President Obama’s speech – Cairo, Egypt 4 June – mentioned the Isra’ story

What can a Christian say?

Background

I have a certain admiration for people who can talk to a crowd and win them over with the power and poetry of their words. In earlier times, I often referred to President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address (20 Jan 1961), as a great example of a short, concise speech that carried along the audience by the excellence of its content and delivery.

President Obama, perhaps has an even greater ability to deliver a message that finds its way into the minds and hearts of women and men.

Consequently, everything he says has been carefully crafted and fine tuned for his intended audience.

His Cairo speech, I’ve read several times now – is another fine example of his skills in this area.  I support the overall thrust of his speech – and who, would not? Peace, for all mankind, is a goal that all rational people can agree with, and support.

The conclusion of his speech is eloquent; and, would be an encouragement for many, to hear:

All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort – a sustained effort – to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.

It is easier to start wars than to end them. It is easier to blame others than to look inward; to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There is also one rule that lies at the heart of every religion – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This truth transcends nations and peoples – a belief that isn’t new; that isn’t black or white or brown; that isn’t Christian, or Muslim or Jew. It’s a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the heart of billions. It’s a faith in other people, and it’s what brought me here today.

We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.

The Holy Koran tells us, “O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.”

The Talmud tells us: “The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.”

The Holy Bible tells us, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God’s vision. (We do?)  Now, that must be our work here on Earth. Thank you. And may God’s peace be upon you.”

 

Discussion

So, why my interest in this speech? In the early part of his speech (7th para), he says: I am a Christian, but my father came from a Kenyan family that includes generations of Muslims.”

About half-way through his speech, he then says: Too many tears have flowed. Too much blood has been shed. All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed (peace be upon them) joined in prayer.”

Keep in mind, that nothing President Obama says, is a slip of the tongue; it’s always carefully thought through, and carefully considered in terms of impact and interpretation.

The story of Isra’ is summarised as follows, (material sourced from a number of Islamic sites):  It’s a story greatly modified by tradition, and relates to a journey Muhammad made astride, a mythical winged creature, in the company of the archangel Gabriel from his home to Jerusalem (a far off mosque) and then to heaven where he meets God. Some versions of the story inform the listeners that not even Gabriel was allowed (nor anyone else, including Jesus), such ‘close’ access to God’s presence.

While, in Jerusalem, Muhammad meets Abraham, Moses, and Jesus; and, he then officiates as leader of the prayers, for all the prophets assembled. The important point for followers of Islam, is that his leadership of the prayer meeting, establishes his primacy among God’s messengers. That is Muhammad has leadership over Jesus (and Moses).

The reference to the story of Isra’ in my view was not required; and, as a Christian – I would avoid making such references because of its possible interpretation by more than a few of an audience. He could have easily crafted a  different set of words to illustrate the point he was making – the peaceful sharing of Jerusalem by peoples of different faiths. 

 

His words carried one meaning for ‘Islam’ that would be missed by most Christians listening to his speech. This aspect worries me – because, I think it was that planned for such a purpose. 

Am I, making much about nothing – what do you think?