Letter To The Editor
From Rev. Ted Newcomb
(Morning Call, Allentown, PA) 9/12/01

As a local Christian pastor in the United Church of Christ I left a message at the Islamic Center of the Lehigh Valley on Tuesday. A short while later my call was gladly returned. A meaningful conversation ensued with a representative of this religious community. I expressed to him encouragement, support, and solidarity for/with the families and friends of the Islamic Center. This expression arose in the wake of the horrific violence earlier in the day and out of a fear that innocent people of the Islamic community will be singled out and vengefully targeted due to stereotypes and generalizations that are totally inappropriate. "Islamic Fundamentalists"...it's a headline we read about regularly. 

I began to wonder how Christians might be viewed when violent, fringe factions claiming for themselves "Christian" identification are involved in heinous acts. No one wants to be mistakenly associated with people whose actions are totally reprehensible and defy the basic precepts of the faith in which we are grounded. Yet, were that the case, ill-conceived generalizations might incite people to take action against me or my family or the church I pastor. Such actions would be based entirely on misperceptions. This "reaction" is something we must guard against today especially as it pertains to the Islamic community. 

The age of instant communication has widened our world views and broken down many walls. One bit of wisdom gleaned from a resource forwarded by a Muslim friend in Turkey is this: "The term 'Islam' ...is derived from the Arabic root (SLM) which means 'peace' or 'submission.' The proper meaning of Islam is the attainment of peace (inner and outer) by submitting oneself to the will of Allah/God. This means a conscious, loving and trusting submission to the will of Allah/God, the acceptance of His grace and the following of His path."  To the best of my understanding, this is a core belief within Islamic faith and practice. It molds and shapes family life and community response. In truth, it would be hard to differentiate this view from those held by adherents of other major world religious traditions. 

It is a worthy goal to which we all might aspire according to our own faith and custom. So on Tuesday afternoon I wanted the representative of the Islamic Center to know that I (in particular) as a Christian person/pastor, and others within the wider Christian Community will choose to stand with them.  We choose not to engage in blanket generalizations and over-simplifications. We choose to rebuff all actions that are vengeful and hateful. We choose in every way to find common ground on which to share this journey of life. For this journey begins not with suspicion, but with respect...an attitude which stands in stark contrast to the darkness of violence in its many forms. 

Peace and Blessings,
Rev. Ted Newcomb
Trinity United Church of Christ
612 S. Delaware Drive
Mount Bethel, Pennsylvania, USA 18343

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