The Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda is an extremist Christian militant movement. Originally known as the United Holy Salvation Army, its intention is to rule Uganda according to the Ten Commandments as recorded in the Old Testament. The group employs rape, murder, child soldiers, destruction of property, mutilation, and kidnapping. It belongs on the Christian spectrum.

How does that make you feel, western Christian?

********

religion

There are real problems inside religions. Not one faith system is immune. Muslims must wrestle with what is it inside the broad spectrum of Islam that people feel they can slaughter schoolchildren and office workers and claim it is being done in the name of Allah. Christians must wrestle with what is it inside the broad spectrum of Christianity that people feel they can protest on behalf of the unborn and at the same time call for the death of abortion doctors or perpetuate the death penalty, and when a group like the Lord’s Resistance Army can call itself a Christian organization.

I would like to distance myself as far as possible from the Lord’s Resistance Army. I know most Muslims would like to do the same with ISIS and al-Qaida. Please don’t be like the terrorists who lump people from other faith or political systems into single-story categories.

I think, I hope, people are moving beyond such simplistic generalizations but there is a long ways to go. Yesterday 3.7 million people marched in France. Thousands gathered in other cities around the world. Saturday night right here in Djibouti a Catholic priest, Protestant pastor, and Muslim imam led prayers at an interfaith gathering, praying for peace. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people came. Muslims, Christians, atheists…These are signs that we are moving in the right direction. Let’s keep moving.

It is time to start examining our books, our traditions, our hearts. I don’t know what it will take for violence to end but I know one of the first steps needs to be developing compassion.

Compassion: to suffer with.

I don’t mean developing an emotion or an inner attitude of compassion. I mean active, engaged compassion. Intentional. In order to suffer with we have to look at each other and engage with each other. We have to know each other’s stories. In order to do that we have to get into relationships, we have to meet people. In order to do that we have to take the gigantic risk of stepping outside our homogenous circles.

These kinds of international tragedies are excellent opportunities to exercise that kind of courage. Ask a Muslim what they think of current events. Ask a Christian what they think of current events. Ask if you could pray together for peace. Ask if they (the ‘other’) knows any passages from their scriptures about peace and healing. You might not think you know any of these ‘others.’ I doubt it. There must be a cashier or a fellow student or a coworker or a neighbor. Maybe you’ve never spoken before. Now is a good time to change that.

Brené Brown says, “Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

We can’t simply defend a religious system by saying, “They aren’t real Muslims.” Or “They aren’t real Christians.” That isn’t productive. We have to get personal and do the hard work of reconciliation by starting with the darkness inside. We have to root out that darkness in ourselves and work on developing empathy and compassion. We have to recognize our shared humanity.

*image via wikimedia