Holy Days

Today is a particularly religious day—Muslims are celebrating Eid Al-Fitr and for Judaism it is Rosh Hashanah. For Jews, Rosh Hashanah is the beginning of a period of introspection that concludes with Yom Kippur. Today they mark the beginning of a new year with inner reflection, worship, and commitments to help others.

Eid Al-Fitr signals the end of Ramadan.  As a thirty day period of fasting Ramadan has to be one of the most challenging of religious practices. I admire my Muslim friends for their discipline. I can only imagine how wonderful it is to celebrate completing such a goal—not for its end, but for what it meant to do it.

At KansasCity.Com there is an article about local celebrations of Eid Al-Fitr:

“‘Eid’ is an Arabic word meaning festivity, while ‘fitr’ means to purify,” said Zulfiqar Ali Malik, a board member of the Heartland Muslim Council, of Kansas City. “So the holiday is a purification after completing the fasting month. During Eid festivities Muslims greet each other with ‘Eid Mubarak,’ meaning ‘blessed festival.’ Muslims in America will pray for world peace and joy but also for mutual understanding, tolerance and harmony with fellow Americans.”

One might expect that there would be a lot of news stories about Muslims and Jews observing these holy days. You would think that there would be some wonderful videos about people showing love and care for each other during these worshipful times.

Unfortunately, if you look for religious news today you will probably see only articles about the threatened Koran burning by the extremist Rev. Terry Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center, a fundamentalist Christian church in Gainesville, Florida. The news cycle of this inflammatory story has reached the stage where the New York Times has a front page article on the way the news cycle has worked to make this such a big event.

On one hand this proposed Koran burning should be big news. It is a horrendous idea that is an affront to religious peoples everywhere. To burn one religion’s holy book is to denigrate them all. We as Christians need to be clear that religious tolerance is more than an American ideal, it is a practice of good faith. We, of course, do not agree with everything a religion may practice. We do not even agree about what other Christian denominations affirm, but to denigrate the entire faith because of the practices of that group’s fanatics is bigotry. I mourn the fact that many people will now think less of Christianity due to the demagoguery of the Rev. Jones.

One dismaying aspect of this news event is the poor job done by many news organizations to point out the extremist views of Rev. Jones. The early reports merely listed him as the pastor of his church—as if he may represent a big and influential church and/or denomination.  They did not do enough research to know this is a very small fringe organization that has for years sought publicity for itself through maligning Islam. His church is one-fourth the size of our church. He is a minor radical figure who should be ignored as such.

Sadly, there will be many more articles about this fanatic, than all the good that is being done for the world on this holy day. It is time for us to change that pattern. Let us all spend sometime today looking for the positive attributes of this day. Search for stories about the meanings of Ramadan and Eid Al-Fitr. Call up Jewish and Muslim friends and wish them a blessed holy day.

In contrast to our Jewish and Muslim cousins our Christian calendar has a very minor event—it is our Welcome Back Breakfast on Sunday. Please join us to reconnect after the summer, enjoy some great food, and to recommit ourselves to creating good news about religious tolerance and understanding.

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