Recently members of the US military personal were caught having burned copies of the Koran, the religious book of the Islamic faith. President Obama apologized to the Afghan people for this act of disrespect. There has been a lot of hoopla around this. Should the President have apologized?
In a recent interview with ABC News, General John Allen, the top U. S. Commander in Afghanistan had the following to say:
“Why wouldn’t we [apologize]?” the general asked. “This is the central word of God for them. Why wouldn’t we? We didn’t do it on purpose but we should apologize and we did.”
I agree with the General. By apologizing we are saying we respect that this is part of their religion, their belief system. It may not be mine, or yours, but it deserves to be respected in the same ways we expect others to respect ours.
I think one of the problems we face as a people, not just a Christian-people, is our inability to respect other beliefs. We are called to love God and to love each other. Does that not mean we are to respect others’ faith? It’s almost as if we have forgotten our past.
Christian history has told how Christians were disrespected for their faith, and treated poorly for it. Christian history has told us how Christians disrespected other faiths and treated them poorly for it.
In the Gospel of Luke Jesus, a Jewish man, takes the time to talk with a Samaritan woman. This was unheard of for various reasons, Jesus was a man talking to a woman. Jesus was a Jew talking to a Samaritan. Jesus was a teacher of the Law talking to a known sinner. Jesus did what Jesus does best – erase the lines of separation. Jesus didn’t tell the woman all the reasons why she was wrong. He showed respect, compassion, and love. And as a result, she believed.
It seems since the beginning of time humanity has used one religion to disrespect another. It was done to the Hebrews and by the Hebrews. It was done to the early Christians, and it has been done by Christians since. It has been done to the Muslims and by the Muslims. When does it end? Are we in some weird stage of humanity’s life span where we learn nothing from the past? We just continue in this endless cycle of disrespect of religions? Is this what God wants?
Burning another religion’s holy book – the equivalent of our Bible – is not out of respect, compassion, or love. It does not point to a love of God or a love for others. And telling a President, regardless of political standing, not to apologize is not a sign of respect, compassion, or love.
So, all of this pondering has left me with more questions – go figure. But, I would love to hear what you think about all this. Feel free to leave your thoughts or questions below.