Rev. Nell Green
Source: ABP News Blog
These posts are truly difficult to write; partly because if you want to be real then you have to confess some things and partly because events such as occurred last week are not easy to process. I am not sure you ever finish processing them. I try to imagine what it must have been like to be in that crowd enjoying a national event with family and friends only to have it literally ripped apart by explosives.
Here is my confession: I was one of those whose first thought was, “Terrorists!” Second confession: When my husband told me that they had two suspects I immediately said, “Please tell me they aren’t Muslims.” I speak against and do not appreciate stereotyping, yet it is the very thing I did in the shock of the moment. So I have pondered, “What can I learn from this about myself, about my country, about refugees, about my Muslim neighbor?”
First, I had to acknowledge that we all stereotype…however wrong, it happens. The main thing is to recognize it and put it in check, then to work at understanding the other to the point that it ceases to occur. Not all terrorists are Muslims any more than all school massacres are conducted by Americans. My take away? Go out of my way to befriend someone outside my culture so that stereotyping decreases.
Second, it occurred to me that while we were feeling the effects of having our sense of security shattered, there are many places in the world where this occurs with regular frequency. I once had a friend from Iraq tell me that she did not have the normal adolescent emotional ups and downs because every day she spent all of her emotional energy wondering if her siblings would come home from school or would be blown away by a bomb. My take away? Go out of my way to befriend someone outside my culture that may still be in much pain from past trauma.
Third, I wondered at the statement in social media by one of the suspects that he had not a single American friend and could not understand Americans. I thought “Really? Not one?” It is impossible to say if this was of his own doing or if quite literally he simply could not understand or be understood. My take away? Go out of my way to befriend someone outside my culture so that they have an opportunity to understand and be understood.
Fourth, I watched with awe and wonder at the way the people, the first responders, and law enforcement pulled together to bring peace and to right wrong. Boston lived the maxim, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” I was so very proud of my country and many of my friends from other countries expressed pride as well. I was at an International dinner on Saturday night after the events. Guests were asked to identify their country’s flag and go stand by it. A woman from Venezuela stood up and immediately walked to the American flag, held it up proudly and said, “I was born in Venezuela, but this is my country.” My take away? Go out of my way to befriend someone outside my culture so that they too can one day feel this is their country and stand proudly with their flag.
Fifth, I read a statement by the ambassador of the Czech Republic clarifying that Chechnya and the Czech Republic are two entirely different countries. At the same international dinner I mentioned previously, an International student recounted how she told someone that she was from Korea and they wanted to know what US state that was in. My take away? Go out of my way to befriend someone outside my culture to better understand who they are, where they are from, and the particulars of their country of origin.
Finally, I was saddened that the two suspects came here originally as refugees and yet apparently had not experienced a state of refuge. June 20th is set aside by the UNHCR as World Refugee Day. There are over 43 million refugees and internally displaced peoples in the world. Those numbers are increasing with the crisis in Syria and Mali. There are too many people in our world who need and want refuge from war, hunger, and terror. My take away? Go out of my way to befriend someone outside my culture to better understand what it means to be a refugee.
My prayer is that as I position myself for God to work in me and through me, hopefully someone who needs to know a safe place will find it not only here in this country, but will experience friendship as a safe place and ultimately experience God.
Rev. Nell Green, based in Houston, serves as field personnel for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. The views expressed in this post are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of Interfaith Houston.