By: Bob Boyer
Earlier this year, on March 17, I received an invitation to participate in the third annual “Untitled Town Book and Author Festival” in Green Bay. It was a great opportunity to promote my most recent book, a novel (“The Magic Necklace of Al-Andalus”) at a major book celebration, but I was feeling run-down and was about to decline. Then I heard and read about yet another horrendous mass hate shooting, the third in about six months. I emailed my acceptance: “Every time there is a massive hate killing, especially against Muslims or Jews, I am further motivated to spread the factual, historical word [in my novel] about ‘convivencia,’ Jews, Christians, and Muslims living in relative harmony for over three centuries in Medieval Spain,” introducing the Renaissance to Western Europe. My sponsor replied the same day: “Thank you . . . . It’s my wish that there become a greater desire for global enlightenment as a result of the recent tragedies.” (Mar. 23, 2019)
The hate shootings that were on my mind had all occurred in a recent six-month period. First was the Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting of Oct. 27, 2018. A white, right-wing extremist, a native of Pittsburgh, killed 11 and injured 6 during services. This occurred near downtown Pittsburgh, in one of the oldest and largest Jewish communities in the country, and it was the largest such killing of Jews in U.S. history. The second mass shooting was the bombing in the Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in City of Jolo, capital of Sulu Province, one of the majority-Muslim provinces in Southwestern Mindanao. The rogue terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, opposed to the majority Muslim agreement with Manila, “took credit” for the bombing during Sunday Morning Mass, killing at least 20 people and wounding over 100. And then there was the mass murder by one individual at the two Mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand during Friday services on March 15. The man accused is standing trial for 51 murders and 40 more attempted murders. He has described himself on line as a white supremacist.
Hatred seems to abound. Still, I don’t believe that the Philippines, the U.S., or New Zealand breed hatred and extremism. To the contrary, for a time at least, the crazed shootings by a few have prompted outpourings of sympathy and coming together, locally and globally. I have witnessed and written about this attitude of outreach to others in the Philippines, which initially surprised me. Here are two such occasions that I fondly recounted in this column years ago (Jan., 2011).
The first occasion was during my semester teaching at UP Diliman (1998). The summer was unusually dry, severely curtailing the rice crop and affecting nearly everyone, but especially in Mindanao. I remember going to my bank on Katipunan Avenue where “I discovered a small cardboard box sitting prominently on the counter next to the teller’s window. It was for contributions to buy rice for Mindanao. . . . There, in the overwhelmingly Christian Manila . . . was this box, for contributions for Mindanao where 12 to 14% of the population is Muslim. No one asked if anyone named Hussein would get the aid.” That would never have occurred to anyone. The other example leapt out at me during a later visit, in 2004. I had met a tour guide named Tessie who informed me that “Quiapo is the spiritual heart of Manila and, in many ways, of the country.” Tessie “conducts tours of five churches, a synagogue and a mosque.” When she told me this, I imagined a small, store-front assembly space. “A few days later, however, I was surprised to come upon a picture in “The Philippine Inquirer” showing the dome of “the Golden Mosque in Quiapo,” and “a large crescent moon of Islam rose high above the dome.” I concluded then with the following: “Thank you for your good example, Filipinos . . . of informed discernment and of tolerance.” Bob Boyer welcomes hearing from you at Robert.firstname.lastname@example.org.