At the Circle, August 15, 2019
I speak to you as one who loves both India and Pakistan. I have spent time in both, but most recently in Pakistan over the course of the last 6 years as part of an effort seeking to build relationships between Pakistani Muslims and US Muslims, Jews, and Christians. It has been a fascinating journey. Along the way I have learned again that the human condition is the same everywhere. We fear the people from whom we are separated and thus whom we do not know……and fear soon turns to hostility. It is a human dynamic that we are seeing all around the world these days. This fear and hostility is easily manipulated by politicians and others who wish to exploit differences for their own ends.
I have found that the educated young people of Pakistan have little patience for the ongoing hostilities between Pakistan and India, seeing them as impediments to their own opportunities for a more prosperous future. Recently, on a flight between Islamabad and Lahore, I sat next to a young Pakistani professional who spoke of how Pakistan and India working together could become an economic force in the world rivaling the European Union and how all Pakistanis and Indians would benefit greatly.
All of us who are of Abrahamic Faiths, which includes Muslims, Jews and Christians, are taught the story of Cane and Abel. One of the first questions God poses to humankind is, “Where is your brother?”
Cain asks, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” It seems clear that it is God’s intentions that we are indeed our brother’s keepers and they are our keepers. Not only are we to take care of those with whom we have blood relationship, but God intends for us to look after the stranger, the foreigner, the immigrant, the different.
When we do this, we prosper. When we fail to do it, when we fail to care for and seek the best for our brothers and sisters and the stranger, we are likely to encounter troubles. It is not only the Abrahamic faith that teaches these truths, but Hinduism also teaches these ethics.
The disputes over Kashmir are deep and have been intense since before 1947. There have been legitimate and illegitimate claims on all sides. But we are gathered here tonight to state unequivocally that there are no claims that can morally justify systematic murder or genocide.
May the political authorities of India also remember that there are more Muslims in India than in Pakistan and any hope of political stability and domestic tranquility in India in the future will depend in part upon the perceived fair treatment of all its people, including Muslims and all those who live in Kashmir.
By the moral authority of both the Abrahamic and Hindu religions, we call for measured responses to nationalistic claims and to all claims. We call for recognition that the greatest portion of the population of Kashmir, both Muslim and Hindu, are innocent people who deserve peace, justice and stability, which together are pleasing to the Divine.
In the face of the current conditions in Kashmir, including: the shutdown of all media; no journalists being allowed in Kashmir; and India having shut down all cell and landline service, people are understandably fearing the possibility of severe actions…including the possibility of genocide.
Let this, for us and for all people of good will everywhere, be a call to action: #1, let us engage in prayer for the people of Kashmir and for all those involved in this dispute; #2, let us continue to watch this situation carefully, educating ourselves about this important place, its history and the dynamics at play there now; and #3, let us together call upon the government of the United States to ask India to protect civilians and find a peaceful way forward; #4, let us keep the world’s eyes on Kashmir by raising consciousness among the world’s people and the press about what is happening in Kashmir!
May all these efforts be blessed by the Divine!