Last week, we all heard reports of yet another horrific incident of hate motivated violence taking place in our country. Two men, one a veteran and father of four the other a recent college graduate, were stabbed to death, and a third seriously wounded, while interceding in a racist tirade from a white supremacist directed towards two teenage girls on a Portland light rail train.
While we know that this man likely suffered from mental disabilities, it does not make his crime and the fear that it creates, sting any less. But, what we can take away from this horrific attack, and the many other tragic incidents of this nature that we’ve experienced in recent years, is that there are good people out there, and there will always be more who unite us than divide us.
Ricky Best, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, and Micah David-Cole Fletcher, the three victims, exemplify the best of America. If faith, or religion, teaches us anything it teaches us compassion and understanding. We don’t know if Taliesin Meche was religious but it has been reported that his last words as he was wheeled away to the ambulance, later passing away at the hospital, “Tell everyone on this train that I love them.” His words instruct us that we must learn from each other, and understand each other.
This is what we as contributors to the “Faith” section of Heartland Now would like to accomplish by bringing together voices from many different faith perspectives.
As we begin to work on this deeper knowledge of our traditions and perspectives it is always good to take stock of what we have in common. The timing of the Portland incident comes at a time where it is apt to discuss our similarities. This week both Jews and Muslims begin holidays celebrating the receipt of their respective holy books. Jews will celebrate Shavuot which recognizes the story of the Israelites, just recently having made the exodus from Egypt, receiving the Torah on Mt. Sini, and Muslims begin the holy month of Ramadan which commemorates when the Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad.
Shavuot is celebrated many different ways in the Jewish community but there are a number of common rituals. For instance we eat meals consisting mainly of dairy products because in Exodus 3:8 it is said that the Israelites were “promised a land flowing with milk and honey”. We also read the Book of Ruth. The book describes a Moabite widow, Ruth, who follows her Israelite mother-in-law Naomi after her husband’s death. Ruth becomes a part of the Israelites all while challenging societal conventions, and caring for the sick and needy. Ultimately, Ruth becomes the ancestor to King David and his succeeding line of great biblical kings. Ruth teaches us that we must welcome the stranger, and by doing so we unlock their potential, challenge ourselves, and ultimately make the collective “us” stronger.
As Muslims begin the holiest month of the year we know that most non-Muslims simply know Ramadan as the time of fasting, but it is much more than that. It is also a time for us to pause our busy lives, strengthen our faith, and grow spiritually. Ramadan is an opportunity for Muslims to reconnect with their religion and communities. This month mosques will open their doors for communal break fasts called Iftars. The Muslim Alliance of Indiana is co-sponsoring an Iftaar for the Homeless regardless of faith, and we will sit together in interfaith harmony with all Hoosiers.
The recent tragic event in Portland, Oregon, demonstrates once again how important it is for all Americans to take a stand against hate and come together in a spirit of mutual understanding and national unity. The organized faith community, those of faith, those of a spiritual nature, and certainly those without any of the above must be at the forefront of this conversation. We have dedicated our professional lives to this endeavor, we’re looking forward to working together to reach new audiences, drive new discussions, and bring in new voices to educate, to foster understanding, and to challenge preconceived notions and misconceptions.