On Sunday I left directly from Celebration so that I could drive to Marin County in time to participate in a symposium on Jewish/Muslim relations, which was a little bit strange (and wonderful) since I am neither Jewish nor Muslim. In fact, I was the only Christian participating in an official capacity (and by “official capacity” I mean that I shared the stage with Lea Delson from Kehilla Synagogue and Ali Sheikholeslami of the Islamic Cultural Center where as we talked about our experience with the faith trio).
Our panel was not the main event—there was a great lecture on the so called “convivencia” Moorish Spain (a medieval golden age when Muslims, Jews and Christians lived in relative harmony in Muslim Al Andalus), and a Muslim friend of mine from San José gave a talk urging Muslims and Jews to have honest conversations around Israel/Palestine. And there was food.
But for me the most moving part of the day happened when one of the conference organizers told the gathered group that yet another mass shooting had transpired, this time at a small Protestant church in Texas. There were twenty six worshipers murdered and no real effort at gun control in sight. It was the largest mass shooting in Texas history. And then we stood together in silence, praying for the victims and for our country.
It was truly a powerful and moving experience to be a lone Christian, surrounded by maybe two hundred Jews and Muslims as they prayed for people who had died while attending worship at a church.
I suspect that moment of shared prayer will stay with me for as long as I have a functioning memory. It was a reminder that while we came from distinct religious traditions—each with its particular beauty—still we shared faith and, more importantly, we shared humanity.
I wish religious people were better at remembering this, and demonstrating it more often. Somehow we’ve managed to cede control of religion’s definition to those who would do all sorts of heinous tomfoolery in the name of God, but every time some lunatic pulls a trigger in divine anger, I will remember what it felt like to stand side by side with Jews and Muslims as they prayed for Christians. It will do my soul good.