Friends of Beyond Series - Danica
There is a saying in Arabic, Inshallah, which roughly translates to, “if God wills it,” and as it often expanded, “in God’s timing.” When I fell in love with the Middle East, over twenty years ago, I became used to the rhythm of Inshallah. Inshallah we will have coffee together tomorrow, Inshallah your hot water will come back on, Inshallah there will be peace in the Middle East.
I went to Palestine in 1997. At the time, when I told people where I was going and what I was doing, they all said, “Pakistan? Why on earth would anyone want to go to Pakistan?” Honestly, I have no idea. I’m sure Pakistan is a wonderful country, and perhaps someday I will visit and see for myself. But as I tried to explain where I was going and what I was doing, I was met with the kind of blank expression you might give to a person explaining nuclear physics at a bikini contest.
As Americans, we are guided in the worldview of our own ethnic and moral superiority, one that drives us in an unquenchable lust to fulfill our manifest destiny. Having conquered the borders of our own continent, we look to the rest of the world, thinking that our way of thinking is naturally the way they should all think. They should live as we do, believe as we do, and accept that Uncle Sam is always right.
I speak a combination of blasphemy and treason to say that I do not believe the above should be true. We have much to learn from our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world. Much to learn from the Muslims we so strongly fear.
Twenty years ago, that fear was driven by the uncertainty of these people so unlike us. We had not experienced 9/11, the rise of Daesh (commonly known in the US as ISIS), and the Syrian refugee crisis. But now, with terror groups making the news on a regular basis, we see anyone of Middle Eastern descent as a potential terrorist, as someone to be feared. A professor of religious studies took offense at my pleas for people to not view all Muslims as terrorists. She, a woman who fancied herself an expert in all things religious, but had not once broken bread with a Muslim herself, informed me that all Muslims are taught to kill anyone who is not a Muslim. That their sole mission in life is to destroy the United States, and what it stands for. With such a woman teaching in our colleges, influencing young minds, it’s no wonder that our media has worked us all into a frenzy over Muslims. And it breaks my heart, because I know that most Muslims do not believe those things.
In Palestine, I had tea with an Imam, a Muslim religious authority, who told me that the Jews, Muslims, and Christians are all cousins, and he spoke of his love for his family of faith and his deep pain at being in conflict. As I walked the streets of Jerusalem, I felt a deep love for these cousins of similar but different faiths, and prayed for us all to know how to love one another. If you ask me where my deep faith in Jesus came from, I will tell you that it came from those moments. Watching the Jews on their way to worship, hearing the Muslim call to prayer, recalling Christ’s words, and knowing that there is a God big enough to love us all.
My Palestinian friends, I have committed an offense against you, and I am sorry. I allowed my fears to silence me and I allowed your stories to go untold. I attempted to tell your story, but after I was met with roadblock after roadblock, I went back to my comfortable life. But you, the ones I hold dear in my heart, you have no comfortable lives to go back to. More than fifty years after your world ended and many of you were forced out of your homes, with your people still living in what was supposed to be a temporary refugee camp, your lives are anything but comfortable. I sit in my house, on my laptop, with running water, heat, electricity, and every other comfort I could wish for. But I remember. Living in one of your villages, where sometimes we would have water, sometimes not. Sometimes we would have electricity, sometimes not. And every little thing I take for granted today, for those things, you continue to say, Inshallah.
Today I write my story, partially an apology to those whose stories remain untold, and partially as a plea to those with ears to hear, eyes to see, and hearts to love, that they do not continue to forget Palestinians. I think about what we are taught in the Bible, and how so much of Jesus’s ministry was about reaching out to the marginalized, and those considered outsiders. And I think that as Christians, we have forgotten our obligation to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. We love those who are comfortable to love, but of what credit is that to us? What credit is that to God?
When I met Suzann, I saw someone unafraid to love our neighbors, the Palestinians. I could no longer remain silent. I recommitted myself to loving a group of people I fell in love with so many years ago. The work of Beirut and Beyond is important, not just because they serve a group of people who need our help. But also because it is a reminder that the strength of our faith isn’t in being comfortable, but stretching ourselves to love those outside our ordinary world.
I still pray for us all to learn to love one another. My deep love for Christians, Muslims, and Jews remains unchanged. And I hope, that as you hear the stories from Suzann and witness her work with Palestinians, your heart will be opened to love them as well. Inshallah.
Danica is a dedicated professional in the publishing world and works as a social media coordinator for a major publisher where she connects readers and writers with new fiction releases. With four active kids, two dogs, three cats, and more ducks, chickens and geese than she count, Danica’s never short of inspiration when it comes to writing characters for her latest book. She and her family are building their dream home in the mountains above Denver, Colorado.