BE ACTIVE AND ACT AGINST INTOLERANCE!
Believers for Peace, a group of Catholics, Muslims, Orthodox, and Protestants from Southeast Europe which promotes peacebuilding and a culture of nonviolence based on their faith, issues a call for action as we enter 2015.
Over the last year we have observed with concern the rising number of examples of intolerance towards followers of Islam which is presented as resistance to terrorism most clearly expressed through the spread of the so-called Islamic State. Intolerance solely because of belonging to another faith disturbs us because it reminds us of the intolerance which grew into hatred and violence in the wars of the 1990s in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. We recognize intolerance and animosity in disparaging sentences, supported through increased checks for example in airports only for Muslims and particularly of women which stand out for wearing headscarves. Muslim families are afraid that frequent visits by their youth to the mosque will cause suspicion and doubt about their closeness to Islam which has been contaminated by radicalization or terror. Muslims are often expected to condemn the terrorism of the so-called Islamic State in public appearances, forgetting that Christians were not expected to condemn the terrorism of the Norwegian Breivik in the same way. We are following mass demonstrations by the movement PEGID (Patriotic European Against Islamization of the West) in Germany, which are indicators of societal intolerance in developed Western democracies. We follow the news of counter-demonstrations in support of multicultural coexistence with joy.
In our societies, which have still not been healed from the wounds of war and suffer from chronic nationalism, we truly do not need a new frontline of hostilities like islamophobia. We do not need the building of enmity based on religious identification, we do not need a frontline with Muslims on one side and others, whether they be Christian or secular agnostics, on the other. We need coexistence in diversity.
This is not a call for Muslims, this is a call for PEACE. Since we have experienced the hostility of war, we call for active nonviolence, because hostility that has been accumulated over years can only be arduously broken down. It is right to condemn the heinous crimes committed in the name of Islam as Muslims and their representatives have done around the world. Prejudice needs to be opposed daily and with equally persistence, as it fosters intolerance which is dangerous because it easily gives rise to hatred.
Conscious of our responsibility in front of people and in front of God for building a society in which truth reins and justice applies, as a concrete confession of our faith, we issue this call to all believers and people of good will to face the problem of terrorism by opposing intolerance towards Muslims in their societies. Our fear of the so-called Islamic State will not be solved by intolerance towards our Muslim neighbors, because rather than dealing with the problem and encounter with those who are different, the intolerance grows into conflict and paves the way to new violence and war. Since we have already seen that movie we are not interested and decisively reject it the second time, choosing another and calling you to it as well. Each of us on this path will draw from the bottomless well of creative abilities. We believe it is certainly necessary to:
- Be aware of problems and observe! Do not close your eyes but look and think! Your conscience and mind is above every state regulation and security measure. Think, and do not take for granted what isn’t logical, do not get used to it but rather recognize what you do not agree with and name it. Critically question what is illogical. Imagine what it would be like to be viewed daily with suspicion and more stringent rules than those of other citizens around you.
- Find your connection, find a community or an individual which is Muslim in order to find out first-hand how they feel in the current societal circumstances of increased concern for security against terrorism.
- As a Muslim do not close yourself into the world of a victim but communicate your thoughts, wishes, objections, so that they can be included into the ideas and suggestions of the whole local community.
- Think and talk with those around you about what really strengthens your security and what endangers it.
- Civil resistance lives from communication, therefore write, speak, protest, express what you think. Act on behalf of others and equally for yourself, because when you react you become the change that you want to see in the world, a world of free speech and free movement.
- Share successful examples of intercultural solidarity such as the Australian citizens who offered fellowship to Muslims after the frantic slaughter and suicide by an Iranian in Sydney (November 2014), or the Canadian citizens who covered Islamophobic graffiti on the walls of a mosque with posters bearing the message: You are our citizens, we are with you (October 2014). It makes sense to react each time, whenever you have the strength.
- Sign the Declaration of Believers for Peace, which can be found at the website http://www.vjernicizamir.org/deklaracija/deklaration-engl, if you agree with its contents.
- Pray that you have strength, that you never grow weary step by step to stand up for your neighbor.
Wherever you stand up for a just and a better world, God is near. Therefore, be active and act.