Over the past few weeks the world has witnessed numerous displays of violence and destruction directed at the embassies of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and other nations over an anti-Islamic video circulating on the internet. This video and the response to it have provoked outrage, debate and violence throughout the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. The lives of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya and three aids were lost in the wake of the violence.
The violence that has been displayed over the past week is deplorable and has no place in the world. As members of the worldwide Methodist and Wesleyan family, we all must come together to condemn such destruction. The World Methodist Council exists largely as a communicative body, one designed to not only bridge the gaps between denominations in our own faith, but also with other religions — including Islam. Violence and angry rhetoric are the antithesis of the dialog and understanding that the Council promotes.
The film in question, entitled “The Innocence of Muslims”, portrays the Islamic prophet Muhammad in a harsh and negative light. This is not the view of mainstream Christians. Just as the film was created and directed by one misguided Christian, the violence that has occurred has been carried out by a microscopic number of the over two billion Muslims in the world. For either group to judge the other based upon the actions of these terrible few would be wrong.
Many of the countries where these protests originated are fledgling democracies, whose people are still learning and adapting to the changes that come with their new governments. In this time of growth and uncertainty, both socially and financially, the will of the people taking part in the democracy can be cynically manipulated by those craving power and notoriety. The violence that has occurred as well as the fanning of the flames by those in power is deplorable. As Methodists who have a long history of championing social justice and change, we must condemn these actions. To champion violence and misguided rage instead of promoting understanding is contrary to everything that our spiritual father, John Wesley, believed in.
As children of Abraham, Christians and Muslims have a common past and as the world grows smaller we must realize that there are no such things as “the Islamic world” and “the Western World”. Those barriers make it easier to build bigger walls around us. The cynical and power hungry in the world, like the makers of the film and those who urge violence, want those walls built and the fears and resentments that come with the walls to become entrenched. The World Methodist Council asks each of its member churches to remind their family that instead of giving in to those voices we have to build something greater than ourselves. We have to build peace, and we must come to understand that all faiths have a stake in promoting and attaining that peace. In the end, that is the mission of the World Methodist Council and the mission of mankind.