...the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace. -- James 3:17-18
I just finished watching "Of Gods and Men." It is a movie about the seven Trappist monks, living in a remote monastery in Algeria, who were killed in 1996 by Muslim extremists. Despite its horrific ending, the story beautifully captures all the faith, love, and hope of the message of Jesus. The Father Abbot of the monastery, Christian de Cherge, felt called to live in community with the Muslims in a nearby village: working side by side, trading the goods made in the monastery, offering medical care, taking part in their festivals and prayers. Love, and shared faith, bound these brothers to the Muslim people around them. That, and their vow of stability, a vow to stay where they were called to be, kept them at the monastery even though their lives were in constant threat by Muslim extremists.
When these monks became priests, they gave up their lives for Christ, and like Christ, their lives became a sacrifice for love. Fascinated by this story, I did a little more research and discovered that Christian de Cherge's calling to live in community with Muslims came about when, as a young man accosted by Muslim soldiers, a Muslim friend had guarded him with his life. For his action, the friend was murdered the following day. As a result of this man's sacrifice, Christian learned the true meaning of the Eucharist. It is not a matter of receiving the body of Christ in order to give of oneself, but it is giving of oneself in order to receive: those who would save their lives will lose it, and those who will lose their lives will gain eternity.
I am reminded also of another Catholic priest, Maximilian Kolbe, who gave his own life in the place of a Jewish man in Auschwitz in 1941. As reprisal for an escape the night before, the German commandant of the concentration camp selected ten Jewish men to die of starvation. When one man pleaded mercy on behalf of his wife and children, Maximiliam Kolbe, known among the prisoners as the little priest who shared his ration of bread, stepped forward and asked to take his place. Shaken by this, the deputy commandant yet has the priest taken away with the other men. Kolbe's action, and subsequent fortitude during his last days, haunted many of the guards and moved the prisoners to recognize their own human dignity in the midst of the evil around them. The priest's choice showed them how selfless love can overcome the abuse of power. (from "Embodying Forgiveness," by L. Gregory Jones, 91-98)
These men were both Catholic priests, both victims of extremists, of terrorists. And both showed solidarity with brothers of other faiths. Christians are not alone in this understanding. Awhile ago I heard of Muslims who had formed a protective barrier for Coptic Christians celebrating mass after their church had been bombed by Muslim extremists. Egyptian Muslims from all walks of life, housewives and celebrities, stood in solidarity with their Egyptian Christian neighbors, even taking part in the Christmas worship service, in order to "stand up for the religious freedom of [their] neighbor, Jew or Gentile, Copt or Muslim." (see the link at, http://onfaith.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/guestvoices/2011/01/egyptian_muslims_act_as_human_shields_for_coptic_christmas_mass.html)
We need to hear more examples of these acts of peaceful resistance and brotherly protection, especially in this day and age. These examples should inspire us to live as Christ lived. Truly, the peace of the Lord passes all understanding.
Dear Lord, please help me to step in wherever and whenever help is needed, protection is required, and compassion is in short supply. Love always, Pam