Holy Week for Abrahamic Religions, Faiths Urge Continued Resistance to ISIS

By Kate Chance, Interfaith Coordinator; Henry Millstein, PhD, Content Manager & Programs Analyst; and Tim Brauhn, Communications Manager.

This opinion originally appeared at the Huffington Post.

This week is sacred for the Abrahamic traditions and offers a beautiful opportunity to renew the historical bonds that have connected them. The Christian Holy Week started on Palm Sunday, and Passover began Monday evening. For Muslims, the stories that feature prominently this week, like the Israelites’ flight to freedom and Jesus’ miracles, also appear prominently in the Qur’an. In a season like this, the theological and textual proximity to each other’s traditions should draw us into love and friendship.

Instead, some have used this time to violently promote division and distrust among our religions. On Palm Sunday, ISIS-connected terrorists attacked two Coptic Christian churches in Egypt, killing dozens and wounding hundreds. In so doing, they violated the sacred commandment against attacking houses of worship that the Qur’an laid down fourteen centuries ago:

“Had God not restrained one set of people by means of another, monasteries, churches, synagogues, temples and mosques wherein God’s name is oft-mentioned would have been destroyed.” (Qur’an, 22:39-40)

The Qur’an itself and numerous hadith (sayings of the Prophet Muhammad) support the pursuit of peace among faiths, especially when it comes to resisting the urge to convert or conquer in the name of God:

“For each of them, We have established a law, and a revealed way. And if God wished, God would have made you a single nation; but the intent is to test you in what God has given you. So let your goals be everything good. Your destiny, everyone, is to God, Who will tell you about that wherein you differed.” (5:48)

Islamic Networks Group (ING) is a Muslim-founded nonprofit with many non-Muslim staff. We exemplify our Abrahamic values by pursuing peace through education about each other’s faiths and engaging across religious lines for the common good. In so doing, we represent the antithesis of criminals like ISIS who pursue ignorant and violent and, above all, narrow interpretations of sacred texts and traditions.

We know that it is important to “live and let live” because God knows best. But a more accurate rendering might be “live and help thrive”. This is a commandment that cuts across faiths and strengthens our religiously-diverse societies, including Egypt’s.

In the aftermath of the Palm Sunday attacks, mosques across that country held emergency blood drives to help the victims. Egyptian Muslims protested — loudly — against the government’s perceived inaction in combating terrorism and failure to protect its religious minorities against those who would harm them. At the end of the day, they said, we are all Egyptians no matter how we pray.

This calls to mind the 2016 Marrakesh Declaration on the Rights of Religious Minorities, a landmark statement by more than 250 Muslim religious leaders, heads of state, and scholars. The conference that created the Declaration was called in response to the persecution of religious minorities like Christians and Yazidis by ISIS. It built on historical Islamic sources laying out the protections that Muslim countries must ensure for their non-Muslim residents.

These expressions of interreligious solidarity are the norm for Muslims and the other Abrahamic traditions, not the exception. And every time we respond to hatred with love, we deny ISIS the victory and legitimacy that they so deeply crave.