This week I attended a vigil at my local city hall for the victims of the mosque shooting in Quebec City in 2017. This year the event was much more inter-religious. I wondered if this was because of the shooting in the Synagogue in Pittsburgh. There was representation from the Jewish community, the Hindu community, the Sikh community, the Buddhist community, the Christian community, and the Indigenous community. The Hindu community had experienced their own tragedy when their temple was burned down just after 9/11, mistaken for a mosque.
The speeches were generally empathetic and uplifting. I appreciated especially the Jewish perspective. One Rabbi, after asking permission, put on his prayer shawl and blew his Shofar. The general themes revolved around increasing Islamophobia and, more generally, increasing hate speech affecting all religious communities. I left the event hopeful that we can work together as faith communities to counter increasing intolerance.
I did feel that something was missing though. The Christian sister who gave a short speech from a mainline Christian denomination spoke on solidarity and justice. She sought to make connections with the different faith groups present. What was missing? The Muslim speakers did not hesitate to mention the prophet Muhammad. One also mentioned a story about Jesus and his disciples from the Quran. The Hindu speaker did not hesitate to speak from a Hindu perspective. The Jewish speaker quoted the Bible. I would have liked to have heard the name of Jesus mentioned from a Christian perspective. Perhaps the Christian speaker could have begun with “peace to you all in the holy name of Jesus whom we honor.”
Of course it is easy for me to criticize, not being involved in a more formal role. I think the underlying problem is that evangelicals (and here I am including our Reformed community) are not at the table. Inter-religious events are often attended by our mainline Christian brothers and sisters and I appreciate their efforts to work for understanding and peace. Evangelicals have been slow to enter into these kinds of inter-religious events and dialogues. This leaves a big gap in the way Christians present our faith tradition at these events. Only one Christian perspective is evident, and our friends of other religious traditions get an incomplete picture of the Christian faith.
Where are the evangelicals? Let’s step up and get involved in inter-religious dialogue. Let’s pray and act so that the name of Jesus is honored in these settings.