I read the news obsessively every hour. Having an iPhone makes it easy for me to get AP News Alerts of the news as it happens. As I open up articles, I process the information, fit them into well-known news categories and store it in my memory. Very rarely do I read something that challenges the methodical way I deal with the same stories of violence that I see over and over again. But recently, I read a story that made me pause.
The headline read, “Iraq Christians Vow To Survive, With Muslim Help”. The story begins with the countless violence that Iraqi Christians face in their country. There are bombings during Sunday services, vehicle bombings and shootings of priests and acolytes. The violence seems inescapable. Their every day life is a struggle to maintain their religious identity and live in peace. It seemed like I was going to shelve this piece of news in the usual category of religious violence destroying lives. But then I caught a line that shifted my perception of this story.
While prominent Christian figures advised Christians to leave the country, others called for staying in their homeland. The most compelling argument for staying in the country even came from a Muslim man. Sayed Hassan al-Husaayni is the imam at the mosque close to the bombed church and beautifully said that his congregation and himself, “condemn the attacks that have struck the Christians. They are our brothers and we have been living with them for centuries. I believe they are the victims of a terrorist organization, but I’m positive that Iraqi Muslims respect their brothers.” It would have been very easy for him to not stand up for the right of his Christian brothers and sisters to practice their religion, but he did. There is only one category that I could place this story in and that was the beauty of interfaith work.
In a country that is torn in two, facing turmoil on many fronts from war to religious violence, there are still people who place importance on not just coexistence but cooperation of different faiths. Sayed Hassan al-Husaayni defied the norm of just ignoring what was happening to his Christian neighbors. If this can happen in a place where violence is the every day norm why can’t it happen here? His example proves that interfaith cooperation can definitely be a social norm in not just this country but all over the world.
Aditi Singh, IIA Vice President of Campus Outreach