It’s 8:36 in the evening, and I’m sitting in bed with my laptop, something I hardly ever do. But I’m sitting here, and I am scared out of my mind. My room has always been a place where I can go to be comforted, where I recover from a busy day or where I relax with a good book. But my mind is just running with about a million things that just aren’t right with the world.
Unless you have been living under a rock (in which case, I may envy you a little bit), you’ve heard news about a leading American presidential candidate calling for a ban on all Muslims entering the United States. You’ve heard people agreeing, saying that all of “those people” are trouble and that they’re out to hurt us. You’ve heard about peaceful Muslims leaving their places of worship and being attacked. Maybe you’re one of the many who agree that Islam has no place in these United States. In all honesty, you’re the one I’m really afraid of.
Have we really lost the sense that underneath it all, we’re all the same? Have we really begun to believe that the circle of humanity is small and that there’s no room for those who aren’t just like “us?” Fr. Gregory Boyle once said that:
“Only kinship. Inching ourselves closer to creating a community of kinship such that God might recognize it. Soon we imagine, with God, this circle of compassion. Then we imagine no one standing outside of that circle, moving ourselves closer to the margins so that the margins themselves will be erased. We stand there with those whose dignity has been denied. We locate ourselves with the poor and the powerless and the voiceless. At the edges, we join the easily despised and the readily left out. We stand with the demonized so that the demonizing will stop. We situate ourselves right next to the disposable so that the day will come when we stop throwing people away.”
Apart from what I find directly in the Gospels, this is the truest statement I’ve heard on what we need today. Yet we do the opposite. We inch closer and closer to the center of the circle, excluding those who need us the most, excluding the hungry, the poor, the persecuted. For what? So we can feel a little more comfortable with ourselves? We throw away the lives that we don’t like so that we don’t have to acknowledge that maybe we’re the ones who need conversion. What we’re really doing is moving farther and farther away from the God who created us all. My heart aches.
This is a photo of some of my most favorite people in the world. You could try to put labels on us. We’re Catholic. We’re Muslim. We’re Hindu. We’re FIlipino. We’re Mexican. And Colombian and Indian. And when we come together, it doesn’t matter. When we come together, we watch football and play games. We eat together. We serve each other. We build kinship.
Do we discuss politics? Of course we do. I’ll never forget a conversation between two of the men in this group: One a Muslim and one a Catholic. They were talking about what would happen if the war came to US soil and the two faiths began fighting one another. The Catholic said, “I’d have to fight for my Church.” The Muslim said, “I’d have to fight for my faith, too.”
I was wondering where the conversation would go when they started talking about what would happen if they met each other on the battlefield. One statement summed it all up:
“I’ll come find you on the battlefield. We’ll hug it out and there won’t be anymore of this war.”
It was a small thing. But it brought a tear to my eye. That’s when I realized that I want to be as brave as they are. It seems far fetched, I know. But why can’t it be?
I want to end this post by introducing you to someone who means a lot to me. In fact, I call him my brother-because that’s what he is. His name is Mohsin. He’s a devoted follower of Islam. I’m a devoted Catholic. But it doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, he’s just my brother. I know that if I need to talk to someone at 3 in the morning, he’s only a call away. I know that if I need someone to fast with me, he’ll do it. No questions asked. I know that he’ll check up on me when I need him to…not like a quick “How are you?” text but a real “How are things going” conversation. He’s there to remind me that my life is good, that I have a lot to appreciate in life. He lets me cry when I need to. He tells jokes when I just need a good laugh.
He doesn’t know it, but I worry about him. I worry about all of my Muslim friends. I worry that someone is going to hurt him or hurtle unkind words at him. I worry that one day it’s going to be him who’s attacked. I haven’t told him, but I worry about losing my friend, my brother.
I also haven’t told him that I wish I were as brave as he is. I just want him to know that if it comes down to standing by laws that exclude him from the circle of kinship and standing by him, I’ll stand by him and all of my peaceful brothers and sisters. It’s what Catholics do.