Take down walls and care for others

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, February 25, 2016

More than a decade ago, two towers fell and we built walls — walls of fear, ignorance and hate. In the decade that followed 9/11, Islamophobia became a household word and, in some states (including Mississippi), that Islamophobia took shape in laws many regarded as targeted against Muslims.

Nationally, hate crimes directed against Muslims increased. Now, amidst a Middle East in turmoil, our fears now take root in public discourse where some make no distinction between terrorist and Muslim.

Fortunately, many faith organizations, reflecting on what was happening, turned their attention to ways in which we can begin to break down the walls of ignorance and fear that separate us. Interfaith dialogue, a process with a very long history, is one such way to fulfill our promise to love our neighbor and welcome the stranger. These are values common to all faith traditions. In my own tradition, I am reminded of the words in “Building a Community among Strangers.” They are: “Central to the ongoing story of the Bible is God’s long-term, patient, merciful purpose of recreating a human community in which the love of God and neighbor becomes a fact of history.”

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What can we do in this messy, turbulent, complicated and frightening world to see that love of neighbor becomes a fact of history? One way is through intentional, respectful, nonjudgmental dialogue with people of other faith traditions.

To that end, the Women’s Interfaith Peace Initiative, a project I have led in several states since the fall of those two towers, is being organized in Oxford. Its purpose is simple and direct. Through small group meetings, Muslim, Christian, Jewish women — and, indeed, women of all faiths — are invited to meet monthly to discuss peace in our personal lives, our community and the world.

Over the course of six months, it is my hope that we will form relationships of friendship and love. If we understand one another, we will respect and care for one another. We will welcome the stranger and love our neighbor.

This I believe. Love of neighbor may even become a fact of history. Imagine.

For more information about the Women’s Interfaith Peace Initiative, please contact Kate Roos at kateroos@gmail.com.

Kate Roos