"Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life."
- Prayer of St. Francis
These pictures were taken back in 2006 when the Catholic school where I taught visited the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan, which is home to the largest percentage of Arab Americans in the United States. Almost ten years later and that moment is still vividly imprinted on my soul.
Prior to that visit, I, like so many in this country, had made certain assumptions about the faith of Islam that were purely out of ignorance and fear. But then I had to look my ignorance and fear straight in the eye and force myself to learn and grow. And you know what? It's really difficult to perpetuate that fear when you meet someone, shake their hand, look them in the eye, and see their humanity.
Even in a pluralistic country like the United States, where so many different ethnicities and faith traditions live under one banner, it is very easy for those in the white Christian majority to otherize people. To always refer to "those people" and remain comfortably at a distance.
But we can no longer remain comfortable in our complacency and oblivious bigotry. Because guess what? Our oblivious, quiet bigotry has now entered our public consciousness. And it is SHOUTING AT US.
So today I am celebrating discomfort. I am taking time out of my day to humbly beseech that we as a nation (i.e., those in the majority) stop hiding behind our ignorance and start educating ourselves and recognize that we can no longer afford to talk about a group of people with nothing but hearsay as evidence. As we become more and more of a global society, the notion that we can continue to make (and publicize!) those uneducated assumptions is downright dangerous. It's time to force ourselves out of our own contented bubbles and get uncomfortable, America. The health, vitality, and SAFETY of our nation depend upon it.