According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals
and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power
is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. - anon

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Post 9/11, American-Born Pakistani devotes himself to improving U.S.-Muslim world relations

Published: Saturday, September 10, 2011, 6:00 AM

On Sept. 11, 2001, Jay Munir and I saw different skies, but we felt the same anger. His sky was filled with black smoke billowing from the Pentagon, as he walked home after being evacuated from his Washington, D.C., law office.

Mine was spotless blue, a beautiful Grand Rapids day in all respects save one — the world had changed in a horrible way.
munir 4.jpg
Jay Munir
A decade after 9/11, I vividly remember my numb shock, racing fear and growing rage — how dare they do this to us? — as I ran about trying to register other people’s feelings for The Grand Rapids Press. I didn’t know what to do other than work my tail off and call my daughter at college to tell her I loved her.

As an American-born Muslim, Munir’s emotions were both more complex and focused.

Walking home from his office near the White House, Munir saw the hellish evidence of American Airlines Flight 77’s crash into the Pentagon. As his steps quickened, so did his anger at those responsible.

“We could see black smoke rising over the city,” Munir told me from his office in Karachi, Pakistan. “That was the moment I knew I wanted to do something to serve.”

Beyond the instinctive desire many Americans felt to do something, anything, Munir felt a special responsibility. Raised in Cascade Township, educated at Forest Hills, Yale and Harvard, fluent in French, Arabic and Urdu, Munir had both the skills and desire to help improve U.S. relations with the Muslim world.

Three years later, he joined the U.S. State Department. He’s worked in Saudi Arabia, Paris, Iraq, Jordan, Tunisia, Syria and recently arrived in Pakistan, his parents’ native land. He’s chief of the political and economic section at the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, keeping in touch with key constituencies and explaining U.S. policy.

“Being an American has always been the most important thing to me,” said Munir, 35. “I always felt a desire to give back for the opportunities America has given me.”

In that, again, Jay and I are much the same.

In fact, we have found much in common over the years, chatting over coffee on his breaks from abroad. In our concern for promoting peace, tolerance and understanding, we share values that cut across our different faiths. We are Americans first and foremost.

Plenty of common values

munir 2 with parents.jpg
Courtesy Photo Jay Munir, center, with his parents,
Ghazala and Mazhar Munir.
I’ve been grateful to get to know Jay, as I have been to know his mother, Ghazala, for many years. His father, Mazhar, is a psychiatrist, and sister Reema a radiologist. Theirs is a kind, loving family much like my own. We share aspirations for a good life and a peaceful world. Their Islamic faith and our Christian tradition pose no obstacles to these shared values; in fact, it enhances them.

“We gather here as one American family,” Ghazala said on the night of the 9/11 attacks, at an interfaith prayer service at St. Andrew’s Cathedral, summing up a grief that knew no creed.

The antidote to fear

Knowing Jay, Ghazala and other area Muslims has helped keep me grounded over the past 10 years. While a substantial minority of Americans worry about Muslims’ loyalties and intentions, I have had the privilege of knowing people just as concerned about the safety and welfare of their country and families as I am.

jay munir with iraqi refuge.jpgJay Munir with Iraqi refugee children in Syria.Just knowing people personally, it seems, does a lot to counter the fear and insecurity that have pushed people apart post-9/11. In our age of airport pat-downs, political polarization and mosque protests, we need to know our neighbors before we can love them.

Researchers say knowing just one person of a different faith changes people’s attitudes towards the whole religion. In a recent Wall Street Journal op-ed piece, scholars David Campbell and Robert Putnam argue friendship and marriage allayed historical suspicions by Protestants against Catholics and Jews.

The same may happen with Islam, they suggested; however, they reported only 7 percent of Americans are friends with a Muslim.

“Feeling warmly toward a given religion follows from having a close relationship with someone of that religion,” the authors wrote.

Local interfaith initiative

Happily, West Michigan soon will have an opportunity to get to know its neighbors of other faiths.

A yearlong initiative for promoting interfaith understanding will be announced Sunday. Key leaders are launching the effort as a positive community response to the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Stay tuned for opportunities to get involved.

It’s my hope this will lead to a long-term change for the better in the way people around here relate to each other — and work together — across faith and cultural lines.

Meanwhile, Jay Munir is working hard to improve relations with Pakistan and promote America’s image worldwide.

He emphasizes the opportunities America has provided Muslims, the help it’s provided to Muslim-majority countries and the lives Americans have sacrificed fighting terrorism.

“We have a lot to be proud of. Our challenge is to be able to communicate that to people in this part of the world.”

Terror is a threat to all

He also wants to communicate to Americans that terrorism threatens us all, including Muslims, and that American Muslims should “speak up loudly and often against terrorism and extremism.” Al-Qaida gunmen killed five of his consulate colleagues in Saudi Arabia, and a Syrian friend of his was killed in this spring’s pro-democracy protests.

His parents are proud of his work despite the risks. His patriotism has been evident since he eagerly studied U.S. history as a boy, Ghazala says: “We obviously worry, but then we know that he was destined for this important work.”

When he left his post in Syria, a friend’s mother told Jay, “I’ve always loved America, but after meeting you, I love it more.”

The world seems darker and more dangerous since 9/11. It’s hard to know what to do with our fears and anxieties. Perhaps just getting to know someone can help ease them — and show our love for America.


Email Charles Honey: honeycharlesm@gmail.com



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