As bigotry stirs globally, Bosnian Jews, Muslims recall lesson in tolerance

As bigotry stirs globally, Bosnian Jews, Muslims recall lesson in tolerance
By Maja Zuvela

SARAJEVO (Reuters) – Bosnia’s Jews and Muslims on Thursday marked the bicentenary of the rescue of a dozen Jews from an Ottoman-era governor’s jail, saying their liberation by Sarajevo Muslims is a great example of co-existence at a time of rising global sectarian hatred.

The 1819 rescue, which happened during a Muslim uprising, and consequent removal of corrupt Turkish governor Mehmed Ruzdi Pasha is a holiday for Sarajevo’s Jews, known as Purim di Saray. The governor had sought a huge ransom to spare the Jews’ lives.

The event was marked by a joint exhibition and conference depicting the events and celebrating nearly 500 years of peaceful coexistence between Jews and their Muslim neighbors, as well as between Jews and Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats.

“Bosnian Muslims and Jews are one body,” said Bosnia’s Muslim top cleric Husein Kavazovic.

“Amid the ever rising evil of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia … we are renewing our pledge that we will remain good neighbors who will watch over each other as we did in the past.”

The Muslim rebellion was recorded by renowned Sarajevo Jewish historian Mose Rafael Attias, also known as Zeki Effendi, in his book Sarajevo Megillah.

The book’s title is a reference to the Book of Esther, which is read aloud during the Jewish holiday of Purim. The holiday celebrates the Jews’ salvation from genocide in ancient Persia and is normally held in about March.

Attias studied Islam and mediaeval Persian literature and was a passionate interfaith advocate.

His tombstone, which has epitaphs in Bosnian, Hebrew and Turkish, the latter inscribed in Arabic script, has been renovated at the town’s Jewish cemetery as part of the Purim bicentenary.

“The tombstone itself is a proof of Sarajevo’s multiculturalism,” Eli Tauber, an author and historian, told Reuters. “Close links between our communities are unique. The way we mark Purim is also unprecedented and could serve as a role model to the rest of the world.”

Jews have played a significant role in Sarajevo’s cultural and economic life for 450 years. Expelled after the Christian re-conquest of the Iberian peninsula, they found sanctuary in the city, then part of the Ottoman Empire.

At the height of the city’s influence, Sarajevo had eight synagogues serving some 12,000 Jews. But most of them were killed during World War Two, when the city was occupied by Nazi Germany. Fewer than 1,250 remained.

The community recovered somewhat in the post-war era but was dealt another blow with Yugoslavia’s bloody collapse and the subsequent siege of Sarajevo, the longest in modern history.

Before the Bosnian 1992-95 war, Sarajevo was a multi-ethnic melting pot – mosques, churches and synagogues standing virtually side by side. It afterwards become predominantly Muslim, but some 800 Jews living in the town remain an important part of its multi-ethnic identity.

(Reporting by Maja Zuvela, Editing by William Maclean)

Trump denounces white supremacy after shootings, cites video games and internet

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks about the shootings in El Paso and Daytonin the Diplomatic Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., August 5, 2019. REUTERS/Leah Millis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Monday called for urgent action to prevent gun violence and said all Americans must “condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy” after mass shootings in Texas and Ohio killed 29 people and wounded dozens.

Trump, whose rhetoric has frequently been condemned as stoking racial divisions, laid out a number of policy options but did not mention his own past remarks.

“These sinister ideologies must be defeated,” Trump said in remarks at the White House. “Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart and devours the soul.”

On Saturday, a gunman killed 20 people at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, in what authorities said appeared to be a racially motivated hate crime. Just 13 hours later, another gunman in downtown Dayton, Ohio, killed nine people.

Trump said mental health laws should be reformed to better identify mentally disturbed individuals and he called for capital punishment for those who commit mass murder and hate crimes.

He said he had directed the Justice Department to work with local authorities and social media companies to detect mass shooters before they strike. He said the Internet, social media and violent video games had helped radicalize people.

Earlier on Monday, Trump had urged lawmakers in a tweet to put strong checks in place on potential gun buyers, suggesting action could be tied with immigration reform. In his remarks at the White House, however, he did not mention immigration.

(Reporting by Roberta Rammpton and Susan Heavey; Writing by Tim Ahmann; Editing by Bill Trott)

City Cancels Event Over Chick-Fil-A’s “Christian Beliefs”

The city council of a Canadian town canceled an event in a city-owned facility because they did not want to be associated with the Christian beliefs of Chick-Fil-A.

An event center in Nanaimo, British Columbia was scheduled to be rented out to a Georgia-based leadership organization that was putting on a simulcast for business leaders to develop their skills.  The event was sponsored in part by Chick-Fil-A.  When the town’s city council discovered the restaurant was a co-sponsor, they voted 8-1 to cancel the event.

City Council member Jim Kipp said that Christian beliefs were the same as the Boko Haram terrorists killing thousands in Nigeria.  He said that Biblical Christianity was “organized crime.”

“I find [Chick-Fil-A President Dan Cathy’s beliefs] almost to be a criminal point of view in this day and age,” he claimed.

City staff told the council members that the event had nothing to do with the Christian beliefs of the restaurant’s president, but the council members were not interested in the information.

A column in the Tornado Sun newspaper called the council’s actions “shocking bigotry” against Christianity.

Anti-Christian Group Threatens Grieving Mother

An anti-Christian group threatened to sue the grieving mother of a young man killed in an accident because she placed a cross at the accident site.

AnnMarie Devaney set up the cross after her son, a Christian, was killed when a car struck him as he crossed a street in Lake Elsinore.  The memorial included a 5 foot tall cross because her son was a devoted Christian.

The anti-Christian American Humanist Association threatened to sue unless the cross was removed.  The letter from the anti-Christianists was sent to the grieving mother a week after a judge backed the group’s suit to stop a veterans memorial in the city that would have a cross on it.

Community members rallied around the family and wanted to deliver a message to the anti-Christianists that their bigotry and intolerance would not be tolerated in their town.  Residents created crosses of their own and placed them at the site of the accident saying that the only cross the anti-Christianists demanded removed was the cross of the dead man’s family.

“We did it like a homeschool project to teach (our children) about tolerance and not to be afraid of expressing what you believe,” Holly Alteneder said to the local Press-Enterprise newspaper.

Community Rallies Around “In God We Trust”

When the anti-Christian Freedom from Religion Foundation threatened the E.J. Moss Intermediate School over a production of “In God We Trust”, school administrators removed all references to religion from the script.

But the community of Lindale, Texas were not about to let anti-Christian bigotry stop their children from proclaiming the name of Christ. Continue reading