Exhortations to Understanding

A Letter to Africa
March 21, 2010
A Letter to the Weary and Wayward
March 24, 2010

To our Christian friends, Peace be With You.
To our Muslim friends, As-Salāmu`Alaykum.
To our Jewish friends, Shabbath Shalom.
To all friends of faith and spirit, Peace to You in Love.

The time for considering the differences of our faith are over. For we have expended immeasurable energies on expounding difference for difference’s sake; it has rendered in stone all reasons why we should not engage one another peaceably, with an underlying acceptance of humanity as one race, one people. I have come to shatter those stones, but I cannot do it alone.

It is precisely the vulnerability of the human condition that we are weak alone, and strong when bound together. The individual subsists in being individual with others, not in being an individual against community. The great irony of the borders we set between us is the individuality we so desperately seek—how would we know what it is to be an individual, unless we first know what it is to be a community? Yet we have left this behind, for our own pride and our own motives, unconcerned with common benefits and mutual responsibilities. I can guarantee, and many who have gone before me would testify, that when we have exerted ourselves to block out relationship for our own self-sufficiency, it is only then that we realize the false happiness that comes with utter independence. However much we deny the contributions of others in our life, it comes to such a point that our falling and our failure require the support of others. Perhaps we are disgraced to recognize and acknowledge it, but it must come to us while we are still able to fully live, or we must die without the benefit and happiness of human communion.

Therefore, I call upon all of you to engage in a rich and trying project of the spirit. It is not to be denied that faith and spirituality guide this race, though some may feel bound entirely to secularism. Nonetheless, if we are to be a peaceable community of differences, we must attempt to understand one another. Begin, therefore, by looking within—what is it you believe? Why do you believe it? When you have examined yourself and know the foundations on which you stand, you may then begin to converse with others. In deep respect and honor, we must together not only educate ourselves on the traditions bound with faith, but experience the acts of worship and ritual which gird the everyday lives of faithful this world over. Thereafter, we may return to ourselves and to one another, having experienced a new life, a new faith, a new culture with others and speak about what we gathered in the experience. What is it we now understand, and what yet remains a mystery? It is in this continued and intentional process that we relegate myth and rumor to the annals of history and build up for ourselves a new creation of mutuality, respect, and love.

I ask you: How else do we hope to conquer the anger born of difference, if not in these very rich and challenging trials? Too much has been studied, too much discussed, and not enough practiced. Do not be vain enough to think that you need justification to engage in this, for the reason is in the act, and the act is sufficient unto itself. Begin, and you will be satisfied.

There is no great secret to knowing one another, but effort and intention. It is easiest, I believe, when we engage together. Why, therefore, are we waiting? What is there to wait for? What is yet to come that will drive us onward? For the impetus lies within, and the possibility is now.

Go, then. Know yourself, and know others. It is indeed the simple joy of our race to do so.

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