On September 11, 2012, America was struck with another tragedy when Ambassador Christopher Stevens was killed in Libya. Investigators initially believed that the ambassador was killed by protesters who had gathered in response to a video made in America and published on YouTube, slandering the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). However, the response to this infamous video was ironic on two fronts. First, in responding to slander and bigotry with violence and murder, the protesters contradicted the teachings of the man they claimed to be protecting. Secondly, the man they killed was, according to the testimonies of those who knew him best, a great friend of Islam.
In the days following this senseless murder, many Muslims and friends of Muslims were forced to defend Islam. Islam is a religion, best represented by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), that at its essence teaches the same values as the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament. In regards to the commandment “Thou Shall Not Kill”, the Qur'an states that murdering one person is the equivalent to the murder of all of humanity (Surah 5, Verse 32). Incidents such as the murder of Ambassador Stevens serve as ammunition for those who seek to misrepresent Islam. These individuals are threatened by a religion that strikes them as irreconcilably foreign.
Ambassador Stevens was a great friend of Islam. Throughout his tenure in the Foreign Service, Ambassador Stevens practiced a model of diplomacy seldom seen. He believed that he could soften the Libyan public’s image of America through one-on-one interaction and dialogue. Ambassador Stevens explored the Arab world through his relationships, and he offered a vision of a hopeful future built on mutual understanding. When the initial news of Ambassador Stevens’ death reached Georgetown University, the Muslim Students’ Association felt a responsibility to honor his memory with a display that would have made him proud.
The Muslim Students’ Association organized an Interfaith Prayer Vigil in honor of Ambassador Stevens and the others killed in service of our country in the Libya attacks. While it has since been discovered that the attacks were pre-planned by militant groups, the spirit of the vigil remains relevant. Ambassador Stevens was killed by forces who seek to separate us and refuse to believe that our differences can be overcome through dialogue. At Georgetown University, we brought together Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Jews, and Hindus in a show of solidarity against these very forces. We stood up in prayer to acknowledge our support and respect for the mission of Ambassador Stevens who served our country and our world so valiantly.
As I left the vigil, I was reminded of one of my favorite poems and prayers, Mother Teresa’s Anyway.
People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway.
Mother Teresa comments on the lamentable nature of humans, but encourages her readers to persevere. She concludes with the statement, “You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God; It was never between you and them anyway.” Ambassador Stevens embodied this poem with his fearless commitment to building a world where religion is used as a constructive force rather than a reason for division.