Anger, Death, Tragedy, Hatred, Bigotry, Violence, Fear. These words dominated the public conversation on Wednesday as the stories about Tuesday’s protests in Cairo and Libya became headlines across the world.
On the 11th anniversary of 9/11 “Innocence of Muslims,” an anti-Islamic film endorsed by Florida preacher Terry Jones, sparked violent protests against the American Embassies in Cairo and Libya that resulted in the death of US Ambassador to Libya and three other US citizens. On Wednesday national and international leaders echoed each other in their condemnation of the violence. The majority spoke out of anger against “those responsible.”
While condemning acts of violence is important, doing so out of anger may only exacerbate the situation. Already the use of drones has been condoned to find “those responsible” for the deaths. In response to anti-Islamic hatred, we saw the eruption of violence in Cairo and Libya. In response to anger against the protests, we find our nation condoning further violence.
As an alternative, I found myself reflecting on the Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi: “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love. Where there is injury, pardon. Where there is doubt, faith. Where there is despair, hope. Where there is darkness, light. Where there is sadness, joy.”
Yet, when the focus is on violence, on tragedy and on hatred, how can we sow a vision of hope? How can love be made visible in the reality of anger, hatred and fear?
On Wednesday, I found hope in a press conference where religious leaders from Islam, Judaism and Christianity stood shoulder-to-shoulder against violence in all its forms. They publically declared a commitment to peace that resides at the core their religions. In the face of anger and hatred, tragedy and despair, these leaders held fast to the love that inspires their faith traditions. In the same breath that they condemned the violence in Cairo and Syria and the bigotry in the film that inspired the protests, they argued for love and respect of one another.
On a day filled with the language of hatred, violence, and tragedy, people of faith used love to transform the conversation. It is my hope that we might learn from their example and continue to sow light where there is darkness. Instead of the anger displayed by our nation, let us act out of love for one.