Religion : Violence or Humanity?

Tell me what is your religion? Me, I chose Humanity.

A few days ago was September 11th. Most of us remember it like yesterday : this Tuesday morning, I hadn’t even finished yet my coffee when my friend said on the phone, “America is under attack!! One of the Twin Towers just collapsed like a house of cards!”. 13 years later, I still remember the tone of his voice.

Then came the endless hours of trying to reach my brother and sister, who were both living in Manhattan. On that day, me and a herd of students we stayed glued in front of the break room’s TV. We couldn’t believe our eyes. Were we really in the 3rd millenium, yet still seeing a nameless evil that we believed was resolved?

Since that day, I believed nothing would ever be the same. Then came Madrid, London, Oslo, Toulouse and Brussels… basically, nothing really changed.

Since 2001, we have witnessed a normalization of violence. Many have seen those videos containing a barbarism that I wouldn’t normally dare to mention. Or there are those, who when confronted by acts of violence, rush to be the first posting their mobile phone images online rather than taking helping or defending innocent victims, simply to garner more morbid « likes » on social networks, as if it were a contest. Many recall the scoop of that poor man stuck on a New York subway’s tracks : didn’t it worth trying to save him instead of taking pictures?

There are those who grew up in my country and yet rejected its values. Do they seek a self-affirmation? Do they have a profound identity crisis whose thirst cannot be quenched by our failed republican, religious and family models? How come former classmates could have become these militant jihadists, offering what humanity can be at its ugliest day?

Why, in the name of a common cause are some attracted by such intolerant speeches? Must we absolutely choose a side, reject our objectivity? Do we systematically have to dehumanize and blame the “other side”? Can’t we question ourselves? How can one maintain credibility while defending Palestinians and stigmatizing Zionism, and another defends Israel while doing the same toward Islam? Can one be really taken seriously when they decry the slightest misinformation about Israel and yet does the same thing to his detractors? Let me clarify : if Zionism, a mostly misunderstood concept, is a noble and non-racist cause, it does not give me the right to place upon Palestinians all the blame for their humiliation.

As I’m writing these lines, I am torn between a fear of the future and a hope for today. Yes, there are many, who refuse to withdraw into their “tribes” and extend their hand to the “other”. They build, in their own way, bridges between people.

Meeting them would simply warm your heart. Some examples? Simon : a retired IDF officer, who spent his last five years overseeing a food bank in Israel, on a fully volunteer basis, for the Israeli humanitarian organization LATET. I had the chance to volunteer at his side : wearing a Yarmulke, he welcomes any needy person in fluent Arabic or Hebrew, without distinction. Or there is Amin : founder of Mémoire et Dialogue, which promotes closer ties between Arabs and Jews in the Montreal community through conferences, exhibitions and shows. I also think of “Parler en Paix“‘s  (Talk in Peace) volunteers, in Paris, who, by actively teaching Hebrew and Arabic, reminds us how close our cultures really are. Or Miri, this Israeli who, after graduating with a PhD in social work, spent years implementing initiatives between the Negev Bedouins and Jewish Israelis. Or Kamal Hachkar, this French-Moroccan movie director of “Tinghrir Jerusalem, Echoes of the Mellah”, also reminds us of our rich common heritage. And how can I forget mentioning Ruth, who accompanied groups of French Muslims in Israel or Celena, this 18 years old student, who organised (in Paris) a march for peace called “Jews and Muslims Hands to Hands together”, in the midst of this summer Israel-Hamas war?

They all share this refusal to fall into easy generalizations and systematic victimization. Through their humanism, they give me hope that we can build, here and now, a better World.

So what does it mean to do the right thing? For some it may start by sharing responsible messages in promoting more dialogue, rather than more prejudice : why should one’s Facebook account be a wall of propaganda when it can be open to debate and exchange of ideas? For others, it could be giving time or money to support one of these associations promoting coexistence.

For me, it means building bridges with those who share my religion. Whether they are Jewish, Muslim, Secular, Christian or whatever-else, I don’t really care.

My religion refuses to stay silent to injustice, my religion is simply called: Humanity.

About the Author
Ariel grew up in France and moved to Canada after finishing high-school. He lived there 12 years during which he became Canadian. In 2010 he made ​​Aliyah and lived in Tel Aviv for two years, before resuming his studies at Concordia University in Montreal.