Thankfully, April 3rd passed without incident—at least I never saw any headlines to the contrary.
In case you didn’t know, April 3rd was a tense day in Britain. People across the country had received notices designating the day as “Punish a Muslim Day”. Within the notice, a point system was outlined that ranged from 25 points for pulling Muslim women’s headscarves, to 1,000 points for bombing a mosque.
I’d like to think that the reason the day was, by all accounts, calm is because of the response ahead of time by Shahab Adris. Adris is a regional manager for the advocacy group Muslim Engagement and Development. He said that he felt “compelled to put something totally positive out there in response to the original vile letter.”
So what did he do? He sent out notices designating April 3rd as “Love a Muslim Day”. In his notice, he also assigned a point system: 10 points for smiling at Muslims, 25 points for buying Muslims coffee, 500 points for fasting with Muslims during Ramadan, and 1,000 points for raising funds to help needy residents of Iraq or Syria.
It is hard to think of a better response to such hatred! And I’m betting that a lot more Love a Muslim points were racked up than Punish a Muslim points!
Still, there were detractors who said that “Love a Muslim Day” trivialized the original mailing which was a hate crime and incited terrorism. Maybe. But I think the condemnation of “Punish a Muslim Day” was only strengthened by a call to a positive alternative.
There is a broader lesson here. As people of faith, we can all provide positive alternatives to the challenges our society faces. We can do so collectively and individually. As a starting place, we need to remember that the Christian faith is, by definition, countercultural. We have always stood for cooperation over competition, peace over violence, equality over privilege, and love over hate.
How we act as a church and how you act as an individual matters. It is vitally important that we work for policy changes that enhance inclusivity, but the way you behave today toward others on the subway is equally important. The way our church continually lets disenfranchised groups know that they are welcome matters as much as legislative action. Even a child who comforts a classmate who has been bullied has done something as important as getting a bill passed.
The message we convey as a church matters.
The way you act today matters.
The world needs positive alternatives. You can be one today.
See you in church,