Monday, October 8, 2012

From Holy Envy to Penal Envy

It was only several days after my last blog that an offensive and distasteful film sparked reactions around the Muslim world. Then Ambassador Stevens, whose keen mind and open heart had earned him a place of honor among Libyans, was killed along with three others, probably by a terrorist attack.

All this a far cry from Yusef and his Ramadan fast, and from Krister Stendahl's idea of holy envy. Things can change in an instant from interfaith dialogue and respect, to provocation, reaction, and reprisal.

Yet the latest round of violence and hatred cannot keep us from the daily work of building bridges of respect and understanding. The mindset that deliberately berates and provokes with what hardly passes for art; and the disposition to emote and react without regard for others: neither is the majority among its host culture or faith. An Indonesian friend of mine noted that in the largest Muslim country in the world, 205 million, only 400 or so protested the disgusting film: a fraction completely exaggerated by media coverage.

In our little corner of the world, on October 15, we are honoring a man whose life and work has been dedicated to dialogue, mutual respect and understanding among Jews and Muslims. Rabbi Burton Visotzky of the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City will receive the 2012 Goldziher Prize at Merrimack College.

Many interfaith leaders from across the country will gather to honor Burt. Our students will have the opportunity to dine and converse with these "interfaith heroes". Hopefully, we will plant a few seeds of hope and openness and peace among the emerging leaders in this new generation.
                                                                                       Rabbi Visotzky

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