March 18, 2009

Children of Abraham

…your name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made you, (Genesis 17:5)

أحب الخاص بك الجدة

Quite literally, the members of my family are children of Abraham. That is a name in our family tree. My husband’s grandparents were born in Syria and Lebanon and came to the United States in the 1930s. We have a lot of Abrahams in the family tree and the heritage is a strong proud one.

Something happened over the weekend that upset my daughter to her core. She is proud of her background and the cultural influences that have shaped her life. She knows a handful of Arabic words and enjoys Middle Eastern food on a regular basis.

Let me introduce you to Sittoo, my husband’s grandmother. That is how to say Grandmother in Arabic. She was born in 1907 on the banks of Lebanon. Her village was a simple one and she would often reminisce about the cedars on the mountainside, the delicious food and the exotic music and dances. She learned 3 different languages before she came to the USA; Arabic, English and French, from the French occupation of Lebanon.

Lebanon was a largely Christian enclave but also included areas containing many Muslims and Druze. Sittoo spoke often of her Muslim neighbors though she herself was a Maronite Catholic. She came to the United States in an arranged marriage, but her husband died shortly after they were married. Her second husband was a Syrian man she knew from her social club. He was my husband’s grandfather, who died in 1978. She brought her rich heritage with her and maintained her native ways until her death at 96. Our children and I were very blessed to have her in our lives, which are more vibrant for knowing her.

Fear has gripped our nation. Thoughtless, naïve comments are made. Comments that come from a place of zero personal knowledge but rather spoon fed hatred. The prejudice towards Middle Eastern people is frightening. The comment that was made was, “those Middle Easterners want to kill all the Christians”. The sad thing, this comment was made by a religious leader. Not all Middle Easterners are terrorists, nor are all terrorists Middle Eastern. It is flawed logic. Some terrorists look like Ted Kaczinski, Timothy McVeigh and John Lee Malvo.

Historically, Islam, Judaism, and Christianity all started with Abraham, the father of nations. Each faith embodies slightly different manifestations, yet, the core message is the same. There is one God and we share one same Holy Place, the Temple Mount, where Solomon built a temple, Jesus prayed, and Mohammed ascended. We have many more similarities that are often overlooked. To quote Rabbi David Rosen, "interreligious dialogue is an essential component in facilitating peaceful reconciliation in international relations, for the wellbeing of our world as a whole".

I think we can do better for our brothers and sisters. I think we can reach across the world and set an example for the hate filled extremists. Do not perpetuate their frightened gross generalizations, but rather extend a hand of friendship and love. I think we should stop making religion the bad guy, and remember the core teachings of tolerance and peace, which is central to all Abrahamic religions. Religion gets a bad rap for being at the center of so many wars and people turn away from it for that reason. It’s time to stop arguing about whose God is the better God and embrace our collective faiths that tell us there IS God, who made a promise a long time ago to Abraham.

And I will make your seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give to your seed all these countries; and in your seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed. (Genesis 26:4)

It’s time to gaze into the night sky and count the twinkling stars, and realize… we’re all in this universe together.

Genesis 6:24

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