The AP reported recently that a 21-year-old man stabbed a New York City cab driver in the throat after asking if he was Muslim. Meanwhile, the mayor of New York goes back and forth on whether there should be a Muslim prayer center—which many Americans oppose—located near ground zero in New York City.
I recently hard a talk by Eboo Patel, founder of Interfaith Youth Core, an organization that encourages interfaith dialogue and cooperation among young people. He shared his own experience of learning to respect others. The story wasn’t about how he, a Muslim, was tormented but about how his best friend, who was Jewish, was teased in school. Although Eboo was very close to his Jewish friend, he didn’t stand up for him. Years later when the two met again as adults, his friend told him that had been the worst time of his life, not because of the abuse of his classmates but because his best friend did nothing. An upset Eboo turned to his father for counsel. But his father told him that Eboo not only failed his classmate as a friend, he failed him as a Muslim.
Where does religious intolerance come from? And why do we seem so okay with it? It’s not just among Christians, Muslims and Jews, either. I’ve heard plenty about different Christians: Lutherans think Catholics are evil. Catholics believe theirs is the only true religion. Lutherans and Catholics both think that Southern Baptists are fanatics, and almost everybody believes Mormons have no business calling themselves Christian. Come to think of it, some Lutherans are intolerant of other Lutherans. Phew.
We live in an interfaith world. Jesus told us to love one another. “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34–35).
What advice do you think Jesus would have on living in an interfaith world?