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Christian and Islamic Extremism and Compassion

The Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda is an extremist Christian militant movement. Originally known as the United Holy Salvation Army, its intention is to rule Uganda according to the Ten Commandments as recorded in the Old Testament. The group employs rape, murder, child soldiers, destruction of property, mutilation, and kidnapping. It belongs on the Christian spectrum.

How does that make you feel, western Christian?



There are real problems inside religions. Not one faith system is immune. Muslims must wrestle with what is it inside the broad spectrum of Islam that people feel they can slaughter schoolchildren and office workers and claim it is being done in the name of Allah. Christians must wrestle with what is it inside the broad spectrum of Christianity that people feel they can protest on behalf of the unborn and at the same time call for the death of abortion doctors or perpetuate the death penalty, and when a group like the Lord’s Resistance Army can call itself a Christian organization.

I would like to distance myself as far as possible from the Lord’s Resistance Army. I know most Muslims would like to do the same with ISIS and al-Qaida. Please don’t be like the terrorists who lump people from other faith or political systems into single-story categories.

I think, I hope, people are moving beyond such simplistic generalizations but there is a long ways to go. Yesterday 3.7 million people marched in France. Thousands gathered in other cities around the world. Saturday night right here in Djibouti a Catholic priest, Protestant pastor, and Muslim imam led prayers at an interfaith gathering, praying for peace. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people came. Muslims, Christians, atheists…These are signs that we are moving in the right direction. Let’s keep moving.

It is time to start examining our books, our traditions, our hearts. I don’t know what it will take for violence to end but I know one of the first steps needs to be developing compassion.

Compassion: to suffer with.

I don’t mean developing an emotion or an inner attitude of compassion. I mean active, engaged compassion. Intentional. In order to suffer with we have to look at each other and engage with each other. We have to know each other’s stories. In order to do that we have to get into relationships, we have to meet people. In order to do that we have to take the gigantic risk of stepping outside our homogenous circles.

These kinds of international tragedies are excellent opportunities to exercise that kind of courage. Ask a Muslim what they think of current events. Ask a Christian what they think of current events. Ask if you could pray together for peace. Ask if they (the ‘other’) knows any passages from their scriptures about peace and healing. You might not think you know any of these ‘others.’ I doubt it. There must be a cashier or a fellow student or a coworker or a neighbor. Maybe you’ve never spoken before. Now is a good time to change that.

Brené Brown says, “Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

We can’t simply defend a religious system by saying, “They aren’t real Muslims.” Or “They aren’t real Christians.” That isn’t productive. We have to get personal and do the hard work of reconciliation by starting with the darkness inside. We have to root out that darkness in ourselves and work on developing empathy and compassion. We have to recognize our shared humanity.

*image via wikimedia

What Would Muhammad (PBUH) Do? Be Compassionate.

I wrote PBUH (peace be upon him) in the title because it is a respectful thing to say. I often greet people in Djibouti in Arabic with, “Peace be upon you.” 99% of them respond with, “And also on you.” A few stare at me, silent.

One said, “You can’t say that.”

“Why not?”

Silence, then, “Well, I won’t respond.”

“You don’t wish me peace?”

This was a public conversation and stirred up a passionate discussion about whether or not Muslims and non-Muslims can wish one another peace. The eventual, general consensus was yes, Muslims could wish me, a non-Muslim peace. And furthermore, they should.


Just because we can wish each other peace doesn’t mean we will agree on everything. I don’t even agree with my husband on everything but we can live in peace, we can sharpen one another, we can make each other better and stronger and braver and more faith-filled.

There are lots of interpretations and practical out-workings of Islam, just like there are of every religion and ideology and philosophy and personality. There are positive things and negative things. The negative get more publicity. So what do Muslims want to say in response to recent events?

I am on a mailing list for a monthly Islamic newsletter that goes out to hundreds of thousands of people and these are quotes from recent articles. Muslim thoughts on how Muhammad (PBUH) would respond to insult, in their own words.

“The Prophet Muhammad taught love, kindness and compassion to his people, and was seen to be the most loving, kind, and compassionate of all of them. The Quran mentions his kind and gentle behavior in these words: “O Messenger of Allah! It is a great Mercy of God that you are gentle and kind towards them; for, had you been harsh and hard-hearted, they would all have broken away from you” (Quran 3:159).”

“Prophet Muhammad was intent in making all humans interdependent as he emphasized in the following words: “All creatures are Allah’s dependents, and those dearest to God are the ones who treat His dependents kindly” (Rahman, VOL VIII, p. 154).” Islamicity

“The following examples from the life of the Prophet show us how we should react when faced with hatred. We can see one of the most patient and tolerant aspects of the Prophet’s character in the incident of an old woman who made a habit of throwing trash in the way of the Holy Prophet Muhammad whenever he passed by her house. The story related about this incident, mentions a neighbor of the Prophet that tried her best to irritate him by throwing garbage in his way every day. One day, when he walked out of his home there was no garbage. This made the Prophet inquire about the old woman and he came to know that she was sick. The Prophet went to visit her and offer any assistance she might need. The old woman was extremely humbled and at the same time ashamed of her actions in light of the concern that the Prophet showed her.”

“The Quran says that Prophet was sent as mercy to humankind. If we are to honor the Prophet, it will be by adopting the sublime character of our Prophet and not through the emotions of anger and hate.” Islamicity

Yes, there are violent strains of Islam. I don’t deny that. But that doesn’t mean that is the dominant strain or the only strain. I wanted to hear from Muslims themselves and what I wrote here is what they are saying.

I wish you, all of you, peace. As-salamu alaikum.

*image via pixabay

By |September 25th, 2012|Categories: Islam|Tags: , , , |5 Comments
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