Hind Kabawat

Conflict Resolution specialist

Arguably the most famous words Jesus ever uttered were “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” That sentiment perfectly expresses the Christian gospel’s message of love, forgiveness and redemption and those were lessons I learned many years ago when my grandfather and grandmother took me as a very young girl to our church in Damascus to attend bible studies at my Sunday school. In a small room in a modest Evangelic Church I learned the most important lessons of my life: To love unconditionally and to accept others even when they test you to the limits. For the rest of the week I put the lessons I learned at Sunday School into practice at my secular elementary school where children from all of Syrian’s diverse religious traditions—Sunni and Shia Muslim, Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant Christian and, yes, Jewish—studied and played together and, as importantly, learned to treat each other as “brothers” and “sisters.”

For any practising Christian the most fundamental tenet is love one’s fellow humans no matter what the provocation–and it is a lesson I was reminded, again, a couple of years ago, in Damascus when Dr. Salah Keftaro, the son of the former Grand Mufti of Syria for over thirty years, invited an American cleric and a Jewish rabbi to speak at a mosque. Such inter-faith dialogue is, I believe, absolutely critical to promote understanding, tolerance and, yes, forgiveness, especially at this point in time in history when religious intolerance and bigotry seem to be sadly on the ascendant. Which is why I have been very disappointed, along with many others, at the reaction in many quarters of American life to the proposal to build a Muslim prayer centre and community centre near the site of Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan in New York City. To me there would be no greater way to honour Jesus Christ, a man who preached love and forgiveness on Calvary, the very ground on which he was murdered by his tormentor, than to build a place to glorify God near the place where the most monstrous evil was committed in his name. What better way to rebuke the misguided souls who acted mistakenly in his name than to build a holy place near Ground Zero. It is an initiative which, I believe, Jesus, himself, would endorse and, as importantly, it is an act that would reaffirm to the world that the ideals which made America great—openness, tolerance, freedom of religion, freedom of expression—are still alive and well in the face of even the most evil provocation. As Jesus said on the cross over two millennia ago, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Hind Aboud Kabawat/ A Syrian Christian Activist from Damascus.