The followers of Judaism, Christianity and Islam all trace their origins to the stories of Abraham and Sarah. God called them to be migrants. They knew what it meant to be strangers in a foreign land and showed hospitality to the strangers they encountered. From their experience, hospitality, welcoming the migrant and peacemaking are shared core values for all Christian, Muslims and Jews and an integral part of our common heritage. Those who espouse contrary values or actions can hardly be considered good Christians, Muslims or Jews.
At my table last night there was a Muslim woman from Pakistan and several Muslim men from Turkey. All of them came to the U.S. many years ago, recruited by U.S. companies to migrate here to work as professionals. Over the years, they have been good neighbors and productive citizens. Their children have been born and raised here and attended school and college alongside mine.
Although we shared many common stories last night, such as the challenges of being a parent and our hopes for the Warriors as they go into the last game of the NBA championship, one major and glaring difference stood out. It wasn’t about theology or how we prayed differently. It was about our experience during this election season.
Listening to them share their concerns and fears about the growing anti-immigrant sentiment and more specifically the demonization of Muslims in this country by Trump and his supporters was chilling. As a white male, Christian cleric in this country, I realized how difficult it was for me to truly imagine what it would be like to be in their shoes at this time. One woman who had been here most of her adult life shared a recent incident when someone in her own neighborhood of over 20 years screamed at her, “foreigner go home!” Others shared similar stories of how they live in increasing fear amidst growing suspicion and hostility against Muslims, and their frustration of being painted with the same brush as extremist terrorists. One of the speakers, a Catholic nun who worked in the Middle East, shared how no one blamed Catholics, Catholicism or Catholic schools, when terrorist Timothy McVeigh, a confirmed Catholic, bombed the federal building in Oklahoma City. Yet how quickly after the Orlando shooting, the political rhetoric turned to banning all Muslims from the country.
My increased awareness of what it means to be a Muslim in the U.S. broke my heart and has left me greatly disturbed this father’s day. I feel a profound sadness for my Muslim sisters and brothers. It is amazing how when you sit face to face with someone and listen to their story, how quickly their pain can become yours.
However, as we ended the evening with the Iftar meal, to break the Ramadan fast, with delicious food, laughter and genuine friendship, I felt a profound sense of hope. We all agreed that what our country needs, what our world needs, is this: More table fellowship. More coming to together to share our stories and our lives. More celebration of what binds us together in our common humanity. More recognition that we truly are sisters and brothers of a common father Abraham.
Happy Father’s Day to us all.
Deacon Matt Dulka is a Maryknoll Mission Promoter who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.