blood must be shed, lives ruined, houses blown apart for the sake of one group, one damnable group, seeking power over another?
The lack of peace on earth for so many people is not something to celebrate. There is no joy in such suffering; no angels are descending to earth singing praise. But the lack of any interest by so many in power in making the world a more peaceful place must be recognized and challenged. The God that all three major monotheisms claim to worship is being cursed by the actions of many who say they are acting in His name. The feeble voice of the United Nations does not serve those suffering apart from the few bandaids offered for gaping wounds. The Western rhetorical shrill for freedom, democracy and human rights is hollow, drowned out by the continuous bombardment of weapons supplied to the region.
By all means celebrate your faith, whether Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or any of the myriad religious groups which offer prayers to a higher power. But know that if you pray for peace, as you should, that prayer will mean nothing unless you are willing to promote peace by your actions. If you think selling billions of dollars of weapons will foster peace, if you think that ignoring the daily blowing apart of bodies of men, women and children is acceptable to your God, if you think that your God wants you to judge others and kill them in his name for your own desires, if you think that there is nothing to do but wait for the Rapture, or Armageddon, or the Messiah, or the Mahdi or Yawm al-Qiyama, then there will never be peace among men. And if you wonder why your God is not answering your prayers, it might be best to question yourself before you act for God.