In 2004, the follower of a white supremacist drove through West Rogers Park, where I then lived, shooting at my Orthodox Jewish neighbors, killing and wounding several. As I faced the fear and loss of my neighbors, I found words inadequate, yet necessary. I was shaken as well, but not as they were. I was not the target of the hatred and violence, yet here I was living with them and needing to respond. In silence, I prayed for our community.
I believe that recent violence has targeted Muslims in two ways. First, media coverage of extremist attacks in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere reminds the viewer of the terror and the threat of Islamist political groups and fails to counter those reports with accurate details of the central tenets of the faith of Islam which promotes peace. Secondly, all Muslims can then become the target of suspicion and fear. The particular incident becomes the general impression in the minds of the uninformed. Domestic occurrences such as that in Chapel Hill may be connected to the charged atmosphere Muslims find themselves enduring.
SoulSpace has from its inception bracketed political discourse, both the long standing divisions of the Middle East and the religious warfare each of our traditions has initiated. We have instead focused on conversation, an exchange of increased understanding and awareness of our common call to act with justice and kindness to one another, and this we pledge to continue.
In light of the pervasive violence in our culture, both religious and racial, I am reviewing my own faith response and the challenge of the Christian gospels to love and care for my neighbor and my sisters in faith. And I ask our soul sisters, Jews, Christians and Muslims to stand with one another, in solidarity and with compassion. Silence must be broken when our sisters come under siege in response to their faith. Kismet felt she had no voice at the dinner table, but others had one and chose to stay quiet. The voice of discrimination was loudest and might well remain in the minds and hearts of those who heard it.
As supporters of SoulSpace, we stand with one another not only in times of peace and safety, but also when comments around us would undermine or actually assail our sisters.
Years ago, when I worked to promote Peace Awareness in the schools and communities north of Chicago, I was always heartened by the words, Think Globally, Act Locally. I affect the world in my neighborhood, workplace, and home. We have an opportunity as faithful women to mediate the shrillness and potential destruction of hatred, in all its forms, by standing with one another and adding our truth simply and clearly as we are able. The more we grow to know and understand one another, the better we are able to do so.
We have seen in our own past and in our history the high cost of people saying nothing. Our reflective personal response makes all the difference.
Marilyn Gehant, Founder of Soul Space Interfaith Women's Group