Last Monday, I happened to be putting things away in the kitchen when the President was broadcast live from the G20 conference. I grabbed a pen and jotted down his words, feeling the truth in what he said.
And when I hear folks say that, well, maybe we should just admit the Christians but not the Muslims; when I hear political leaders suggesting that there would be a religious test for which a person who’s fleeing from a war-torn country is admitted, when some of those folks themselves come from families who benefitted from protection when they were fleeing political persecution — that’s shameful. That’s not American. That’s not who we are. We don’t have religious tests to our compassion.
I thought we would all be proud as a nation that we were so compassionate, that we kept our ideals, that we continued to welcome the world’s weary.
Then I started to see an onslaught of racism, bigotry, and fear spread across the social networks. At first I thought it was only more conservative people but the sentiment seemed to be multiplying. I was physically sick to my stomach and weary by mid-afternoon to see even my family members being so uncaring.
Then the only bright spot in this whole mess walked down our driveway.
My son came home from high school with two friends in tow. Both were black girls and one was a Muslim in hijab. Smiling, laughing and teasing, they met the dog he walks, then played piano and video games. I was grateful to be able to welcome both girls into our home.
When I came down from my office to get a drink, an extra hijab had appeared and the Muslim friend was showing her curious companion how to wear it. Both girls were smiling and you could tell they were learning from each other.
Picturing these two young women in my kitchen sharing the Muslim lifestyle is the only thing to give me hope this past week. Remembering the scene is the only thing that is keeping me going during the horrible onslaught of hatred.
When I hear people talking about closing our borders to refugees, I picture the girls. At least with my sons, they have been raised to accept everyone. As a family we will always do the right thing.
Don’t get me wrong, I have my fear. After the attack in Paris I felt the old September 11th fear creep up my spine. Those living in and around DC know the fear. I found myself worrying about my husband working a few blocks from the White House. He had looked out his office window at the Pentagon burning on September 11th from his former building. When threats against the US were made, I used my yogic deep breathing and prayed. In our family we’ve been reassuring each other for 14 years that we can’t let the terrorists win by giving into fear. We won’t let the terrorists stop the best in us and win.
People in the DC region choose to live in a multicultural community. We thrive on it. From a young age my sons could roll exotic names from around the world right off the tips of their tongues. I chaired International Night at their elementary school for years and had parents present from every continent. We are color blind and religion blind. We have people from all faiths with large places of worship. We can’t imagine life any other way. It’s difficult for us to understand the rest of the country which doesn’t have as much diversity as we have in our everyday lives.
Ever since I was a young girl, I have always thought that if a Nazi uprising began, I would speak out. I wouldn’t let fascists get away with it. We must all put a stop to this hatred immediately.
When so many people are saying that we need to stop refugees from entering the country, I say we must welcome them. Refugees are not terrorists.
When a Presidential candidate says we must register all Muslims and put surveillance on their mosques, I say we must never do either.
When Christians say we must keep refugees out, I answer that as a Christians we must welcome them. This is a basic premise of being a Christian. We must do everything we can to serve those who are refugees because that’s what being a Christian means you must do. No exceptions. It’s not easy being a Christian when you have to love your enemy.
So I will keep picturing the young women in my kitchen and welcome Muslims in my house and show the love of Christ to everyone in this world.
I will not give into the ignorance, bigotry, and racism which underlie the fear.