Hospitality, Not Hostility

It has been one week since the terrorist attacks in Paris and Baghdad and a week and a day since the attacks in Beirut. It has been two days since 80 died in Nigeria at the hands of Boko Haram. Today, at least 21 people have died due to a terrorist attack at a hotel in Mali.

The examples of terrorism, hate, and violence need not even leave my own country to overwhelm me. Every minute, it seems, someone dies at the hand of a gun. There is so much anger, so much pain.

Last week, members of the Islamic Society of Northeastern University (ISNU) showed me a post on their group’s facebook page that read “Burn Your Local Mosque” with the comment “here ya go, scumbags”. This post highlighted the broader rhetoric present in the US media, especially around the upcoming elections. Words like “internment”, “ID cards”, “security”, and “Islamists” have been thrown around. Does this remind us of anything? It brings to mind much darkness for me.

In a time when it is easy to feel despair, I remain committed to telling the stories that demonstrate community building, not combat. The stories of positive work across difference, of practicing compassion toward strangers, of turning away from fear and hate to welcome those under threat are the foundation of hospitality. When we tell these stories, we show that fear and aversion to difference need not control our lives- and when love and friendship do, we defeat the suffering that comes with hate.

Yesterday, NU’s Intervarsity Christian Fellowship sent an email to ISNU and CSDS with an attached letter and invitation:

Recently, the Muslim community has been alienated and attacked unfairly by many across the country. We recognize that this discrimination isn’t new, but is only more intense and more visible over the past few days, and that much of this has come from those of the Christian faith. The Intervarsity community is sorry and insists that this is not in line with the Christian faith and is not the heart of God. No one should be judged based on generalizations or live in fear because of their identity. As Christians here at Northeastern we support you on this campus.

The letter concluded with an invitation to ISNU’s members for a shared Thanksgiving dinner next week. The most powerful piece of this letter and invitation for me is a group of students reaching out to community under threat. IV acknowledged that though this might not be the first time this hate has infiltrated this community of Muslim Students, and moreover that it might even seem commonplace,  this bigotry is unacceptable. It is unacceptable for Muslims (or anyone, for that matter) to live in fear because of their identity. On this day, the National Transgender Day of Mourning, the day we mourn over 1000 lives lost due to violence this week, the day one group of students decided it is better to extend a hand than turn their backs, I beg us to keep the strife of the world on our minds, but to keep the possibilities of this hospitality in our hearts. Our minds can remind us, but our hearts should guide us.

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