The King of Pakistan
I had one of those encouraging cross-religious experiences in Pakistan last week.
I needed it!
I enjoy the free-for-all of Internet chat rooms because of the honestly that comes from pseudo-anonymity. People say what they really think and I prefer that although it can be disgusting and frightening. It is not uncommon to encounter professing Christians who advocate for the murder of one-billion Muslims because Islam is a violent religion.
I like that they are honestly speaking from their minds and hearts even though it often reveals deep hatred. Such encounters make it easy to get cynical about Christianity or religion in general. A counter-doses of good religion are needed as antidote this evil, sinister wing of my own religion.
On my trip to Pakistan and had meaningful discussions about religion with a couple of Muslim guys. The first made a fairly articulate denunciation of sectarian violence between the Sunni and Shia.
The other guy, a driver of a 25-year-old barely intact taxi, was extremely inarticulate. In broken English laced with Urdu (I think!) he made a moving appeal for inter-religious understanding.
More remarkable is that this came from a person who is probably illiterate and may never hear sermons about interfaith peace-making. His hopeful worldview is unrewarded, original thinking.
"Today, I am a taxi driver," he told me as he avoided near collisions at just about every intersection, "but, someday, I will be king of Pakistan. You are my mumber-one advisor. What advice you give me?"
I said end all corruption. This made him smile through his bushy gray beard. I asked him what he would do. Good education for all, he said, and shut-down the radical groups.
"What religion are you?" he asked.
"Christian." I answered.
"The Koran, your book... the... the bible and the Jew... the Jewman book, they have the same stories. Yes?"
Yes and no, I thought. We do share some of the same formative stories from our early days, even though we seem to take different lessons from them.
"Yes," I said.
"The Muslim, the Christian and the Jewman... if we have the same stories, we can call each other brother."
"Or at least, cousin," I agreed
When we arrived at the destination, he declared, "I not charge you for the ride. I no charge family."
I was deeply touched by the gesture but would not hear of it. (The fare was about four bucks in a country where a dollar is a common day's wage.)
Getting out of the taxi and shutting the clanky door, I said, "Goodbye, brother. Telephone me when you are king."