If you are safe today, you have a responsibility.
You have a responsibility to pay attention. It is by mere chance you were born into the position you are in and are not in a conflict zone right now.
You have a responsibility to be grateful and use what you have been given – your education, your position, your privilege, your resources, and your voice – to advocate for those facing terror and violence.
You have a responsibility to not let hate win. Do not let this week’s events perpetuate fear, stereotypes, or Islamophobia in your heart or in your society.
You have a responsibility to weep with those who weep and care for those fleeing terror and extremism. Politically, it’s complicated. But at the end of the day, we belong to one another. When one member of humanity is stripped of freedom, dignity, and opportunity, we welcome them into our countries and homes. Full stop.
To the full extent of my knowledge right now, ISIS/ISIL is responsible for the death of at least 128 people in Paris; 43 deaths and over 200 wounded in Beirut, Lebanon; and 26 deaths and over 60 wounded in Baghdad, Iraq.
The vast majority of public support and media coverage has been focused on Paris, which in part I understand. However it follows a concerning pattern I often witness in the media and on social media. When a tragedy occurs in a Western, developed, white, and/or Christian community, the attention and sympathies are heightened. Much less so when poor, people of color, and/or non-Christians are targeted.
We have a responsibility to love our neighbors and see them as whole people - worthy of the same dignities and freedoms we demand for ourselves – regardless if they look, believe, or act like we do. Your Lebanese, Iraqi, Syrian, or Somali neighbor is just as much your neighbor as your French one.
This would come more naturally if we actually formed relationships with people of different backgrounds than us. For example, one of my best friends is from Jos, Nigeria. When Boko Haram bombed Jos in 2014 and 2015, it broke my heart in a more acute way. I had a personal tie to the people in this place which made the situation all the more real and horrific.
I have a dear friend from Syria. She’s Muslim. Through our relationship, I've learned it's is impossible to jump to simple assumptions about people or to see them as less apart of the human family than you are.
It’s a hard time to feel hope. We need to sit with this for a while; then move forward and do the bit that we can to ensure all people – in all places – have the opportunity to live freely, safely, and fully.
I don’t know where to start. But acknowledging our privilege and using it to assist those who face violence and darkness is necessary. Following the news and raising awareness about conflicts that happen across the world is helpful. As I wrote in my last blog on a hate crime targeting a Muslim in Minnesota, I think pursuing interfaith, cross-national/racial/cultural relationships is a place to begin. Reaching out to the refugees in our communities is a place to begin. Feeling responsible for all of humanity is a place to begin.
Organizations to support:
A woman was just attacked for speaking Swahili in a suburban Applebees less than 10 minutes from where I grew up. It's a horrific hate crime that I’m appalled happened so close to home.
I heard about the attack on the heels of a weekend spent at an interfaith leadership institute. The institute was a powerful time to reflect on my own faith background and identity, to connect with others and hear their stories, and to dream of ways we can promote interfaith dialogue and cooperation in our communities.
We learned the importance of civic pluralism – the idea that regardless of our theology, we live in a diverse society and we should seek to positively engage that diversity. We can find common ground to work towards the common good together.
We also learned that meaningful relationships between people from diverse backgrounds increases appreciative knowledge of other traditions, which in turn drives positive attitudes. I’ve seen this play out in my own life time and time again. The transformative power of relationships and hearing others’ stories continues to amaze me.
I could be wrong, but I assume the woman who attacked Jama, named Jodie, has never had a relationship with a Muslim or an immigrant. If she had, she wouldn't of been able to see Jama as an “other” and a threat - a threat warranting physical assault - for simply looking and talking differently than her.
Jodie has biases against those who are different. We all do. Biases are passed down to us and it is often not our fault we hold them. However unchecked, biases can block relationships and inhibit our hospitality to those who are different from us. They can rob us of a fuller, more compassionate life.
Jama's attack drove home the need for greater interfaith and intercultural understanding and cooperation. It may start with self-reflection, identifying and working through our own biases, pursuing opportunities to meet people who come from different backgrounds, or educating ourselves about different faith traditions.
This world's diversity is rich and beautiful. May we seek to engage it, humbly learn from it, and embrace it. May we ask questions and may those questions draw us deeper and lead to connection with others.