The follow was written by the Rev. Stephanie Warfield. Stephanie is a educator at Seton Cove Spirituality Center in Austin, Texas.
This is a love letter.
For the first time ever, in all of my 62 years of living in the US, I am afraid of living here. I write this letter because I do not want to live in this fear. I want to love through the fear. You might be surprised by what I am afraid of. I am afraid of US – this growing community of ugly Americans. I am NOT afraid of Muslims or Islam. Why? Because my husband of ten years is Muslim. He is Iraqi. He is from Baghdad. He came to the US because we – the US – invaded his homeland. Think about that for a minute. WE invaded his country. We bombed cities, destroyed roads and infrastructure, devastated many ancient sacred sites shared by Jewish, Muslim and Christian traditions, and killed many innocent people. This was HIS beloved country. He carried the same feelings for his country that we have for OUR country. He worked as a civil engineer building roads and airports. He had a large farm in southern Iraq that yielded great harvests of fruit, dates, and vegetables. He raised Arabian horses and loved to ride freely across the land. He shared delicious meals of falafel, hummus, kibbeh and baklava with family and friends. He loved drinking tea at the corner café – not just for the delicious hot tea but for the opportunity of community and conversation. He laughed and played. He did all of the things that we cherish in this country.
Ten years ago he came to the US to bring his nephew for advanced medical treatment because this teenage boy had been kidnapped and tortured and had suffered nerve damage in his arm. My dear nephew is a delightful young man who dearly loved his homeland, his Iraq. His family also had a large farm that produced grapes, many varieties of vegetables, and dates. Much of this produce would be given to the local villagers. Now my nephew is a US citizen. In the coming weeks, he is graduating from college and getting married in the US.
Ten years ago our paths intertwined and I said yes to marrying this Muslim man. Our officiant, a dear friend, is a United Methodist minister. I give abundant thanks to God/Allah for this union. And it is the one and only thing I thank President Bush for about the US-led invasion of Iraq. Even so, I would give all of the past years back if my husband, our nephew, and their (my) entire family could have their homeland back. I have never been able to visit their beloved country. They have all suffered more greatly than many of us will ever fully understand.
We do not need to fear Muslims. Instead, we need to fear our shadows, our darkness around power and control. My family – my Muslim family – are some of the kindest people I have ever known. We need to love and learn from Muslims. They have so much to give us. They are incredibly resilient. Living in all parts of the world now, they have been learning to adapt to new languages, new cultures and new traditions of daily living. They are generous. I have so many examples of this generosity – too many to name here. They are playful, compassionate, and beautifully loving. They are peaceful. They want all of the same things many of us want. And this small group of Iraqis – beloved Muslims – are my family. This makes me very, very happy. My life, my worldview, my love has been so enriched by their presence.
I wish everyone could know and love these dear people. Let’s all take a look in the mirror and see – truly see – that we are ALL in pain. The real terrorists are those neglected parts of our being that speak of hate and fear of the “other”. We ARE the other. As Khalil Gibran wrote: And God said “Love your enemy,” and I obeyed him and loved myself.
May love prevail!