This weekend marks the beginning of Ramadan, the monthlong fast and holiest period for Muslims around the world.
It’s been our honor to attend numerous iftars in recent years. Iftar is the meal served after sundown each day to break the fast.
Initially, these invitations came from diplomats from Azerbaijan, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, and Morocco, to name a few. As our circle of Muslim friends and acquaintances expanded, so have the invitations.
Inevitably, at each of these events – and especially those convened by interfaith leaders, two points were inevitably discussed: The need to fight intolerance against people of faith and the obligation for faith leaders to rally their faithful to bring about the elusive goal of peace.
After this week’s butchery in the Holy Land, it’s time for imams, sheikhs, and mukhtars to prove that “Children of Abraham” is more than just a slogan.
Perhaps it is more than coincidental that two of the victims of the Arab terrorists were Christian and that a Druze Israeli police officer gave his life to take out the murderer of five people in Bnei Brak. Two rabbis were butchered. Mothers, fathers….
Amid Ramadan this year, Jews will celebrate the Passover Seder, and Christian pilgrims will flock to Jerusalem for the Holy Week culminating in Easter. We remember the murderous assault on a communal Passover Seder in Israel 20 years ago at Netanya’s Park Hotel where 30 Jews were killed and 140 injured. Christians recall the terrorist onslaughts on churches in Sri Lanka on Easter Sunday in 2019 leaving 290 dead and 500 wounded.
Does anyone doubt that terrorists – whatever their call letters: ISIS, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hizbullah, Houthis – have their calendars circled and their reconnaissance reports organized as they plot to sow more murder and mayhem?
What can religious leaders do? We may not command armies, but we do command pulpits.
Where do we begin? Start with candy.
Start by calling out religious leaders, schoolteachers in UNRWA schools, and Hamas for brainwashing generations of children to choose hate over love, to revere death over life. Start by denouncing the adults for giving them the poisonous candy celebrating the murder of innocents in the name of Allah. The candies’ ingredients may not be toxic but the public celebrations in Gaza and Beirut are as poisonous as addicts injecting heroin into their veins.
Start by condemning the United Nations Human Rights Council. It finds so little time to condemn Muslim-on-Muslim terrorist violence in Afghanistan, the attacks against Christians in Pakistan and India, or the arrests of Christian clerics in Iran because it’s too busy plotting the next screed against Israel and preparing the legal gallows for the Jewish state at so-called humanitarian and human rights kangaroo courts.
Imams, priests, pastors, rabbis, use your pulpits to also send this prayer to the self-anointed gatekeepers of civil society, and especially to the presidents, prime ministers, and chancellors, who have temporal power to fight evil actors: Continue to help the innocent people of Ukraine fight back against the unjust invasion by Russia but do not forsake your obligation to defeat resurgent terrorism. Whether you pray or not to the God of Abraham, you each have a sacred obligation to protect His children’s rights to pray in safety and you have the obligation to protect the most sacred right of all – the right to live.
In Genesis, a book revered by all Children of Abraham, God tells Adam, the first man, that he and his progeny are there to work, develop and safeguard the world. That is why we were put here. Scientists estimate that the number of planets and stars is more than 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.
This holy season, faith leaders need to get the world to confront this discomfiting challenge. Will humankind work together as Genesis commanded us to protect and nurture our world, or are we destined to join the billions of other planets devoid of laughter, hope, and love?