The Crescent, the Cross and global healing

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, September 11, 2002

Readers of this column are familiar with the words of Russian writer Dostoevsky: "The world will be saved by beauty." These words have shaped the course of our coffee chats from the very first cup. Especially now, with the ugliness of last year's terrorist attacks against the United States vivid in our memories, these words beckon us anew to hope and healing.

On this first anniversary of that dark day, I'd like to share with you some healing beauty provided by two of our coffee companions, one a Muslim, the other a Christian.

Iftikhar Chaudhary has become one of my treasured mentors in the ways of Islam. At his invitation, I attended the closing session of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Annual Convention held in Calgary, Sept. 1.

In the spirit of their motto, "Love for all, hatred for none," the two featured speakers drew a sharp line between terrorism and Islam.

Islam, like Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism, has been hijacked by fanatics and terrorists, said Muslim missionary Mubarak Nazir. "We condemn terrorism wherever it is practiced."

Jihad, often translated as "holy war," rightly understood is not about struggle against others, but about struggle within oneself, he said.

Yes, said Naseem Mahdi, Ahmadiyya national president, the struggle for each Muslim is to develop compassion and tolerance.

"Let us come back to God," he said, "and let us come to our senses."

This coming to our senses is about beauty, according to the Qur'an:

"Goodness and evil cannot be alike. With the help of beauty and the beauteous, remove evil. That is the only way that you can convert your enemies into such friends as will shower their lives upon you."

And since such beauty is intimately associated with authenticity, the topic of last week's column, this is a good time to introduce our second coffee companion, Colette Broder, of Cochrane, who wrote me the following from a Christian perspective:

"I read your column last week and was struck by the phrase 'authentic spirituality.' I began to ponder what that means for me and, perhaps in different ways, for all of us. Somehow it seems fitting that we would all begin to reflect on this deeper path in our lives as we approach 9/11.

"It makes me wonder if some of us at one time or another have experienced our own 'Ground Zero.' Maybe this should cause even more introspection on what it really means to be spiritually authentic. For myself it may simply mean going back to the basics."

Colette attached a copy of A Healing Garden, a poem she wrote a year ago Easter. What she describes, it seems to me, is not far from Mubarak Nazir's understanding of jihad: in confronting our own complicity with evil we find healing.

Garden of Eden
garden of sin and choices
blame and freewill
i looked back only once and saw
the flaming swords in place
and i ran

Garden of Gethsemane
garden of agony and pain
blood and tears
i looked back only once and saw You
face down in the rocky soil
and then i ran-abandoning You

Golgotha—place of the Skull
garden of death and darkness scorn and shame
i looked back only once
at the nails
i had driven
into your flesh
then i dropped the hammer
and ran

The Garden Tomb
the healing gardens
garden of life and hope
healing and forgiveness
i never looked back once
as i ran to You—so Alive
and fell at Your feet to remain
in the Healing Garden— forever.

© 2001 Colette Broder

Colette ended her note with the prayer "that everyone may find their own garden of healing as we approach this dark milestone in civilization."

And so the Crescent of Islam and the Cross of Christianity visit together in the garden as they sow the seeds of hope in the fertile soil of beauty on this, the anniversary of 9/11.

© 2002 Warren Harbeck

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