22 September 2012

~ How are you impacted by world events? ~

We get that question a lot - not always in those exact words - but that is the general idea.

And headlines around the world have impacted us the past two weeks - forcing  us to, at times, change and modify our plans, tempted us to fear, caused us to wonder if our kids were safe, prompted us to adopt a curfew, increased our monitoring of embassy and official updates... among other things.

There have been protests, threats and demonstrations. We've heard of flags burning and frightened, concerned church members. We've laid low at home or stayed in the vicinity of our relatively sheltered neighborhood.

It is amazing how an insensitive, inflammatory poor quality YouTube video or some cartoon in a foreign paper has the very real potential to impact my daily life... but it does.

I'd like to make three observations:
  1. Western societies, particularly Americans, worship value freedom of speech  - and it is right up there with those rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We can do that because in our worldview, we divide life into personal and public and for most, there is never need for those two spheres to intersect. They rather "co-habitate" in entirely different planes. The rest of the world isn't like that. They value the sanctity of their religious beliefs and expect that a public defamation of the holy will meet with some type of passionate retaliation because it is wrong-simply-should-have-never-been-expressed. It is shameful, individually and corporately, to let such an affront go without response.
  2. Most people I know who live in the west have very incorrect (but stereotypical) understandings and perspectives on what my Muslim friends and neighbors in this land believe... how my Muslim friends and neighbors in this land tend to act... and the reasons for those actions. I'm not trying to imply that I understand it all - but I can speak to my experience as I've lived here. While I'm sure there is some sort of media agenda behind this, it is also because our sinful natures encourage egoism, arrogance and the conviction that my culture and beliefs are the only right and valid ones.
  3. I've been ashamed that I tend to let blatant affronts to the holiness of my God slide - with very little reaction... I haven't had either the courage or the gumption to hallow the name of the Lord and to respond with genuine and righteous indignation and ire when He is mocked, slandered or insulted. All of those occur commonly and casually in our broader American culture.
Like everyone else, many Muslims find the 13 minute Islamophobic video "Innocence of Muslims" trashy and offensive. Protests have spread quickly, tapping into understandable and lasting grievances about neo-colonialist US and western foreign policy in the Middle East, as well as religious sensitivities about depictions of the Prophet Muhammad. But the news coverage often obscures some important points: 
1. Early estimates put participation in anti-film protests at between 0.001 and 0.007% of the world's 1.5 billion Muslims – a tiny fraction of those who marched for democracy in the Arab spring.  
2. The vast majority of protesters have been peaceful. The breaches of foreign embassies were almost all organised or fuelled by elements of the Salafist movement, a radical Islamist group that is most concerned with undermining more popular moderate Islamist groups.  
3. Top Libyan and US officials are divided over whether the killing of the US ambassador to Libya was likely pre-planned to coincide with 9/11, and therefore not connected to the film.  
4. Apart from attacks by radical militant groups in Libya and Afghanistan, a survey of news reports on 20 September suggested that actual protesters had killed a total of zero people. The deaths cited by media were largely protesters killed by police.  
5. Pretty much every major leader, Muslim and western, has condemned the film, and pretty much every leader, Muslim and western, has condemned any violence that might be committed in response.  
6. The pope visited Lebanon at the height of the tension, and Hezbollah leaders attended his sermon, refrained from protesting the film until he left, and called for religious tolerance. Yes, this happened.  
7. After the attack in Benghazi, ordinary people turned out on the streets in Benghazi and Tripoli with signs, many of them in English, apologising and saying the violence did not represent them or their religion. 
Add to that the number of really big news stories that were buried last week to make room for front page, angry Muslim "Clash" coverage. In Russia tens of thousands of protesters marched through Moscow to oppose Russian President Vladimir Putin. Hundreds of thousands of Portuguese and Spaniards turned out for anti-austerity protests; and more than a million Catalans marched for independence. (Read the rest of this article on line in the Avaaz Daily Briefing.)

What thoughts have world events of the past few weeks provoked in you? 

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