My friend, S.M. Ghanzafar, maintains a legendary email list, sending out thoughts and reflections related to Islam and Interfaith Dialogue. Ghazi and I first got to know one another when he reminded me that CCUCC was the first place that the Islamic community was invited to gather for prayers. “Ghazi” had recently moved to this country, and the small Muslim community had no place to worship together. Under the leadership of the Rev. Ted Edquist, our Fellowship Hall became the first “mosque” in town, and Ghazi has never forgotten that act of kindness. Ted was recently back in Pullman visiting, and we talked about that time. In Ted’s words: “There was no question about it . . . It was just the right thing to do.”
I was working on gathering my thoughts related to the tenth anniversary of 9/11, when I received the following from “Ghazi.”
THE LESSON OF 9/11 (excerpted from an article written by Rinku Sen for ColorLines.com)
“This is the lesson of 9/11 for me. I can’t call myself a person who values inclusion and compassion and then pick and choose those whom I accept. I can disagree, but I can’t disown. Not if I want to help build a nation that accepts rather than rejects; that constructs rather than destroys; that frees rather than enslaves. In such a nation, everyone needs to feel they belong, everyone reacts to the loss of that belonging, and everyone needs to feel its renewal when things change, as they always must. Every story has a sequel, shaped by our interpretation of the past. There is a 9/11 story in which we belong to each other. That’s the one I’ll be telling as we move into the next decade.”
I share with you a part of my response:
My Dear Friend,
Thank you for quote and pointer to the article by Rink Sen. We surely do each have a story about 9/11, as we do about many events that impact us. How we shape that narrative, and, more importantly, how the “sequel” shapes us and our actions, makes all the difference.
I was just looking at my bookshelf, at a number of books I received in the mail after 9/11. None of them were solicited — they were sent to me as a Christian pastor, and, I’m sure, to thousands of others. Almost every one of these unsolicited books is some form of diatribe against Islam. Some are more “academic” and some more “religious” in tone. All of them, professing fact, actually shape a narrative of fear and offer a reason to hate. At the time, I wondered why groups would go to so much expense to send these things out to people like me? My first inclination was to throw them away. But I kept some of them, and I look at those books from time to time as a reminder — really a prod — to shape a different narrative, one that I know to be truer to my own faith and the commitment I share with others, like you, to do my part to create and celebrate a loving and just human family. As Nelson Mandela writes: “People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love , for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” I choose the narrative of love.
Thanks for your commitment to building a true community, and thanks for your friendship,
Kristine Zakarison, Pastor, Community Congregational United Church of Christ
And here is Ghazi’s response back:
“Thanks, Kristine….my eyes are moistened a bit….
Affectionate good wishes/prayers, always . . .”
One of the women in the Libyan community told me that they have a saying which roughly translates that “Once we have cried together, our hearts become one.” May we find the space to cry together, as one people on this anniversary.