Spare the Prayers
Masuma Rahim, Clinical Psychogist, in The Guardian, 3/15/2019
"Promises of “thoughts and prayers” abound. But what they fail to understand is that we do not need your thoughts and prayers. Thoughts and prayers may be useful to the dead, and they may provide some comfort to the relatives of the dead, but they do nothing of substance for the rest of the living. Your thoughts and prayers will not save our lives. But the actions of politicians and the media undoubtedly destroy them.
Every single day, people like me are subject to media onslaught. Every single day, we are demonised, both by the people who make our laws and by the people who have significant influence over public opinion. And when I say “we”, I don’t just mean Muslims. Because it’s not just Muslims who are losing their lives at the hands of far-right nationalism. It’s Jews, and Sikhs, and black people. Because when fascism comes to call, it usually doesn’t care what shade of “different” you are. All it knows is that you are different, and it does not like you for it ...
These days we have racists and extremists on mainstream television all the time, and hardly anyone in any position of influence bats an eyelid. Those in power have made their position clear: they will invade our countries of origin and they will plunder our resources, but they don’t want us in their countries. They value our oil but they don’t value us. They dress it up as “free speech” but through their actions hatred has been legitimised, and minorities die because of it. You may disagree, but it is the truth.
So, politicians and the press can keep their platitudes. They’re meaningless unless they’re borne out by action. It’s time to make a stand. Defend our rights. Protect us from terrorism. Use your position to send a clear message that hatred has no place in society. Stop giving a platform to extremists. Stop pretending that white nationalism is not a threat to us all. Have the courage to stand up for our rights as citizens."
Still We Pray
Farhan Shah (Muslim Philosopher) and Jay McDaniel (Christian Process Philosopher)
If only we could, as Masuma Rahim advises, spare our prayers. She's right at so many levels.
We, too, are weary of good intentions that are substitutes for action. We, too, are tired of the the rhetoric of the right wing extremists and the political figures who lend their support, if not by creating a climate of hatred, then by silence. We, too, want enforced laws that help defend the rights of marginalized peoples: Muslim, African-Americans, Jews, and Sikhs - anyone who lies outside the world of white supremacy and Christian nationlism. Yes, we are tired of promises of "thoughts and prayers," including our own.
Still, we pray, and we really can't help it. It's not that we feel commanded to pray; it's that prayer is our natural language as Muslims and Christians. We pray to the world and to the Compassion in whose heart all things unfold.
To the victims of the shootings at the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Mosque, in Christchurch, New Zealand, we pray: “May you rest in the peace of God’s heart, now and forever, soon forgetting the terror of your last moments and entering into a splendor that is beyond all imagination.”
To their friends and families, and to the people of New Zealand in the darkest of hours we pray: “May the healing spirit of God be with you in your grief, your rage, your long night of sorrow. May you suffer as long as you need to suffer, perhaps a lifetime, and also trust that the suffering is shared by God, who is already at work to bring some kind of healing to your sorrow.”
To Muslims and Christians and Jews and so many others, may we affirm, in word and deed, that it is our calling to create cultures of peace and love among ourselves, wherein the hatred of white nationalism, and the fear that lies within it, burn away.
To white nationalists, may the burning begin in your own heart, as you suffer the hell of empathy: that is, the hell of understanding, and sharing in, the emotional and physical hells you inflict on others, because you don’t know that they are your sisters and brothers.
To lovers of guns and tanks and all things violent, may you understand that your infatuation with explosions and with killing is infantile: a symptom of immaturity not a sign of strength. May you grow up.
To the public figures – political figures, entertainers – who speak harsh language, dividing people and fomenting hate, may you realize that your words are actions, too, and that you carry a burden of responsibility for the tragedies that befall us.
To the children who will inherit the earth, may your elders create a world worthy of your innocence and hopes, worthy of your laughter and capacity for love, worthy of your better dreams...and ours, too.