As a native son of Florence, South Carolina, I was shocked to hear that the Islamic Center in Florence had been desecrated last week, when an unknown person or group used strips of bacon to form the words “pig” and “chump” on the ground outside the Islamic Center. This act was particularly offensive because the Qur’an forbids Muslims from eating pork. According to a local news outlet, the FBI has been asked to investigate this hate crime.
In contrast, I am proud to be a board member of the Alliance of Baptists, a denominational movement of progressive Christians, who released a statement in 2003 on Muslim-Christian Relations which includes commitments to:
- Renounce interpretations of Scripture which foster religious stereotyping and prejudice against the Muslim people and their faith;
- Seek genuine dialogue with the broader Islamic community, a dialogue built on mutual respect and the integrity of each others faith;
- Lift our voices quickly and boldly against all expressions of racism, bigotry and religious bias which target followers of Islam;
- Educate ourselves and others on the often peaceful and at times tumultuous history of Muslim- Christian relations from the seventh century to the present, so as to understand our present by learning from our past;
- work for full religious freedom, including the right to practice the faith of ones choice, and for equality of citizenship for all persons in all societies, whether Muslims or Christians or others, whether in the U.S. or elsewhere.
I cite this excerpt as an example of how one can be committed to the way of Jesus and also affirm other ways of being religious or non-religious in our pluralistic world.