Merry Christmas and a happy new year. We'll be back again with more to inspire at the end of January.
Global communication gives us breaking news all day long, so it is easier to develop a new prejudice towards people of different faiths.
Intolerance can also arise between Christians of different denominations. I witnessed this first-hand when a Catholic man wrote a report in the daily newspaper regarding a mission trip to Bosnia - Herzegovina. He shared details of his inspiration from Mary, the Mother of God and how this influenced his trip. A few days later a Baptist preacher wrote a letter to the editor of this paper criticizing this gentleman as a 'statue worshipper" quoting scripture and referring to Jesus Christ alone as the Saviour of the world.
I find it sad when people who claim to love Christ are ready to show such disrespect for His Mother. Catholics love Mary as a symbol of true obedience to God's will, and count on her friendship. After all, Jesus told John from the cross that Mary was to be his mother. Scripture proclaims this. Why then is there such frustration about having a friendship with the woman Elizabeth said was "blessed among women?"
I felt a need to respond to this cruel and unnecessary letter, but just a couple of days later, on the weekend faith page, someone wrote a half page article titled: "In Defence of Mary." The person was a local Imam who stated his knowledge of Mary's role in the Islamic faith. It was beautifully written and reminded me personally of the common bond that we have with Muslims through Mary. He said: 'While everybody has the right to disagree with another person's ideas and beliefs, it should be done in a respectful manner. I did not find this to be the case."
The article continued: "Maryam is the Arabic version of Mary…her status is so elevated she has become the symbol of a pious, other-worldly woman. Whenever a woman is praised for her piety and devotion to God, she is referred to as the Maryam of her time."
He also said: "For over 14 centuries, Mary has been synonymous with a highly spiritual woman who lived an exemplary pious life, both as a servant of God and as a loving mother of a unique messenger of God. May God bless her and shower her with ever-increasing peace and mercy. Amen."
This beautiful article was another reminder that not all Muslims are to be feared. Yes, there is a small percentage causing chaos and bloodshed, and many peace-loving Muslims are suffering because of it. We need to broaden our education of Islam for society to have a more tolerant attitude. Even television shows like Blue Bloods have taken the responsibility to show Muslims in a better light, and though Muslims are different, they should be allowed to go about their daily living without harassment.
Let us pray this Advent season that Jesus, the King of Peace will bring a new understanding and tolerance among all the people of the world this Christmas.
Joan Levy Earle