ELCA NEWS SERVICE
August 31, 2010
ELCA Synod Bishop Comments on New York Muslim Center Proposal
CHICAGO (ELCA) -- Regardless of whether people approve or disapprove of a possible Muslim community center or mosque in lower Manhattan, a synod bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) wrote in an Aug. 30 public statement that this is a time for all to be sensitive to one another and for Christians to learn more about Islam.
The Rev. Robert A. Rimbo, bishop of the ELCA Metropolitan New York Synod, wrote a commentary that appears on the synod's website about the controversial proposal to build the center near the site of the New York City's World Trade Center, destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
"We live in a continuing, escalating culture of fear," Rimbo wrote. "If we succumb to that fear, terrorism and extremism will be able to claim another victory. Rather, it is my hope and prayer that the energy surrounding this proposal can be directed to confronting our fears. Factual information may help."
In calling for greater understanding, particularly by Christians, Rimbo wrote that Islam is "one of the world's major faith traditions, our 'cousins' in Abrahamic faith."
"Islam is complex, just as Christianity is complex. I would not want the world to judge all of Christianity on the basis of a few violent extremists; so, too, we should not condemn all of Islam because of a strand of that tradition," he wrote.
Rimbo wrote that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, leader of the proposed Muslim center, "is of the Sufi tradition, the most mystical of the branches of Islam and, in my opinion, the most tolerant and pluralistic." He wrote that Sufism has itself been seen as guilty of infidelity to the tradition by more fundamentalist versions of Islam and has been a target of Jihadist violence.
Rimbo quoted William Dalrymple, who wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times Aug. 16: "Sufism is an entirely indigenous, deeply rooted resistance movement against violent Islamic radicalism. Whether it can be harnessed to a political end is not clear. But the least we can do is to encourage the Sufis in our own societies. Men like Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf should be embraced as vital allies, and we should have only contempt for those who, through ignorance of political calculation, attempt to conflate them with the extremists."
The ELCA Metropolitan New York Synod bishop said there are thoughtful, well-reasoned arguments on both sides of the debate about locating the Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero in New York City.
Rimbo acknowledged that many people still have much pain regarding the tragic events of Sept. 11, 2001.
"But how will preventing this center from being constructed help us to deal with that pain? There is great fear driving our lives today. How do persons of faith respond to that fear?" he wrote.
"We commend ourselves to the reliable and merciful arms of the God of Abraham, the God whom Jesus calls Abba, the God whom Muslims and Christians in various parts of the world call Allah. This God promises a reign in which all shall be well. Our faith is bigger and stronger than all our fears," Rimbo's statement concluded.
The full text of Bishop Robert Rimbo's public statement is at http://www.mnys.org/default.asp?contentID=601 on the Web.
For information contact:
John Brooks, Director (773) 380-2958 or firstname.lastname@example.org