__The commandment to “Love your neighbor” had no exceptions…
You know, of course, that your neighbor is more than someone who lives next door to you. He or she is someone who will come to help you out when you have been beaten and thrown into the ditch of life. Or someone you have absolutely nothing in common with at all. Let’s talk.
A few weeks ago I was invited to speak at a business forum organized by the same group that puts together Tanzania’s National Prayer Breakfast. At last minute I was unable to attend due to logistical challenges. I was sad about that, so I hope I get another opportunity. I have spoken at two National Prayer Breakfasts in the past, in the USA and Kenya.
For my friends from Tanzania and others who are interested, I thought to share the talk I delivered at Kenya Prayer Breakfast a few years ago. You can click here to watch: http://bit.ly/National_Prayer_Breakfast
Prior to arriving to Kenya, I had spent days drafting my speech, but when I got there I learned the organizers had reduced the time slot. It was incredibly inconvenient. (It seemed I had travelled around the world to speak for only 10 minutes!)
In such situations, you can choose either to get mad or get busy, so I basically abandoned what I had written and scribbled a few notes during the event.
Now I have had the privilege in my life (for which I’m eternally grateful to The Father of Light) to speak before world leaders and in panels with famous people. And yet for me this is probably the greatest speech I ever made, anywhere!
The entire national leadership of Kenya was there, including the President and his deputy, along with cabinet ministers, judges, legislators, and members of the opposition. Religious leaders — Christians, Muslim, Hindu, and Jewish — were also there.
Kenya was in mourning following a deadly terrorist attack at Garissa University which left 147 innocent students dead and 79 others injured. It was horrific.
As I listened to speaker after speaker recount what they did, and how they were feeling, it was clear that Kenyans of all religions, political backgrounds, tribes, race, gender were standing as one in rejection of extremism and intolerance.
When it was my turn, I got up and read the Bible verse about the Good Samaritan, and shared some of my research on who the Samaritan people were, and why they were generally despised by the majority population:
# They were people of a different race, tribe, and religion.
# There was a history of animosity between the communities that dated back hundreds of years.
As I was preparing to leave the hotel after the speech, a group of religious leaders representing Christians and Muslims was waiting in the lobby. They hugged me tearfully.
People who had watched on national TV sent me messages, including the Kenyan president’s mother. The leader of the opposition, Hon Raila Odinga, called me about it.
At the airport, Kenyans of all ages, particularly young people, told me they had seen it.
__My friends: The “Good Samaritan” could turn out to be your Muslim neighbor, your Christian neighbor, the Jewish guy, the white guy, the black guy, the Arab guy, or even the guy from a tribe that once murdered or persecuted your people… You might not even approve of his or her way of life.
We must reject and fight intolerance, whether it be racism, tribalism, religious bigotry, anti-Semitism, xenophobia or extremism of any kind.
If we want to unleash the full potential of this great continent, we have to pull down the borders. We have to be good neighbors to those who are different from us. I will never forget the day one of my children cried about being mocked by a teacher for believing in Jesus Christ. I had to sit her down and tell her that her teacher was guilty of “religious bigotry and intolerance,” even though that teacher did not consider himself religious.
__We must be respectful of the dignity and rights of others to believe, or not to believe (as the case may be).
Now the African continent is a giant waiting to be awakened, but first we must kick the elephant out of the room! (If you don’t know the expression, look it up!)
# The elephant is intolerance. One of the worst forms of intolerance is from men who cannot accept that women have the same rights as men in everything.
# The elephant is the injustice where you cannot live with your neighbor. No matter what our fathers and mothers may have told us that happened in the past, it is in the past.
The elephant is also the silence of those who can speak up for mutual respect, love and integrity… yet choose not to.
To be continued. . .