God is on both the sides

 By Hasan Askari from “Alone to Alone” published 1991

“It was a couple of years ago that I was standing at the spot outside Vienna where the Ottoman Turks once stood towards the close of the seventeenth century when they had laid siege, and Vienna was at their mercy. I had gone to Austria to spend sometime at St. Gabriel, a monastic house in Modling, one of the suburbs of Vienna.

My host took me the very evening I arrived there to show me the Vienna Woods, and as we stood there, and as I recalled the Ottoman siege, I became aware with tears in my eyes that God was on both the sides.

How else could God be? I asked. We worship the God of the heavens and of the earth, the creator and the sustainer of the entire universe, the giver of life and guidance to all humanity, irrespective of religion or race. How it is, I asked, that we raise our hymns of praise to his universality and omnipresence and yet reduce him to a racial or communal god when we are drawn to our political identities?

Is it not so that He is on both the sides of a battle line, on both the sides of a religious argument, with the victor and with the victim, with us and with those whom we oppose, with all of us at once?

I was passing through a city. I first saw a wedding procession entering a church. Within a couple of minutes I passed by another church where a coffin was being carried towards the graveyard. I wondered at the Mystery of His omnipresence, at one place a wedding guest and at another, one of the mourners.”

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