Following the bombing in Boston on April 15, General Secretary of American Baptist Churches USA, Rev. Dr. Roy Medley, wrote a letter to National Director for the Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances with the Islamic Society of North America, Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, a friend made through ecumenical connections between the two organizations. Medley shared his hopes for the positive progress of understanding and community that has grown between the people of Islamic and Baptist faith since the first meeting of the Baptist Muslim Dialogue began in 2009.
I write to encourage you. I know that the bombing in Boston and the recent news linking that horrible action to the two brothers’ growing involvement in radical Islam has been a challenge to all you represent and labor for. I have recalled frequently this past week the dear faces of those with whom we broke bread in Boston just this past fall at the Baptist Muslim Dialogue event and how much more difficult life must be for them now.
Our Christian scriptures tell us “to not grow weary in well-doing.” Your work, our work, for peace and understanding must not be derailed by those who justify violence and hate by their faith. If anything, we must redouble our commitment to this holy task for it is of the Spirit of God.
On Saturday, April 20, our second regional dialogue between Baptist and Muslims went forward in Kansas City, KS at our seminary there. The reports that I have received have highlighted the power of that meeting in light of the attack on the Boston marathon.
So my friends, let us be more committed to the task of peacemaking. Let us refuse to allow the power of evil to deter us. A Baptist named Martin Luther King, Jr., declared in the sixties that “darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can drive out darkness. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can drive out hate.” That is the conviction that compels us forward in our quest. To quote Christian scripture again, the very text the president used in his address to the nation, “let us run with perseverance, the race that is set before us.”
Assure the Islamic Council of New England of our love and our prayers for them in these days. Let me know how we might encourage our two faith communities in the Boston area to continue the good work that they have begun.
Your Christian brother,
Dr. Syeed replied to Medley’s letter. He wrote:
Dear Dr. Roy Medley,
Greetings of peace.
We are here at the International Interfaith Conference organized by the Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue. This is their 10th annual conference, and there are almost an equal number of Muslim and Christian leaders and a good number of Rabbis and Jewish activists from all over the world. The participants are passionate for making dialogue work in their war torn counties. We are tirelessly imparting our message of mutual respect and separation of church and state, a message that has been reinforced through our interaction with you, a proud Baptist tradition.
Our people know for sure how our work with you and other dedicated faith leaders has helped us to build mutual understanding and good will. This communal solidarity has helped during and after the Boston tragedy. There are people who wanted to use it for creating a wedge and spreading fear and mistrust. It is the work and leadership of people like you that has insured a safer atmosphere and disallowed destructive sentiments to be generated. God bless you and your church.
Thank you for your words of comfort and inspiration. God bless you and your community. You are doing His work and spreading the blessings of faith for the good of His children. Let us stay firm in our solidarity and do what we did in France, Tunisia, Georgia, Nigeria and Qatar: advocate for justice and freedom of religion for minorities. Let us be ready to do it for the whole world, God willing.
Sincerely your brother in peace,
Sayyid M. Syeed
May God bless the continued ecumenical work of these two communities as they work to overcome barriers and strive to live in peace together.