by Laurie Gudim
A week and a half ago the Fort Collins community gathered at our mosque to show our support for the Muslim community that worships there. There had been a vandal, a single, cowardly young man who sneaked through the predawn darkness to engage in the reprehensible act of throwing rocks through windows. He did a lot of damage, but he wasn’t able to accomplish the things that would have been most destructive. He wasn’t able to isolate and terrify our Islamic community.
By the middle of that same day, a Sunday, a rally had been planned. Word was passed along through email networks, grapevines, postings at coffee shops and announcements at worship services around the city. Just a few hours later over a thousand people came together. We stood for over an hour in a cold, drizzly afternoon, waving signs and straining to hear what a gaggle of impromptu speakers had to say. Then we formed a human chain around the Islamic Center property – although there were so many of us that it was more a crowd than a chain. And late in the evening of that very same day we learned that a Go Fund Me site set up on behalf of the mosque to raise money for repairs and a better security system had gathered in $11K of the $15K they were shooting for.
One of the things I appreciated most about the rally was the mix of faith traditions represented. The event was organized by one of our rabbis. Humanitarian atheists, folks from two of our Buddhist sanghas, members of two of our synagogues, representatives of our Unity Church and our Unitarians, Baptists and Evangelicals, Ecumenical Catholics, Lutherans, Methodists, us Episcopalians and many others all came together to support our Islamic community.
Holy Week is nearly upon us. In the long history of Christianity, Holy Week has been a time of terror. Enraged Christians have attacked Jews, Muslims, and even members of other Christian sects, slaughtering or expelling them, burning their homes and confiscating their belongings.
In our reading from the Gospel of John today we have a sampling of the sort of text that has sparked this kind of violence. We hear that “The Jews” are out to get Jesus. They harass him and his followers, call him a demon and a blasphemer. And we know that this division is going to get worse, until Jesus is crucified.
Even though “the Jews” that John is talking about are only some of the religious leaders of Jesus’ time, the language has inflamed Christians of all eras. This is especially true where they have been goaded by xenophobic religious authorities. Collectively we have a very bloody history.
Personally I want to make this Holy Week a time to acknowledge that this season brings remembrances of horror to many people. I want to respond with both a heightened vigilance and a willingness to repent. As I go into the deep and evocative experience of the Triduum, I want at the same time to work even more diligently to protect the rights of all the people of my city. I want to speak even more clearly the truth I understand. And I want to be willing to say to all who are afraid of Christians, “You are right to be frightened, and I am sorry. I will do my utmost to stand with you so that these horrors never happen again.”
Thank heavens I have so many ready allies from all faith traditions who have proven they will stand with us. Thank heavens God’s love keeps breaking through our fear and our small mindedness, urging us ever on to become the people God created us to be.
Laurie Gudim is a writer and religious iconographer who lives in Fort Collins, CO. You can view some of her work at Everyday Mysteries.
Image: Fort Collins Islamic Center