Posted by: Titus Presler | September 26, 2013

“Salaam alekum” at Peshawar Peace Rally – God’s greeting and call in the face of atrocity

IMG_0302By all accounts, today’s Peace Rally at Edwardes College went very well in the wake of Sunday’s catastrophic bombing at All Saints’ Church in Peshawar.  Students, faculty and staff were there in full force – altogether about 3,200 people.

2013-09-26PeaceRally-MemoryCornerBishop Mano Rumalshah, emeritus of Peshawar, spoke, as did Vice Principal Yar Muhammad, Cathedral vicar IMG_0228Joseph John, and Islamiyat Dept chair Sardar Sabir Hussain.  The event was held to honor the students and alumni who were killed in the bombing, for whom a Memory Corner with photographs was set up, reflect on the need for interfaith harmony at this time in Pakistan’s history, and launch the Edwardes College Compassion Appeal to assist affected families.

“Everything went excellently!” said Alwin Edwin, English Department chair, who spearheaded the organizing for the event.

My own reflection, read out by Myra Edwin, also of the English Department, picked up on the standard greeting common in Pakistan and, with variations, throughout the Muslim world:

IMG_0193Salaam alekum – Peace be with you.  We gather today to honor those who were killed and injured in Sunday’s bombing at All Saints’ Church, especially those who were students and alumni of Edwardes College: our students Merab, and Merab, and Shiza; our alumni William and Noel; and our injured alumni Asher and Sherjeel.  I wish I could be with you, but for now I must be content to greet you from afar.

Salaam alekum – Peace be with you.  That is the customary greeting among people throughout Pakistan.  The peace we wish upon one another is the peace of God, and the greeting recognizes that IMG_0242God is the God of peace, not discord; peace, not conflict; peace, not violence.  So in saying “Salaam alekum” to one another we are lifting up for each other God’s eternal invitation to lives, relationships and communities of peace.

Yet we cannot expect God simply to produce peace.  Created in God’s image, we are creatures of vision and decision, will and action.  God expects us to work for the peace that is God’s vision for the human family.

Salaam alekum.  We should hear that greeting not simply as a courtesy, but as a call, as a summons by God through one another to be peacemakers.  We must work for peace in order to prevent such an atrocity as was visited upon the Christian community last Sunday, or such atrocities as were visited upon the Shia community in Quetta last January and February.

Working for peace means listening deeply and trying to understand people who are different from ourselves.  Working for peace means seeking to resolve differences without conflict and violence.  Working for peace requires courage and humility, and it often requires sacrifice.

Let us pray that the God of peace will strengthen us to be God’s peacemakers in our troubled region in this troubled time.

IMG_0311Along these lines, here is another reflection from a Muslim Edwardes student, this one shared on Sunday on an Edwardian student website:

Shocked and heart broken at hearing about the blast in Church at Peshawar. Having studied in Presentation Convent – in fact, coming from a family where generations have passed through Convent – it is indeed a sad sight to see our fellow citizens being the target of terrorism.  I would like to emphasize, though, that terrorism has NO religion.  There have blasts in Mosques, Imambargahs, religious rallies.  No place is safe, and no one is safe.  Islam does NOT condone such acts of senseless terrorism.  May Allah grant a quick recovery to those who are injured, and patience to the bereaved families.  All our prayers and thoughts go with you in this hour of need. We all stand together!

This is solidarity and empathy.

Walekum asalaam – And peace be with you as well.

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