436: Readers Tell Us About … responding to terrorism & Cheeni Rao — plus spirituality in aging … and horror

Once again, thanks to readers like you,
we’ve got your feedback to share …


ON THURSDAY, we immediately established a BALANCE RESOURCES PAGE in response to police and FBI arrests of four men who planned to blow up two synagogues in the Bronx. This incident is a crucial moment for anyone who cares about the future of interfaith peacemaking efforts. If you’re wondering why that’s the case, just visit our Resources Page for more.
    AN IMPORTANT PART OF THAT PAGE is an open invitation to readers to share their thoughts with us and also to share other online links and statements they find helpful in putting this deeply troubling news in perspective.

    OUR FIRST CONTRIBUTION came from a Jewish reader who pointed us toward the wisdom of Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, who posted his own response to the bombing plot. I agree with the reader who forwarded this link to us—it’s a balanced column and well worth reading.
    IN PART, Brad writes: “If anything, this is a story about the efficacy of both local and federal agencies doing their jobs and keeping Americans safe. This is certainly not the “horror” that some groups are labeling it. The horror would have been if they had succeeded and people were killed or injured. But in this case, there was not even any damage to property! So let’s keep things in perspective and not stir the pot of moral outrage anymore than is necessary.”
    And that parallels our own “take” on the incident in our own Balanced Resources Page.

    DR. BENJAMIN PRATT, author of “Ian Fleming’s Seven Deadlier Sins” and a retired counselor who specialized for many years in working with government employees, sent along a thoughtful insider’s perspective on the news:
    My first response to the news was the feeling of gratitude—gratitude for the
sacrificial vigilance of these government workers who spend endless
hours focused on protecting all of us. My second response was to
think, “Well, now it is confirmed why she hasn’t been able to come to
dinner for the last 4 months…she has been working a case.” We have a
number of friends in the FBI, CIA, Border Patrol and often we suspect
they are on big cases. They are slow to respond to invitations because
they are working long hours. I am deeply grateful for their faithful
dedication, but I wish she could come to dinner.
    Then I thought about what I can do. As a person of faith, I can
pray for the courage to be an instrument of peace, a sower of hope
where there is doubt, a sower of love where there is fear and hatred. I can commit myself to be vigilant and vocal where I see fear driven
slander of my Islamic and Jewish brothers and sisters. I can join
hands with all people of faith to witness to the basic yearnings of all
traditions—love of God and fellow inhabitants of our planet, peace,
hope, social justice and economic fairness.

    THE COUNCIL of ISLAMIC ORGANIZATIONS in MICHIGAN, one of the major Muslim networks within the United States, immediately issued a statement—also offering balanced wisdom. Here’s the text:

    Council of Islamic Organizations of Michigan condemns attack on any place of worship.
    Four men were arrested Wednesday for allegedly plotting to bomb a synagogue and a Jewish community center and for planning to shoot down military planes. CIOM applauds our law enforcement agencies for preventing possible harm to either Jewish institutions or to our nation’s military.
    Defense of religious freedom is the foremost Islamic mandate: Holy Qur’an, 22:40, “For, if God had not enabled people to defend themselves against one another, (all) monasteries and churches and synagogues and mosques—in (all of) which God’s name is abundantly extolled—would surely have been destroyed.”
    The Islamic principle understood in the above quotation of a verse of the Holy Scripture is that of respect and protection of all places of worship, Jewish or Christian as well as Muslim, and all foundations built for pious uses. Acts of a few misguided individuals, acting against the principles of their professed faith must not be used to demonize Islam.
    Muslims request all people of good will—not to allow exploitation of this un-Islamic act of a few for others to promote anti-Muslim fear and stereotypes against “all” Muslims.

    ANOTHER READER SUGGESTED we provide a link to this fascinating story by William J. Dobson, a top journalist and scholar on global issues. Dobson’s story was written before these arrests, but it’s well worth reading in the present context. His subject? What the United States could learn from Singapore about the rehabilitation of “terrorists”—using Muslim scholars to correct the twisted impressions of Islamic teaching that may push some young men toward violence.

    CBS NEWS REPRINTED AN ANALYSIS PIECE FROM THE NATION—among the most solid, critical overviews of the news we’ve seen. A couple of readers sent this link our way on Saturday. As a journalist of more than 30 years myself, I have to say—Robert Dreyfuss’ analysis of the case against these so-called terrorists is very persuasive. Most important, strong evidence is surfacing that these so-called Muslims were marginal figures who weren’t active in an Islamic community. (Here’s New York Times coverage of the informant’s role in this plot.)

    WE WILL KEEP THESE PAGES “LIVE” through the weekend, if you want to add a helpful link or statement or share your thoughts. Just email us.


OUR INTERVIEW WITH CHEENI RAO this week, the hot young Indian-American writer who survived drug addiction and years of crime on the streets—to rediscover the tough spiritual strands of his Hindu tradition—drew a number of private reader comments.
    “I hope my parents find that story on your page. I don’t think they’d ever allow the book into their home, but I wish they’d … understand that we love them but we can’t just lock away all the stuff that’s happening inside us … like the man says: God wants us to be honest, but a lot of times we can’t,” wrote a reader who said she went through some very tough stuff in high school and college that she never could talk about with her parents.
    “We’re past it now, I think, but it could have been a lot better … I know I would have had tons less stress … if someone had let me even talk about this. Parents and all our family and all our friends wouldn’t let stuff like this even be talked about. Like don’t talk about it and it doesn’t exist.”
    “It does exist.”

    That was the tone of a number of emails. The woman who above lives in New Jersey. A woman from the Chicago area wrote, “I think it’s even tougher for girls than guys like Mr. Rao.” But, readers did not want their names attached to these notes. Thanks for sending them—even without permission to use your names. They show that these pressures exist all over the landscape for young adults. Cheeni Rao’s spiritual journey was tougher than most, which is why his memoir is such a powerful tale. But many of the truths in his memoir are shared by millions.


    I ran into readers this week (as I traveled to several different cities for meetings) who mentioned both our Tuesday story on “The Gifts of Aging” by Missy Buchanan and our Thursday story on “Horror and Spirituality” by James Leach. One pastor of a large church, in particular, said that Missy’s 10 Tips for Better Ministry is destined to be mentioned in the pastor’s own email newsletter next week. It’s that kind of a solid piece.
    We didn’t hear much on either story via email notes from readers, though. Readers” attention this week was mainly focused on our provocative look at “Why We Treat Our Soldiers So Badly,” a series that is running over at www.OurValues.org. That national problem, which finally is receiving more attention in Washington D.C. right now, relates to many of our readers’ early preparation for the looming Memorial Day weekend. So, it’s timely on a couple of levels for readers.
    Also, by Thursday morning this week, many of our readers were scrambling to find out more about the bombing plot in New York.
    BUT, we still welcome your thoughts on both aging — and horror. And, no we’re not saying the two are related!

    If you missed those stories, though, click back and enjoy them.


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    (Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)

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