Archive for the ‘Reconciliation’ Category

There is hope in every story.

August 10, 2015

Western Media often restricts our greater global lens. In Dr. Segall’s Performing Democracy, she fights to reveal the truth about Arab Springs, defined as a revolutionary wave of demonstrations and protests, civil wars and riots in the greater Arab world. An estimated 151,000-600,000 civilians were killed just in the first 3-4 years of conflict in the Iraq War. In 2011, though omitted by Western media, thousands of people have protested throughout Iraq. “Iraq became central to Arab identity” because of “arguments in the new Arab media”. What fascinates me the most is the unprecedented amount of stories that go unheard and unseen. Thankfully, Dr. Segall highlights Khawla Hadi, an Iraqi woman with a heartbreaking yet hopeful story. Just a few years ago, Dr. Segall worked closely with Khawla in a public workshop, revealing a lost testimony, all while raising awareness and support for Iraqi refugees. Over two million people fled from Iraq across Middle Eastern borders. The United States is now permitting more Iraqi refugees after years of limited admission. Khawla was told to leave Iraq and lived two years in hiding before escaping across the border. Every week she relocated from garages, dusty back rooms, or concealed spaces of relatives. She had to be extremely secretive, use code names, and report to security (and her children) that her husband was dead, in order to securely take her children out of the country. Now living in Seattle, she bridges the gap between two regions, translating for newly arrived refugees.

Displaced Iraqis from the northern town of Sinjar head towards the autonomous Kurdistan region on August 4, 2014, as they seek refuge after Islamic State (IS) Sunni militants took control of their hometown. The Islamic State (IS) raised its black flag in Sinjar on August 3, 2014 after ousting the peshmerga troops of Iraq's Kurdish government, forcing thousands of people from their homes. AFP PHOTO / STR-/AFP/Getty Images

Her story of revolt has often been told at workshops through discussing poetry. During Saddam Hussein’s reign, poetry was a very popular way of expressing resistance to the state. It still is. Khawla identified with a particular poem, titled, “Bombardment” that imagined Iraq as a mother who is unable to hold onto her children. The author, Haider Al Kabi, writes, “The city cannot gather in her children.” The people of Baghdad desperately cling to their homes in what should be a safe haven. The maternal city is described as “vainly reaching to gather her little ones”. However, for refugees, the pain doesn’t end once having left their country. It’s extremely painful to be away from home while their relatives are still experiencing reckless violence, often witnessing this violence through a Western Media lens.

dr segall and khawla

Khawla’s story as a refugee is just one of many. Her perspective has and will continue to teach and inspire. We are fortunate enough to have Khawla chaperoning us on the trip. To say I’m excited is an understatement. This past spring Khawla came into our classroom to teach us some Arabic. You would have never guessed that this kind spirited, gentle woman experienced such atrocities. We all laughed together as we attempted to speak Arabic and a random man walked into our classroom offering giant red balloons. Of course we accepted. It was a beautiful childlike moment, made more beautiful by the fact that Khawla essentially had her innocence stripped from her, yet was able to experience this lighthearted joy. There truly is hope in every story.

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Breaking down barriers

September 1, 2013

After finishing the book Scheherazade Goes West by Fatema Mernissi, I was left perplexed. Not only had my outlook on Western Culture changed, but my thoughts about the gender roles in society were skewed as well. By reading this book I realized that I have been kept hidden from reality and have been blinded by superficial materialism ever since I can remember. Fatema tells stories that have been passed down from her grandmother and displays a different world, one that we seem to have been concealed from, and by doing this breaks down barriers which separate the West from the East.

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Two Hands.

October 1, 2012

Hold out two hands.  This was an act that our professor encouraged us to do many times during our time in Morocco. It was a way for us to balance the horrific happenings of history that we were learning about with hope for a brighter future. This simple gesture has helped me understand reconciliation on a deeper level.  Attending a small Christian University whose mission statement proclaims “Engage the Culture, Change the World” reconciliation is a word that I seem to hear a lot. I have been in a plethora of Theology classes and have read books on the power and importance of reconciliation.  I knew as Christians we are called to reconcile, yet I never felt like I actually practiced it until my time in Morocco.

There were two main instances over the course of my trip in which I could actually feel reconciliation. The first was at the Imams house, who is a religious leader for Islam. We were able to sit down with him and a few other Muslims to have an open discussion. This was a time where we as Christian Americans could come and hold out our previous misconceptions and stereotypes and seek to hear the truth of Islam from the mouth of a reliable source.

