Public prayer with non-Christians is risky business, at least if you’re a Missouri Synod Lutheran. Pastor David Benke of the LCMS is going through a disciplinary process for having prayed at the interfaith “Prayer for America” service held at Yankee Stadium in September 2001 following the terrorist attacks. That event included Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus.
When John Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, I was sitting in Miss Wyatt’s seventh grade classroom at Tuscaloosa Junior High School. My wooden desk was next to a wall with high windows, and while the news came over the intercom I watched dust motes drifting in a beam of light as if they had been excused from the law of gravity.
In their long struggle for equality, India’s dalits, or “untouchables,” have often exchanged their Hinduism for Islam, Christianity, Sikhism or Buddhism, believing that they will better their lives by doing so. They have been persuaded that Hinduism, with its varna ashramas (caste distinctions), has been solely responsible for all their ills.
On February 27, an express train carrying more than 2,500 passengers and running four hours late drew up at the Godhra railway station on the Gujarat-Madhya Pradesh border in Central India. It was a little after seven in the morning.
Some of my earliest memories are of gatherings at my grandparents’ small apartment in Milwaukee where my relatives would crowd around the dining-room table and talk passionately about Israel. Many had been involved in labor Zionism in their youth, before they immigrated to the U.S. from Russia.
Many of the most moving experiences I have had with students in class have involved encounters with members of other religious traditions. When teaching at the University of Saint Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois, I used to invite Rabbi Herman Schaalman to speak to first-year seminarians about the importance of Jewish-Christian dialogue since the Shoah.
By now we are all too familiar not only with the major terrorist attacks on the World Trade towers and the Pentagon, but also with the smaller terrorist attacks on Muslims, Sikhs and Arab-Americans in the weeks since then. At the time of this writing, the murder of an Arizona Sikh man named Balbir Singh Sodhi is the latest deadly case of mistaken identity.