When Our “Enemies” Teach Us to Behave Like Christians
Last week Egyptian Muslims from all walks of life from social activists and journalists to engineers and housewives demonstrated solidarity with their Christian neighbors by attending Christmas Eve masses, effectively acting as a human shield to counter recent threats against churches by Muslim extremists.
The gesture was more than symbolic, for the dangers facing Egypt’s large Coptic Christian community are very real indeed. This solidarity comes as a response to the New Year’s Day bombing of a church, which killed 23, and angry protests by Copts who accuse Egypt’s Muslim government of doing little to protect them. “I know it might not be safe, yet it’s either we live together, or we die together, we are all Egyptians,” said one Muslim housewife.
As U.S. and other Western forces continue to occupy Muslim countries, the region’s ancient Christian communities have come under increasing threats, as seen in the bombing of a Baghdad church last October. “They are your people,” Arab Christians are often told by their outraged Muslim neighbors, referring to the American invaders.
That is why the recent call for Egyptians to stand together as “one nation,” led by Muslim leaders and journalists, has taken on aspects of a civil rights struggle, in which courageous citizens step up and take the lead, when their government will not.
In his teachings, parables and miracle stories Jesus Christ was not averse to making “sinners,” pagans, Gentiles and the traditional enemies of the Jews into heroes of the faith– anything to provoke his own people to jealousy. The list is extensive: a Roman centurion, a Canaanite woman, a Samaritan leper, the widow of Zaraphath, to name just a few. In the parable of the Good Samaritan, for instance, the point of the story is not just that we are to set an example in treating our enemies with love. Instead, our enemy is the example– to our shame.
As in many of the parables of our Lord, the lesson we can derive from last week’s events in Egypt is really more of a question, and that is… Would we do the same?
As American Muslims suffer increasing prejudice, slander, racial profiling, vandalism and threats of violence here at home, are we willing to stand with them as fellow citizens of a country that prides itself on its respect for religious freedoms?