On Thursday, the funeral was held for the nine year-old girl who was killed in the recent Tuscon shootings. In advance of that funeral, members of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, announced that they planned to protest at the funeral. The Westboro Church has gained notoriety for showing up at funerals of military personnel and at other high profile events to carrying anti-gay slogans. I find the actions of this tiny group to be reprehensible and uncivil.
Evidently, others agree with me. Because a group of Harley-riding, leather-wearing motorcyclists showed up at the funeral to honor the life of the child and to form a ring of protection around the mourners, keeping the protesters away.
Which just goes to show you -- human decency makes for strange bedfellows. I doubt this little girl had much interaction with motorcycle clubs. But in the face of grief and loss, a circle of human kindness was formed that goes beyond looks or customs and past connections.
A similar thing happened in Egypt last week.
On January 7, the Coptic Christian day to celebrate Christmas, a group of terrorists set off a bomb at a Coptic church. Thirty-one people were injured. (As an aside, the Muslim terrorists who set the bomb are the Egyptian equivalent of America's Westboro Baptists. Both groups pervert their respective faith traditions. They are intolerant cousins.)
Then, just as the motorcycle riders decided to help out at the funeral in Tuscon, an unlikely group stepped forth in Egypt -- a group of Muslims (numbering in the hundreds) showed up to escort the Coptic Christians to church, to stand vigil at their place of worship, and to offer solidarity.
Sadly, the strains of intolerance stretch around the globe -- from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka to bombers in Egypt. (Parenthetically, I should say that it appears the Westboro group did not picket at the funeral because they got the publicity they wanted from the uproar.)
But, even more hopeful is the interesting connections between a group of motorcycle riders in Tuscon and a group of caring Muslims in Egypt. My hunch is some new friendships were formed between mourners and the motorcycle club who stood with them. And I imagine new friendships were formed between the Copts and the Muslims who walked to church with them.
Now, we need to get the Egyptian Muslims and the American Harley riders together to expand the circle.
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