An Appointment in Samarra

There is an old Arab legend about a servant who went shopping in the marketplace and encountered Death. He became frightened and ran home to inform his master of who he had seen. The master feared Death had come for him so he packed some belongings and fled to the city of Samarra. The servant truly loved his master and returned to the marketplace and walked up to Death and berated him for frightening his master. Death replied he had no intention of hurting anyone in this city, but he did have an appointment in Samarra.

Yesterday, a famous Shiite shrine in Samarra was attacked by Sunni gunmen. In Gaza, forces of Hamas seized key points and inflicted casualties upon their Fatah opponents. The Lebanon army is fighting terrorists in Palestinian refugee camps. Each day I read about violence and killing between people who share a common heritage, and, for the most part, a common religion. One wonders if people in the Arab world have an appointment in Samarra.

I am reminded about a meeting held in the Middle East back in the forties when the American representative, Ralph Bunche, asked disputing Arabs to try and solve their problems in a “good Christian manner.” No, we don’t need people acting in a Christian or Jewish or Buddhist manner, simply as good Muslims intent on carrying into action the tenets of their religion which strives for peace and justice in the world.

Martin Luther King led marches for justice and equality in which those marching were beaten and jailed, but they continued marching. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Muslim religious leaders led a march for peace in Gaza or walked the streets of Baghdad insisting there be an end to violence and refused to cease marching until a ceasefire was put into effect. Of course, this would require cooperation between all factions that currently are killing one another. The Arab world calls out for its religious leaders to assume a leading role in bringing about peace. if not, then the region will have a disastrous appointment in Samarra.

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