A NY deacon's take on the 'Ground Zero mosque'

Perspectives on the mosque that is to be built near the World Trade Center site abound. One that is particularly worth reading comes from a deacon in Albany.

Writing for The Evangelist, the diocesan paper of Albany, N.Y., Deacon Walter C. Ayres asks a simple question: "Do we identify with people who are persecuted, or with the ones who do the persecuting?"

More from the deacon's piece:

Too often, the fears we have are based on inaccurate information about a religious minority, just as the fears that led white Anglo-Saxon Protestants to ban Catholic priests were based on unfounded fears of Catholics.

We can begin by acknowledging that not all Muslims are alike, just as all Christians and all Catholics are not alike — nor even amicable. Go to some Catholic websites to see vitriol among people who profess to love one another.

We should challenge those who say that Muslims as a people who do not believe in peaceful co-existence with their neighbors. A case in point: When our Inquisition was at its height in Spain and Portugal, the 16th-century court of the Muslim emperor Akbar the Great in Delhi was filled with Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Jains, Zoroastrians and, yes, Christians, debating ethics and belief.

More recently, it was the Muslim-led government in Bosnia that tolerated other religions while Serbian Orthodox Christians carried out most of the ethnic cleansing in that part of the world.

We should recall Muslims such as Abdul Ghaffar Khan, the “Muslim Gandhi” whose Islamic “army” once numbered 100,000 men in the same Afghanistan-Pakistan border area that engages our military today.

The members of this army pledged non-violent resistance to the British who occupied their country prior to World War II. Many of them died at the hands of good Christian soldiers in the British army. This was their oath: "I promise to refrain from violence and taking revenge. I promise to forgive those who oppress me or treat me with cruelty."

Maybe some of us could take that oath today.

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