A dear friend of mine, a rabbi and peace activist in New York City, told me today that he had carried a sign to a peace demonstration during the recent war in Gaza. On the sign he had written the verse from the Prophet Malachi, "Have we not all one Parent?" I looked up the verse and was reminded that it continues with these words: "Did not one God create us? Why do we break faith with one another . . . ?" (Malachi 2:10)
On almost any day, the newspaper is filled with stories that make the prophet's questions sound like a cry of outrage and anguish. But during one 24-hour period this week, I attended two local events that brought the prophet's words to life, right here in the Twin Cities.
On the evening of February 2nd I attended a dinner and lecture at the Islamic Center of Minnesota in Fridley. The guest lecturer was Dr. Ingrid Mattson, the president of the Islamic Society of North America, a scholar of Islam, and a religious leader of remarkable vision, intellect, grace, and personal power. What is more, my colleagues at the Islamic Center had worked diligently to be sure that this would be a multi-faith event. The nearly 300 people in the room were clearly a mix of people – Jews, Christians, and Muslims for sure, of different ethnicities and nationalities, all apparently thrilled by Dr. Mattson's message of hope for a world in which respectful dialogue among religions will be the norm.
The very next day, I attended the "Day on the Hill," an annual event of the Joint Religious Legislative Coalition. The RiverCentre in St. Paul was filled with some 850 Minnesotans. Again, it was a glorious blend of people of different religions, ethnicities, and ages, who had come from all over the state to hear Dr. Mattson speak on Islamic teachings on social justice, to hear legislative briefings on issues of hunger, homelessness, education, and health care, and to lobby their legislators at the Capitol.
Next morning, the newspaper again painted a discouraging picture of the state of the world. But for that day, my mind and heart had been filled with the images of two events that exemplified the prophet's teaching. We are all from the same source, all made of the same stuff, all vulnerable beings with the same needs and aspirations. Perhaps there is hope after all that we may learn to stop breaking faith with one another.