The second instance in which I was able to feel reconciliation was at my friend Meryeme’s house, where three of my classmates and I were lucky enough to share dinner with her family. This was another instance in which we were able to have open and free conversations on what we think of Islam and what they thought of Americans. At the end each group had cleared up so much garbage and lies that we thought was the truth. They were relieved that not all Americans acted and reflected what they saw in Hollywood films. The whole family encouraged us that the small groups of Islamic extremists do not portray correctly Islam or the teaching of the Quran.

Both times I was able to come with two outstretched hands. One hand was full of things I wanted to share with them. The other hand was completely empty, ready to receive new perspectives and knowledge. This was a beautiful thing for me. It allowed me to learn so much and stretch my perspectives even farther. Far too often I believe we come with our fists clenched of all the things we know. We end up wagging our fists at others trying to force our beliefs and knowledge on to others. To me, that is not true reconciliation. When life is handled in such a manner as that an entire realm of beauty, peace and true reconciliation is easily missed.

Our new Moroccan friends.
(The man at the front desk did not want to stand up)

Understanding Leads To Reconciliation

October 1, 2012

So just the date of this entry stirs up feelings that this whole class is trying to work out. The one idea from this class that sticks out today in particular is that of reconciliation.

Spending 9/11 in a Muslim country has been very eye opening for me. Today we were able to speak with students at the university who were native Moroccans. About ten minutes in our conversation steered towards stereotypes that Americans and Moroccans have of each other. One of the Moroccan girls, who goes by the nickname Susu, brought up the one thing everyone at the table was trying to avoid. She said that Moroccans and Arabs in general think that Americans think they are all terrorists.

With that being said, a couple of days ago we were also able to speak with an Imam and we asked him about reconciliation between the Christians and Muslims and he said that he did not think any reconciliation was needed because the Muslims had no ill feelings towards the Christians in the first place.

So taking into account what Susu said about Americans thinking all Arabs are terrorists and what the Imam said about Muslims having no quarrel with the Christians I think where reconciliation comes into play is that it is really more on the American side of things. Especially on this day, somehow it has become twisted in America that Muslims are responsible for 9/11 and all Islamic people have it out for America when that is not the truth at all. Everyone I have talked to in Morocco seems to love Americans and treats us with the utmost respect and hospitality. I think Americans need reconciliation from 9/11 but that reconciliation comes from an understanding that Muslims did not cause 9/11, it was extremists who just happened to be Muslim and that has nothing to do with the rest of the Islamic population. As for Moroccans I think their reconciliation will just come from Americans realizing this. So for the time being the ball is in America’s court.

hamdullah

September 29, 2012

The blue tiles along the walls had exquisite details that were reminiscent of the Alhambra. The hospitality that the Imam and his disciples had for us was incredible. From the moment we walked into the sitting room, we were offered dates, almond milk, bread, and water. They were constantly checking on us to make sure we didn’t need anything, or if we were too hot. Then the Imam came into the room and immediately praised God for our time together. I watched the Imam’s every move. He was so gentle, and had a fluidity to his movement. He opened our time together with a prayer and then told us he wished to set any misconceptions we had about Islam straight. They all wanted us to know so badly that they did not hate Christians or Jews; they in fact loved them. The first questions we asked was what was said during the call to prayer, one of the five pillars of Islam. The Imam replied that we ought to hear it for ourselves. Then, one of the men in the room began singing the call to prayer. His voice was smooth and so filled with passion. The conviction in each syllable of the call to prayer was moving and I found myself brought to tears by the shear beauty of the call. Allah is the greatest. There is no other god than Allah. Come to prayer. Allah is the greatest. I watched the Imam and others meditate on this call and saw how in love they were with Allah.

We then proceeded to ask more questions about Islam. I asked the Imam if he believed that the God of Islam, Judaism, and Christianity were the same. I was floored by his answer. He described our world and universe as an immense and precise creation. That if something so large and so beautify exists, there is only the possibility that one Creator exists. The God of Abraham is the God of mercy. He is merciful and a form of his mercy are the messengers he sends. Astounding. What a thought that we are all worshipping the same God, the God of Abraham. If this is really the case or not, that is another thought to ponder for a long time..

This was such a spiritual experience for me. I lived reconciliation with these people and felt so connected to them. People I had just met and did not know at all immediately felt like family to me. The love and tenderness that filled the room was overwhelming; and yet there was so much pain. Pain when I thought of how I was raised to dislike all of Islam. Pain when I remembered the unfair stereotypes projected onto Muslims. Pain when I saw the love and eagerness to welcome us to Morocco by these beautiful people while I knew that same graceful welcoming was unlikely in America. How haunting of a thought. What then does it mean to love God and love his people? To me, here and now in this moment, it means to embrace my Islamic brothers and sisters in Morocco. I can’t help but think of what a radical idea that must seem. But doesn’t Jesus call us to live radical lives to begin with?

