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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

My Prayer for Muslims Murdered in Chapel Hill

When I originally wrote this I had just seen the CNN report.  As more information comes out, it seems maybe this wasn't a hate crime, but rather a dispute over parking (  I can't decide what's worse, killing for hate or killing for a parking space. Either way, my prayers at the end remain.
  I begin with Isaiah 42.  I can’t think of where else to begin. 

42 Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
    my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
    he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice,
    or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
    and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
    he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be crushed
    until he has established justice in the earth;
    and the coastlands wait for his teaching.
            This morning, CNN reported[i] that Craig Stephen Hicks murdered a student at the school of dentistry at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.  Hicks murdered Deah Shoddy Barakat, already in the dental school, his wife Yusor Mohammad who was about to enter the program, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, Yusor’s sister and a N.C. State student.  Three victims, each under the age of 25.  This is an awful tragedy.
            CNN reports that Hicks was an atheist and that he murdered these three because of their Muslim faith.  Christian pastors need to be the loudest voices decrying this tragedy.  We must stand with our Muslim friends against evil of this sort.  I have many Christian friends who love to rant about the evils of Islam.  In these exhortations, my friends mix critique of a religion with xenophobia and a hatred of all things Arab (even though millions of Muslims are not Arabs). 
            We Christians need to speak up and stand with our Muslim friends in the name of Jesus and for the sake of peace and love.  Yes, just an hour ago, I posted a blog that is a book review of Jenny Nordberg’s The Underground Girls of Kabul.  Yes, my blog post is critical of aspects of Muslim culture, most notably the lack of rights for women.  However, I do not hate Muslims.
            I cannot hate Muslims.  I look to the story in Isaiah’s poetry.  God has called a servant who brings justice.  God’s servant is most gentle with those in society who are most vulnerable.  “A bruised reed he will not break.”  He is for those who are weak, exposed, and in the minority.  God’s will is that those trodden under foot, those stomped under heel be raised to health and shalom (peace with the possibility of prosperity). 
Obviously dental school students are undergoing training that will lead to affluent professions.  So in that sense these murdered are not vulnerable in the way the poor and under resourced are vulnerable.  But Muslims in America are a minority at a time in history when many of our soldiers are fighting wars in predominantly Muslim cultures where the enemy combatants are Muslim extremists.  Clearly some Americans like the evil idiot, Mr. Hicks, cannot discern between an upstanding, peace loving citizen (of any nation) and a misguided terrorist.  Muslims in America have to face prejudice that aligns them with terrorists when in fact they just American dental students (or NBA players or school teachers or cab drivers).  Sometimes the prejudice comes out in ignorant Facebook posts.  Sometimes it becomes extreme, like in the case of the murderer Craig Stephen Hicks.
            I believe Jesus perfectly fulfills the role of the servant described in Isaiah.  So in this story, he is on the side of Deah, Yusor, and Razan.  He stands with the victim.  Jesus loves Muslims more than I do.  I know my Muslim friends see him as a prophet while I see him as the Son of God and the Savior of the world.  Christian views of Jesus and Muslim views of Jesus are completely incompatible.  There is no middle ground.
            However, Christians can affirm that Jesus loves all people.  And today, we Christians can and must declare solidarity with Muslims.  We must say it and mean it, #MuslimLivesMatter.  I don’t want Muslims killed or harmed or marginalized.  I want them to have the same opportunities for a good American life that I enjoy. 
            A particularly chilling aspect of this story for me is Hicks’ age.  He’s 46.  In a week, I turn 45.  A guy just about exactly my age killed three young people full of life and potential.  Why?  Somehow his life led him to be an atheist and a person full of hatred.  Somehow in the same number of years, my life led me to this point.  I am shocked by what happened.  All I can think to do is pray.
            Oh God, whose servant will not be crushed until he has established justice on the earth, give justice to the families of Deah, Yusor, and Razan.  Give mercy and healing to their parents and to those who loved them and weep for them.  Raise up in our community people of peace, pastors and Muslim leaders who will stand together for peace.  Bring healing to our blood-stained world. 
            And Father in Heaven, convict the heart of Craig Stephen Hicks.  I have in this writing, accused him and berated him, and Lord, I am not sorry.  His sins have ended three lives.  I pray he will spend the rest of his life behind bars.  And I pray in that time that he will meet you and his heart will be turned. 
            Lord, only you possess knowledge of the eternal destiny for Deah, Yusor, and Razan.  Some of my conservative Christian peers would confidently declare them hell-bound because they failed to verbalize a faith in Christ.  I cannot do this.  Lord of the cross and resurrection, I pray for these young people.  I look at their photos on CNN and see beauty and life.  I pray you would receive them with your Holy love. 


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your honesty and candor. I, too, have struggled with this, in trying to find a way to forgive those who have acted out their hatred on others, hating their sin, and trying to see them through God's loving eyes, but not being able to love them unconditionally, as He does. The only thing I can bring myself to do is pray for them, and ask God to judge them in His time, and in His way.