“A minister, a rabbi, and an imam were talking…” Sounds like the start of a joke, but it was hardly jovial. In the wake of the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, Lake Highlands High School convened a trinity of religious leaders to promote understanding and tolerance.

The program featured a student moderator, cameramen and technicians, and audience. Transmission via closed circuit brought the school together through technology.

A minister, rabbi and imam talking is progress itself. Christians, Jews and Muslims are sometimes guilty of misjudging one another based on ignorance or the worst adherents of our faiths rather than our best.

Muslims do not want to be miscast by fanatic extremists such as those who hijacked planes, killed our people and despoiled our national security. Neither do most Christians want to be judged by the attitudes and actions of White supremacists, nor most Jews by militant anti-Arab Zionists.

We are at war against enemies of peace. We contend on every front for the freedom of people to worship as they will or won’t, to ride a plane without fear, to have children with hope of birthday candles to come.

Fighting for tolerance is too small a mission; we must aim for complete liberty. We desire a world where every person is valued and respected, where each individual may carve out space for her soul’s expression, where anyone may pursue his life calling without coercion.

Tolerance is a half-hearted value; it assumes someone has the power or right to tolerate or not tolerate differences with others, according to the wideness or narrowness of one’s charity. But tolerance is on the way to liberty and better than intolerance.

A Newsweek cartoon shows a little boy sitting in front of a television with his dad watching the news about the terrorists. He turns to his dad and asks: “Will we hate back?”

All three religious leaders said the same thing: We must not hate, or we become like those who have done evil toward us. Jesus said: Do not resist an evildoer. And then he added: You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matt. 5:39, 43-44).

A student came up to me after the school program and asked what it means not to resist an evildoer. I told him that the word “resist” means “war against,” and Jesus is saying the only way to end violence is to stop doing it yourself in retaliation. You can protect yourself and others against violence, and you may have to do so by force, but warring only reinforces war.

Hate destroys, love rebuilds. Buildings and lives both.