Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Mumbai Tragedy

Several years ago, my wife and I traveled to India. While there, we visited Mumbai and stayed at the Taj Mahal Hotel, which is probably the best known hotel in the city. One day we hired a guide to show us around the city. To my surprise, I learned that she and her husband were Jewish.

There are several small Jewish communities in India dating back to Old Testament times. About twenty five per cent of the Indians of the Jewish faith live in Mumbai. The Apostle Thomas is believed to have traveled to India and died there. Inasmuch as the early Christians tended to gather in communities where Jews of the dispersion lived, perhaps Thomas came to Mumbai.

The terrorist attacks on the hotel where we stayed and on the Jewish Center, which could well have been a gathering place for our guide, has touched us in a personal way. Religious violence has cursed India for many years, although the country strives to achieve a culture of religious tolerance. In 1975 vast numbers of Sikhs were murdered and expelled from Delhi. In and around 1990 Kashmir went through a period of ethnic cleansing of Hindus in which at least three hundred persons were killed. In 1993 Mumbai endured 13 bombings as a result of Muslim-Hindu violence. In 2000 the Godra train was attacked and a car containing 58 men, women, and children, all Hindus, were burned alive. This was followed in 2002 by the infamous riots in the state of Gujurat in which over a thousand persons, Hindu and Muslim, were killed and several thousand were injured, missing or orphaned by the conflict. Other religious violence has included anti-Christian riots and recurring border wars along the Pakistani- Indian border.

The common theme of these incidents has been that the people on both sides were killing each other in the name of God. Surely God weeps over these tragedies.

As our world flattens out, all religions, including the Judeo-Christian religions-must grapple with how we live with each other even though we hold strikingly different views on the nature of the Almighty. We in this country are not immune to religious warfare. As the terrorist shouts the name of Allah while causing destruction, we naturally begin to extrapolate the terrorist personality to all of Islam. More and more the "war on terror" begins to take on the characteristics of a religious war.

Are we in danger of becoming even more embroiled in religious war? What should and could be done to prevent that from happening?

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