I was talking with my wife today about SE7EN FAST (read about it here). As we try to get people to join and commit to fasting on 7.7.15 by taking a picture of themselves with a sign saying so much, I realized that it’s kind of a big thing to ask. It’s not a big thing to fast from food and drink for a day. It’s not that big of a thing to donate what you would have spent on money that day to the World Food Programme. It’s a slightly bigger thing to go to an Islamic Center to break fast with Muslims on 7.7.15 (providing that that occurs this year).
No, the big ask is asking people to commit to publicly proclaiming that they are going to do it. We are asking people to take a risk. It’s not exactly a mainstream idea to stand or act in solidarity with Muslims in our country. The media regularly does what it can to keep fear at the forefront of our minds when it comes to Muslims in America. To take a picture holding a sign is a sort of protest against this sort of fear. It’s a way of saying “I don’t care what the media says, I want to create spaces for peace to break out in our community between non-Muslims and Muslims”.
It’s a risk because the likelihood is high that in posting a picture online saying, “My name is Jeff, a Christian, and in solidarity with Muslims I will FAST on 7.7.15 and donate to the World Food Programme,” you will incur some sort of social media push-back. You likely have some friends on Facebook who are afraid of or literally hate Muslims and don’t want them to become a vital part of our communities. If you do, they will likely let you know that you are a terrible person/American for choosing to make a public declaration that you don’t feel the same way that they do.
This is a reality that I live with every day. I once had a Fire Chief berate me for “saying positive things” about Muslims in public. He did this in person. The venom is much stronger in virtual-world, where people feel free to say whatever they want and don’t think that there is a human being reading the words on the other side of a “POST” button.
But, which is the greater risk? Is the greater risk that you might receive some negative feedback from ‘friends’ about your decision to declare that you are participating in SE7EN FAST? Or, is the greater risk that you will choose to let bigotry and myopia win yet again by remaining silent and not choosing to take a stand on behalf of and break bread with people who are marginalized and demonized by much of our public discourse? Or, is the even greater risk that you will stand unchallenged by the chance that you might actually meet a Muslim person with whom you end up in a meaningful friendship that changes both of you in the process?
The risk is worth the reward. The reward is found not in fasting, nor in charity, but in saying that Muslims (like the rest of the human race) are created in the divine image and therefore are worthy of friendship, love, honor, dignity, and respect. The reward is in creating a healthier community in our own community between people who are kept at a distance from one another by the media. The reward is in saying publicly that you believe that love casts out fear, and that love conquers all.
Will you take the risk? I hope you are, because you may inspire hundreds of others also to take the risk and start a movement of transformation in the name of love in communities throughout the world. Peace doesn’t come through war, but through relationships that develop organically in communities between people who are told that they are supposed to fear and oppose the other.
This isn’t the only way, but this is a way to create that sort of peace. The peace that sets all things to right. I pray that you take the risk and together we see the reward unfold around us.