Coming Together with Laughter

September 28, 2012

In the meeting with the Imam (one of the leaders of a mosque) we were shown amazing hospitality. One man I will never forget, he was serving us and the other men there milk, dates and sweet bread, and he seemed so happy. Even though none of us could actually talk to him other than to thank him with “shokran”, we were able to share smiles and laughter. He continued to serve us  and when we tried to tell him that we were full or didn’t want more he would just smile and offer the plate again insisting that we would take more, so we would laugh and grab a third or fourth date. There was also a point when one of the men was trying to take a picture of our group, but the man serving us kept accidentally crossing in front of the camera trying to feed us more food and we all laughed together.

Our being there was already a start to reconciliation. We were trying to learn more about people that we don’t understand and they were welcoming us graciously into their home. I feel like one of the most valuable moments of that visit was when we were all able to laugh together, we found common ground with these people and were able to speak the universal language of happiness. When we all laughed together we were not laughing as Muslims and Christians, not as Moroccans and Americans, but as people..

We Crossed with Humor

September 26, 2012

“You’re not an American,” said the Moroccan woman who invited me into her home for dinner.

“Um, yes I am?” I replied as my three classmates broke into laughter.

“But you don’t look American, like them?” she claimed, pointing at my fair-skinned friends.

At this point, I had to explain that my mother is Filipino and my father is white, that’s why I look different than the others, but that I’m just as American. I told her that’s the thing about Americans: they look a lot different than what you see on the TV.

We were blessed to have the opportunity to go to our new friend, Meryeme’s, home to dine and fellowship with her and her family. Us, a group of four AMERICAN, Christian students sitting in a living room with a Moroccan, Muslim family; it was beautiful. The conversations were hilarious and despite the language barrier we got to know each other very well. Meryeme’s dad only spoke French and Arabic, but he had his daughter translate every fact he knew about American history.

“Did you know that Morocco was the first country to recognize the United States as independent?” he said. “Did you know I’m best friends with Obama?”

We laughed. Oh, we laughed. And we were able to chat about our cultural and religious differences with level heads and open minds. We befriended a family in a way that would likely never happen at home in Seattle. We met each other in the middle and accepted our differences with smiles… and bellies full of chicken and mint tea.

We crossed with humor. We reconciled through sharing a meal together. We entangled our lives in a way that will always be honored.

The four of us with our dear friend, Meryeme, & her cousin, who graciously opened their home to us one night in Meknes.

A Christian’s Job

September 23, 2012

One of the central themes of Christianity is the idea of reconciliation. One key example of this is through the story of Christ and by the fact that “God so loved the world that he gave His only Son” to save all of humanity. During our time in Meknes, we got to experience reconciliation first-hand when we went to visit an Imam in his home. It was an incredible time because he was not only willing to reach out to us Westerners but the fact that he invited us into his home showed us that he was willing to cross boundaries as well. While at his home, we were all able to ask him questions about his faith, his attitudes, and his culture. He answered all of our questions to the best of his abilities and when it was over (and all of the bread and dates had been shared) there was a sense of peace and understanding between both sides of the room. I speak for myself, but I think I can say that all of us who went did not feel the same afterwards. This was a small act of reconciliation at its best. It was two groups of people who were able to come together and see each other as people.

I believe that if Jesus were alive today he would talk to people that are cast out of our society. I personally think that if he came to the Christian community, he would reach out to the LGBT community. This thought came to me after seeing the Imam because it showed me just how reaching out and talking to someone who might have been labeled as a threat back at home showed their true humanity and kindness. The relationship between Christians and the LGBT community has gotten to the point where each group has seen each other as a threat and I believe that Jesus would talk to both groups to act as a bridge between them. Because of this talk with the Imam, all of the members of the group have a greater respect for Islam and would be willing to stand up for it and its followers if someone was ever tearing it down. Likewise, we need people to bridge the gap for these two groups which would be an act of reconciliation.

Reconcilliation on September 11th

September 11, 2012

Today is September 11th, 2012. Eleven years ago Islamic terrorists crashed a plane into the Twin Towers killing around 3,000 civilians. The event sent a wave of shock and fear across America, and since then, America has stereotyped all Muslims and Islamic cultures as violent terrorists. The fear and hatred aroused by the attacks of September 11th has led many U.S. citizens to discriminate against Muslims in America and abroad. As someone who practices the faith of Christianity and an American citizen, I have been told that Islam is a violent, intolerant religion. Eleven years later, I sit here in a cafe in Morocco, drinking mint tea and eating dates in an Islamic country, and I have something different to say.

