On Saturday, February 1, I attended “Faith Over Fear,” at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lynnwood, WA. The event was facilitated by Aneelah Afzali of MAPS-AMEN and Rev. Terry Kyollo of Paths To Understanding. While the training was designed to introduce practical tools for combatting Islamophobia, the lessons are equally transferrable to other areas in which bias and prejudice often dominate. Through information sharing, modeled role playing and individual conversations, participants learned how to be in conversation with people who hold different viewpoints, how to find the similarities and common ground and how to form relationships with people whom we perceive as different from our own families and communities.
On Monday, February 3, I attended “Being Color Brave,” a training designed to help individuals identify triggers when discussing race and racial inequity with other community members. Participants in this discussion had the opportunity to share a story about the very first time they discovered that their skin color made a difference. We also participated in an exercise where we drew a card with a question from an individual who has a different skin color than our own. This leads me to believe that while there is out and out prejudice in life, even white supremacy, there are those who are curious enough to learn about people whom they perceive to be different from themselves.
Living in a polarized world certainly presents its challenges. It is difficult from one moment to the next to fully embrace all that is happening around us. As one who cherishes unity and peace, staying present over the least several weeks has proved challenging at times. At the same time, I continue to be blessed as a member of and pastor in our faith community. What I have discovered through participating in these events and the covenants we adopted at our congregational meeting is that we are a people who are seeking a pathway NOT AROUND but THROUGH these challenging discussions. When I asked Pastor Terry about entering into conversations with Christians who try to convert non-Christians to their belief “in a spirit of love and concern,” he said, “I take them back to Jesus.” Jesus was the one who had a conversation with the Phoenician woman, the one who told the parable of the Good Samaritan, the one who commanded (and commands) us to love one another.
It continues to be my hope that by following the example of Jesus, we will make every effort to be conversation and prayer partners with our allies and those whom we perceive to be different from ourselves.
In great hope,