Courage to Lead the Peace

At the moment, so much of the information we are receiving about deteriorating conditions in Egypt, especially in Cairo, is full of confusion and contradiction. What is clear, however, is that innocent people are being slaughtered simply for what they believe, in particular, our Christian brothers and sisters whose places of worship are being tagged and burned.

Our hearts go out to all the people of Egypt, especially those living in urban areas. We are hearing daily reports of atrocities. However, and quite ironically, most of them seem to occur shortly after calls to prayer. What kind of prayer, exactly, can lead to such violence? If prayer is the union of the mind and heart with God and if God is a God of peace, then how can a heart united with such a God be capable of unleashing itself through such destructive, murderous actions? How does a good conscience account for this anomaly: proclaiming peace yet picking up the sword?

Urban violence certainly flourishes in many of our own cities. If not at the level we have been seeing of late in the Middle East, we have experienced many long hot summers of civil unrest in our national history. No less insidious, however, than the turmoil that spills out into the streets is the life-rejecting, nihilistic exclusion of entire classes of human beings from the circle of our love and protection.

Fathers who abandon their families, leaving their children behind with their mothers or grandmothers, send a message that their children’s lives are less valuable to them than their own pleasures or claimed independence. Never mind that they procreated the children who now depend on them – or is that to be blamed on the mothers who did not contracept effectively or even abort them?

Mothers – who choose to end their motherhood by refusing to allow certain of their children to be born because there are other things in their lives that are more valuable to them than the lives of their children themselves. Those who encourage such decisions – in the name of supporting the person making them – do little but sanction the cowardly verdict that certain lives are not worth saving, even though they have barely begun.

Once we have accepted the false premise of “useless lives” – precisely the justification used by history’s most infamous genocidal tyrants – we are on the road to social and moral chaos, where might is the only measure of right and human life is stripped of its inherent, essential value. It becomes justifiable to withdraw support and sustenance from, even to kill, not only whom one hates, but simply finds…inconvenient.

Who or what will fill the tremendous void of love that is causing so many innocent human lives to be consumed in the furious flames of misplaced passions or swept away with a curiously self-righteous and aggressive indifference? What is needed first is a passion for peace and the courage to lead it.

Jesus warned us that whoever picks up the sword will perish by it. It is the rightful role of governments to maintain public order and create conditions favorable to free exercise of human rights, include the practice of one’s religious faith. Churches and religious leaders, however, must also move the hearts of their faithful to reject hatred and violence against any groups of persons or individuals, regardless of their status, especially those who are most vulnerable such as the unborn, the aging, religious and ethnic minorities and the disabled.

Stirring up already inflamed and impassioned masses, secular or religious, is a grave and irresponsible dereliction of duty on the part of any public figures, whatever their faith or political convictions. It takes courage to lead the peace and to defeat the designs of those whose only response to oppression or persecution is a call to brutality. Inciting others to violence is not leadership but cowardice.