Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Good Religion/Bad Religion

Last night we gathered on the steps of 77 Massachusetts Ave. to show our support for peace in Gaza. It was a small group of students, Christians, Jews and Muslims and probably a few uncommitted fellow travelers. Amnesty International was represented. Having been asked to speak, here is what I said:

January 13, 2009
Vigil for Peace
77 Massachusetts Ave.

My Friends, you are not gathered here to hear me, but rather to show your support those who support the peace process in Gaza. We are gathered here because we value peace. There is a bumper sticker making the rounds these days that contrasts the costs of war with the cost of peace. Peace is priceless. We believe that.

This does not mean that we are naïve. But it does mean that Israel should not have to deal with Hamas rockets targeting its cities and towns. The citizens of Gaza, Christian, Muslims and Jews should not be caught in the crossfire. For peace to be achieved we need leaders who are willing to bear the burden of peacemaking. We look to Washington to support the peace process, but closer to home we take upon ourselves the burden of being those who support peace.

We are here this evening to bear our witness to that noble cause.
We are here to say to Israel that a war that puts civilians at risk—current casualties put the dead and wounded civilians, men women and children at an unacceptable level—cannot achieve the purposes Israel seeks.

We are here to say to Hamas, that the destruction of Israel is not a viable goal and the willingness to use civilians for political purposes is inhumane.

We are here to say: stand down, step back, learn forgiveness.

Let our prayer be:

We shall not rejoice when our enemy falls;
We shall not exult when our enemy stumbles.

Never shall we say: I will do to them as they have done to me; I will repay them according to their deeds.

We shall not hate one another in our hearts; we shall love our neighbors as we love ourselves.


The religious sentiment that sees the value in all of human kind, that cares for our world because it is our home and we bear responsibility for its well being, is a sentiment worth endorsing, commending and practicing. I think of religion as portrayed in two recent movies: Charlie Wilson's War and The Kite Runner. In both films Islamic Fundamentalism is offered as a counterpoint to those who care for the stranger, and are willing to live with the ambiguity of modern life. There are Jews and Christians who could just as easily have played the role. Last evening here at MIT I was privileged to stand with young people whose religious commitment opens them to the world and calls for peace. These young people will change the world.