Our Study Abroad Class went to visit an Imam (an Imam is a religious leader of Islam) while staying in Meknes city. Our assignment was to simply go and bring a list of questions to ask. We entered his home shoeless, greeted by an older man in a jellaba, and made our way into the living area; an elaborate textiled room with cushioned couches against every wall. Barefoot and nervous on the couches, we waited silently, but not for long. A group of robed men came in, smiling and greeting us with “salam alaykmmeaning “Peace be upon you” while carrying trays of unpasteurized milk, cake bread, and dates. Starting with the milk they began serving us while we were seated. The hospitality surprised me, and their kindness was more than I had ever experienced from a stranger. Some of us had been fanning ourself a little bit and one of the men came over and opened a window and then asked if that was better. Many of them took photos of our class with their iphones and cameras. One of the servers, a little old man in a white Jellaba and mischievous blue eyes, would duck under the camera when a photo was being taken and then would jump up to be in the picture. When he would serve us, if we rejected, would say, “oh come on, eat more!” There was so much laughter and conversing with these honored religious men. It was then that I remembered the story of Jesus washing the desciple’s feet. We reached out by asking to learn about Islam, and they in turn treated us with the upmost respect and generosity in the same way Jesus treated others. The Imam finally came in, his back turned to us, seated next to our translator. The class asked him the questions and he gave us the answers. He emphasized that Muslims, Jews and Christians all worship the same, one God, a merciful God who loves us and forgives our mistakes, which is why there must be love and tolerance for all.

This idea of loving ones neighbor and reconciliation is the foundation of Christianity, that God loved the world so much that He became human to save us and to be with His children. Jesus washed the desciples feet, conversed and loved the outcasts of society, speaking to women, the sick, and gentiles (who were looked down upon by everyone else) when no one else would. If Jesus were here today, would He not be hanging out with the Muslims? Visiting the Imam’s home was a coming together of two faiths that worship the same God. We reached out and crossed into an understanding, love, and tolerance for each other. Reconciliation isn’t easy, but what matters is simply trying. And that trying and attempt to learn turns into something beautiful, celebrating on a spiritual level that is deep-rooted among us all.

While my heart hurts and grieves for the lost and families of the lost due to 9/11, I also grieve for Muslims and the treatment the West has shown them in America and abroad, while here, they feed and greet us with love. Even the people in the streets show great kindness and hospitality, displaying a similar love that Jesus showed and represented – a love that Christians seem to have forgotten. In an answer to the question of “What are the biggest misconceptions the West has about Islam” the Imam said that the mistakes of some Muslims now represent all of Islam. There are Islamic extremists yes, but that anger is stemmed from the conditions of the countries economics and politics, not the religion. Christianity gets grouped with the extremists as well, yet not all Christians think that way. If anyone can understand and empathize with Muslims it should be the Christians, and even the Jews. I know that I can understand and empathize now, even  on September 11th, 2012.

The Transformation of Trans-Generational Identities to Trans-National

June 2, 2012

Trans-generational identity is the story of how our place in life affects the perception of who we are. What we have experienced throughout our lifetime and how we view the world and those in it also contribute to this dynamic sense of self. This idea is seen in Le Grand Voyage, a film about a father and son who travel to Mecca from France. The son, Réda, reluctantly agrees to drive his father to Mecca for his pilgrimage that is a pillar of the Islamic faith.

Réda and his father in Le Grand Voyage

Throughout their journey, you can see the strain and tension between these two men as they realize there is so much that sets them apart, and a large portion of it is trans-generational. As the film progresses, the juxtaposition of Réda’s generation and his father’s becomes more apparent, and the generational gap seems to create a greater divide between the two. With time, however, the father and son begin reconciling their broken relationship and Réda learns the values of Islam from his father before it is too late. This process of relational reconciliation is one concept that is central to Islam.

While trans-generational identities greatly affect who we are, they are not a static state of being. I have learned in this class that every interaction we have and place we travel is yet another thread woven into the fabric of our being. We are constantly weaving our trans-generational identity, and when interacting with other cultures, we are indeed weaving our trans-national identity as well. These two identities are intertwined, and there is a relationship seen between them in Le Grande Voyage. I argue that the trans-generational gap between Réda and his father is so severe that it surpasses generations and begins to morph into a trans-national divide. There is such a disconnect between Réda and his father that it appears they have different national identities. This is the most profound idea I have learned in the class: our trans-national identities are always subject to change; everything around us and everything that we experience contributes to our trans-national identity, and this is a thing of beauty.