Interfaith Success Begins with Facing Intra-faith Insecurity

Beliefnet interfaith expert Andrew Bowen lends his thoughts to the recent faith-driven violence.

In the fall of 2011, my oldest daughter presented me with a dilemma. We had just left the local fitness center where she and her sister attended a weekly exercise and wellness class designed for children. I noticed a change in her behavior, a reticence and shyness about attending class that she’d never exhibited before.

“You’ve acted strange the last couple of weeks about your class, Shay. Is there something wrong?” I asked and peeked at her through the rearview mirror of our family vehicle.

She folded her arms and squinted out the window. “No…”

“The other kids pick on her,” he sister sitting next to her volunteered.

“Nevaeh! Mind your own business!”

“Well, somebody had to say it.” Nevaeh insisted.

Shaylie has a seemingly preternatural talent for anything she attempts, so it puzzled me that anyone would find grounds to tease her.


“Well, how do they tease you?”

Shaylie was silent.

Nevaeh huffed, rolled her eyes and said, “There’s this girl, I think her name is Lauren. She teases us because we’re homeschooled.”

“Is that true, Shay?”

Tears budded in her eyes. She slowly nodded and tightened her folded arms.

Teasing and bullying are a sensitive issues for me, as it is for most parents. I was a victim of relentless bullying for the majority of my school career until the 11th grade of high school, so when my daughters suffer in this way, everything becomes personal.


A few days ago, on the eleventh anniversary of the September 11th attacks, we suffered another blow from bullying. I use the pronoun “we” here because this pervasive issue of sensitivity is becoming less and less a Muslim, Christian, Jew, etc. problem and wholly a human one.


Libyan protesters, angered by an American-produced, anti-Islamic film that depicted the prophet Muhammad, stormed the US consulate in the city of Benghazi and killed the American ambassador to Libya and three others. The perpetrators claimed they were defending the honor of Prophet Muhammad against the blasphemous acts of the film’s production. Similar protests broke out in Yemen later in the week.

This reaction among Muslims is only the latest in a long history of sensitivity deeply seeded within the general religious ethos. One must only brush the surface of religious history to find the intense iconoclasm during the bitter years of the early Protestant Reformation, the distrust and expulsion of Buddhists in Northern India, or the Israelite extermination of the competing theological communities in Canaan. All of these examples and others point more often than not toward a simple yet pervasive carcinogen to human character:
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