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Rallying with PBAU students to take back religion

September 13th · 1 Comment · Bible, Christian, Extremism, Interfaith, Jesus, Jewish, Muslim

I was invited as one of the speakers for Saturday’s impromptu rally, primarily of  Palm Beach Atlantic University students, whose message was that those extremists and haters who claim to be speaking for our Muslim, Christian, Jewish and other faiths are full of it.

A certain Gainesville pastor was on the hot seat. Other folks I won’t mention were mentioned. But the point of these students from the self-styled “Florida’s Top Christian College” was clear. To paraphrase Keelan O’Carroll:

No more will we sit by and let people hijack what we believe, and say hurtful things, and do hurtful actions, in the name of Christianity. No more to using the name of Jesus to further their own political agendas. Jesus tells us not to repay evil with evil, but says to repay evil with good.

To which I’ll add from a Muslim perspective: Nothing can come from good but good. In fact, I experienced nothing but good from key organizers (and sister and brother) Shaunessy and Josh McNeely, of Global Refuge International.

Among the aims of the downtown West Palm Beach rally were to show solidarity among Islam, Christianity and other faiths in rejecting the Gainesville pastor’s Quran burning plan; to provide a chance for local churches to take a stand against Islamophobia and extend hands in unity to our Muslim brothers and sisters in the community; to bring awareness of the extent of suffering among people all over the world, and of how to support the relief work; and particularly to encourage folks to do much more  to help the people of Pakistan in their disastrous emergency. Donations were collected for Pakistan Flood Relief.

Other speakers included Dr. Gerald Wright of PBAU, and Gholam Rahman, my fellow member of the  Muslim Community of Palm Beach County.

In my comments, I noted President Barack Obama’s Friday news conference statement:

I’ve got Muslims who are fighting in Afghanistan. In the uniform of the United States armed forces. They’re out there putting their lives on the line for us. And we’ve got to make sure that we are crystal clear for our sakes and their sakes — they are Americans. And we honor their service.

It happens that I have just returned from observing the recognition given dozens of pioneering Muslim American veterans, also African-Americans, some of whom were forced to take terrible risks to prove their valor, intelligence and humanity, only to have it all disregarded when they returned to the States.

But they ain’t mad, cuz that was then, and this is now. And like them, and our president, I’m expecting good from our fellow American people.

These students were the latest confirmation that, no, we’re not going back to those days of government-sanctioned bigotry. I hope we hear a lot more from them. As I remarked to a lady who I later learned was the McNeelys’ mom, Elaine: With kids like these, our nation, and world, are gonna be alright.

The beautiful day, the smiles, the beautiful hearts and minds were just the latest sign that, regardless of whether we live to see the Master Plan brought to fruition in this world, the Promise of the Maker of all humanity — indeed all of creation — is true.

More scenes:

— C.B. Hanif

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