By standing together, we no longer are helpless and hopeless

If emotions could be measured in pounds, the emotions of helplessness and hopelessness must have weighed in the tons over the past two weeks. First, there was the bombing of the Russian jet in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula. Then, there was the series of suicide bombings in Baghdad and Beirut, followed by the horrific news of the attacks in Paris leaving so many young people dead.

I am teaching a class on religion and violence again this semester, and so the first class period after Paris was devoted to what we have learned in our class that would be good to share with those who are confused, scared and angry. Perhaps I shocked my students in this class when I described them as the “teachers” that our country needed now to shed light and reason on the upsurge of violence.

I invited my class members to share with one or two others an insight that they had gained from the class. I then invited them to share with the larger class what they had offered or heard in their small groups.

My students did not disappoint. They were aware that many Americans, and some presidential candidates, know so little about Islam that they cannot distinguish between ISIS/ISIL and the great majority of Muslims who are people of peace. My students were also aware of how difficult the situation is and will be for the millions of refugees from North Africa, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan who might now find the borders to a better future suddenly closed.

Perhaps the student response that most touched me was from a member of the class who had already displayed in the semester a curiosity and concern about the wider world. He approached me after class and asked in all sincerity “What can I do as a single human being in light of what is happening?”

I would like to think that his question is one on the minds of many Americans. My student is not one to blame all Muslims for what a small minority is doing in the name of that faith. And this student is aware that violence leads only to more violence in an endless cycle of vengeance.

I offered my student the same opportunity that I wish to share with readers. Today, from 3:30 to 4:15 p.m., there will be a Shoulder to Shoulder in Interfaith Witness event at the Nur-Allah Islamic Center, 2040 E. 46th St., Indianapolis.

Representatives from various faith communities will lead us in grieving the misuse of religion for violent purposes, too frequent in our world, as well as offering hope for the future. Together, we will affirm the unique role that religions can play in building bridges of understanding and encouragement rather than walls of hatred and suspicion.

If you are one who wishes to do something positive in the wake of the recent darkness, we invite you to attend the event today. Come join us as we look one another in the eye and say, “We refuse to be enemies.”

If you go

Shoulder to Shoulder in Interfaith Witness

When: 3:30 to 4:15 p.m. today

Where: Nur-Allah Islamic Center, 2040 E. 46th St., Indianapolis