While the conflict between Hamas and Israel dominates the news, Muslims and Jews are joining forces this week to feed hungry people. The Foundation for Ethnic Understanding is partnering with the World Jewish Congress and Islamic Society of North America. Now in its fifth year, this initiative is working in 25 countries to bring Muslims and Jews together.
“In this time of warfare it was a beautiful experience to see the two come together,” said a Muslim student who worked with Jews to feed the homeless in Washington, D.C. last Sunday. More than 17 such projects are going on around our country this week. In Northern Virginia, children from a mosque and synagogue worked together to clean up a park. That night, members of their congregations dined together as the Muslim host and the temple’s rabbi offered prayers for peace in the Middle East.
On December 1, in New Orleans, Muslims and Jews will come together to visit people in nursing homes and hospitals. On Christmas Day, in St. Louis, Muslim and Jewish volunteers will deliver meals and other essential services so that Christian caregivers can spend the holiday with their families. One rabbi said that the groups don’t discuss the hostilities in Israel and Gaza, “but the political situation made it all the more crucial that we get together.”
With all that is bad in our nation, much is good. Our presidential election, while divisive, has not led to the chaos that results from contested elections in so many countries. While Europe has fallen back into recession, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke said yesterday that our economy could have a “very good year” if it avoids the “Fiscal Cliff.” The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there are 3.6 million job openings in America, the highest level of job vacancies in nearly four years. Four of the 10 broad industries it tracks are hiring and struggling to find enough workers.
Am I deeply concerned about the moral trajectory of our nation? Absolutely. Are we facing grave challenges at home and abroad? Without a doubt. But it’s vital that we give thanks for our blessings even as we confront our problems. Scripture calls us to “give thanks in all circumstances,” both bad and good (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
The decade of the 1660’s in England was a disaster. A plague in 1665 swept through London leaving 70,000 dead in its wake. A year later, a fire destroyed four fifths of the city. Bishop Thomas Ken knew that in hard times we need the encouragement that comes from thanking God for his blessings. In his nation’s most desperate hour he wrote these words for her people to sing: “Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above ye heavenly host. Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.”
As you prepare for Thanksgiving tomorrow, why are you grateful to God today?