8 August 2012
UNITED STATES REFLECTION: Islamophobia and the Sikh Temple
By Tim Nafziger
We grieve for all the victims of Wade Michael
Page, together with their families and communities, after the tragic shooting
As the Christian
Science Monitor pointed out, it’s important to recognize the responsibility
we all have to challenge the culture that nurtures men like Mr. Page,
a member of the skinhead movement. (For
more on Christian Islamophobia see full version of this article.)
This is another opportunity for Christians in
the United States or countries under its influence to reflect on
our response to the ugly Islamophobia that bubbles just beneath the surface and
spills out in attacks against people who appear Middle Eastern.
Jesus’ relationship with Samaritans models a
different way and reason to challenge Islamophobia.
By Jesus’ time, Jews had loathed Samaritans (and
vice versa) for several centuries―at least since the return of the Judeans from
exile in Babylon. The apocryphal Wisdom of Ben Sirach 50:25-26,
written around 200 B.C., notes, “There are two nations that my soul detests,
and the third is not a nation at all: the inhabitants of Mount Seir, and the Philistines, and the stupid people living at Shechem
Similarly the Mishna, the first major edited
version of Jewish oral tradition (ca. 200 CE) declares: “He that eats the bread
of the Samaritans is like one who eats the flesh of swine” (Mishna Shebiith 8:10). Jews publicly cursed Samaritans in synagogues
and offered daily prayers that they might not partake of eternal life.
The feelings likely went both ways. In
Antiquities 18.30, Josephus tells of a Passover feast in Jerusalem nine years after the birth of Jesus. With the temple
gates open past midnight, as was the custom, a group of Samaritans sneaked in and
scattered human bones throughout the temple. Outraged at this act of
inflammatory and deliberate desecration, the Jews increased security.
|image courtesy jesusradicals.com|
What would it have been like for Jesus’
listeners to hear his parable of the Good Samaritan with this story fresh in
their minds? When Jesus told his listeners, “Go and do like the Samaritan” –
who had lavished extravagant compassion on the wounded man – what fears came up
Even among Jesus’ disciples, hate for Samaritans
was strong. In Luke 9:54, James and John ask Jesus to “call fire down from
heaven to destroy” a Samaritan village that didn’t welcome them in for the
night. But the fact that Jesus and the disciples even stopped at a Samaritan
village suggests that Samaritans were part of the Jesus movement. We can only
imagine that after the Samaritan woman at the well and her village followed
Jesus, many others joined in.
It’s not enough to talk about loving Muslims and
opposing Islamophobia. We need to reflect on and live out Jesus’ radical
hospitality. In one such effort, Christian Peacemaker Teams has begun to
welcome Muslims onto our teams. How can each of our communities welcome people
we are taught to fear most?
For the full version of this article, see Tim’s
blog at TheMennonite.org.