By Dennis Frado, Director, Lutheran Office for World Community

There’s too much “othering” today of people we don’t know or haven’t met. And, in a related way, awful hate speech abounds.* It is as if we have forgotten that each person has been made in the image of God and thereby has dignity and deserves respect.

We are all different and yet the same in God’s eyes. Identity – race, gender, nationality, etc. – is based on human constructions, but it is not how God sees us. Whatever identity we have or is imposed on us should not become our god.

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, is going after hate speech, xenophobia, racism and intolerance – including rising anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim hatred and persecution of Christians. He said:

“Hate speech is a menace to democratic values, social stability and peace. As a matter of principle, the United Nations must confront hate speech at every turn”; and

“Addressing hate speech does not mean limiting or prohibiting freedom of speech. It means keeping hate speech from escalating into something more dangerous, particularly incitement to discrimination, hostility and violence, which is prohibited under international law.”

With so many efforts around the world to drive people apart rather than recognize their humanity and promote reconciliation and peace, let us resolve to work for the common good.

In its call to foster “a dynamic vision of difference in unity,” the ELCA social statement For Peace in God’s World affirms: “All people in their amazing diversity are God’s creatures, sinners for whom Christ died,” and continues:

“This vision calls us to engage differences, not to ignore or fear them. The hope for earthly peace challenges people to strengthen their own particular communities in ways that promote respect and appreciation for people in other communities, for all share a common humanity.”

* NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This commentary was prepared prior to the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, the situation has spawned additional hate speech or racist remarks and actions directed against, for example, Asian Americans and China.