Unless you have been living in a cloister for the past few months, you have probably heard about the controversy caused by the planned mosque and cultural center near ground zero.
Polls suggest that while the majority of Americans believe that Muslims have a right to build a place of worship at ground zero, most of us do not think that it is a good idea.
President Obama first came out in support of the ground zero Mosque, quite rightly, on the grounds of religious freedom which is a right of all Americans. A day or so later he seemed to qualify his endorsement by saying he did not know if it was a wise decision.
“In July of 1995, Bosnian Serbs killed 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in and around the town of Srebrenica, in the worst atrocity of its kind since World War II. The Serbs did so in the name of ethnic supremacy and tribalism, not religion, but religious and tribal identities are so tightly knotted together in the Balkans that it’s fruitless to insist on their separation as a practical matter.
Let’s say a group of American Orthodox Christians bought land in Srebrenica, and announced plans to build an Orthodox chapel and community center. “We are Orthodox Christians who had nothing to do with the atrocities Serbian Orthodox committed here,” they said in their press release. “We seek to show the true, peaceful face of Orthodox Christianity, and to be a witness to and facilitator of peace and reconciliation between Orthodox and Muslims. “
Let’s assume that under the law, the Orthodox had a right to do this. Would this project be a good idea? Why or why not?”
His answer is……
I think absolutely not. The pain and the offense created by the act of murderous terror carried out against Muslims by Orthodox Christians because they were Muslim makes such a project far too risky, no matter how good its organizers’ intentions. It would seem to me to be rubbing salt in the wounds of Bosnian Muslims. If Orthodox Christians really wanted to sow seeds of peace and reconciliation, they should find other, less provocative ways to do it. As an Orthodox Christian myself, I would feel deeply uncomfortable (at best) telling Bosnian Muslims that they need to be fair about all this, and not to judge all Christians by the standards of those who massacred the Muslims of Srebrenica. It may be true, but it’s somehow not right to get up in the face of those people in this way. Looking at the shocking photos this morning of dead Muslims dug up from mass graves made me deeply ashamed as a Christian, and an Orthodox Christian, of what was done to innocent people to establish supremacy of an Orthodox people over Muslims. My sense is that the decent thing to do is to avoid causing unnecessary offense, and to work for peace and reconciliation in other ways.
Amen. Rod. Amen