Posts Tagged With: pursuingraftamad

The Racism Rhythm

The amount of unfair treatment that happens on America soil is immeasurable, even in the most liberal and diverse cities. Though I have personally never been displaced, persecuted for my ethnicity or religion, or truly impoverished, I thought I knew what marginalization felt like by way of other avenues. My experiences may count as a mere thread of the ugly tapestry called discrimination.

I took a dear friend of mine, whom we will call Ameena, to morning coffee and to enjoy the long delayed rays of sunshine last Friday. We were long overdue for some one-on-one fellowship. Ameena is about the age of my own mom and is, like Mom, a mother of four. We met through my friendship with her outgoing,  youngest daughter right here in our apartment complex. We are neighbors. Ameena is an educated, swift, loving, resilient woman. She sought asylum here in America with her two daughters when conditions back home in Afghanistan became too dangerous to return to. Here she remained with no governmental support and, for a long time, no ability to apply for local identification, formal work, a driving permit, nothing. She managed life with her daughters until she was granted asylum and now works with an attorney to be reunited her husband and two sons who remain abroad. I knew she had endured much and was working hard for her rights to be respected in the community and at her on-call job as a translator. Nothing was being handed to her on a silver platter or any platter for that matter.

It hit me the other day that though I’ve heard many a story from my Muslim refugee friends about their lives since they’ve arrived here, there will never reach a point where it is time to stop asking for their stories. No, I racism_011bwill likely never be able to personally relate to what they’ve been through and are going through. Their stories from back home can be hard on the open ears and even more painful to the soft heart. Many of our refugee neighbors are willing to share their stories from a distant country, but not all are eagerly talking about the injustices facing them right here.

As Ameena and I talked, I told her that instead of speculating and speaking on behalf of much of the Afghan community in Sacramento, I wanted to hear from a first person perspective. I asked her what it was like to be in her skin, what trials and joys she experienced in this city, what it felt like to identify as a Muslim or an Afghan or both. She recounted many good experiences and expressed gratitude for several benefits of living in Sacramento, but it was the not-so-few and far between stories of racism that shocked me and hopefully shock you.

These stories will be  exposed in three parts in coming weeks.
Stay connected.
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We will look at how racism sparks negative reactions– real life stories about hate, threats, & ignorance. And we will hear real stories about how it can spur on positive establishments like being educated in the matter, standing  in genuine solidarity and experiencing trusting community.
** Stories will specifically reference Muslim immigrant racism, but concepts will apply to and regard all forms of racism occurring across the country.

“From this moment on, it’s going to be America First.
Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs, will be made to benefit American workers and American families.”

Who are the ones regarded as “American” here?

Choose a Route
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Whether you look upon the new presidency with support or disdain, there is a choice to be made.
Do you exist and live for the benefit of yourself? Timeless teachers, prophets, geniuses, social advocates, martyrs, neurological scientists and figures of all kind teach time and time again that selflessness is the essence of joy and putting self first is the quickest path to your own mental and emotional ruin.

racism_handsBeside considering the consequences of your choices for our own sake, perhaps we also ought to consider Jesus’ verdict on the matter. He said that our treatment of the widow, the orphan, the shelterless or the immigrant parallels our treatment of Him. What we do for them, we do for Him. When we neglect them, mistreat them, and ridicule them, we neglect Jesus, mistreat Jesus, and ridicule Jesus. (Matt. 25:27-46)

These stories are not about causing permanent division. But on some matters, knowing both perspectives, choosing a side and following it with utter conviction is the first step of action. Concern yourself with your own thoughts, beliefs and measures of action first.
Out of love, hear stories. Out of love, know the facts. Out of love, model your convictions.
Truth speaks for itself.

Categories: General, Raft Amad | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why Staying in the Grind is Key

Bring to the table whatever you have to give and receive from the generosity of others when their desire is to help you.

I have been meaning to write this blog for the past two weeks, because this title rung in my ears as a mantra of my current season.

Confession: I have been holding off on writing because I have not felt sufficient time, sufficient mental capacity, sufficient adequacy to be able to compose a worth-reading post. In other words, I wanted perfection.

I often desire perfection. It’s in my nature. Perhaps it’s exacerbated when it comes to writing because I consider myself a quality writer and I don’t wish to publish anything less than prestigious. But how ironic, especially for this particular written expression , that I would be prone to await the perfect words to describe the importance of pulling through the rougher patches in life with whatever capacity you have.

If you’re a reader of The Bible, perhaps you have read through Psalm 89. The writer of these poetic words begins with “I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord forever. I will make His faithfulness known through all the generations.” Interestingly enough, the writer later ends up bringing to God’s attention some of his current grief. It’s almost as if he is saying “Oh hey, God, by the way, your servant has been sort of beat up and mocked and isn’t feeling so swell”. On and on he goes. It’s obviously important to be present with the pain and darn it, you should be able to SAY SO… even to God.
The key part here is that the writer ends his grieving expressions with what seems like a 180 degree turn. “Blessed be the LORD forever! Amen and Amen.”

I was sort of surprised by this. For who could relay their immense troubles in a way that appears they feel forgotten by God and then instantly say, “I bless you, Lord”?

The renown Henri Nouwen says this in this exert “Stand Erect in Your Sorrows”.

“As long as you remain standing, you can speak freely to others, reach out to them, and receive from them. Thus you speak and act from your center [your place of true genuity and rawness] and invite others to speak and act from theirs.”
(Nouwen 62,  The Inner Voice of Love)

The longer I trek through life (and yes, I know it hasn’t been that long),  the more I recognize the confusion from others and even from myself when I worship the Lord, seek Him out, and simultaneously communicate openly the painful struggles right in front of me, some of which have been pretty harsh!

Moments on top of moments have passed when I wanted to throw in the towel and give up. For goodness sake, where could God be the seemingly unending trials anyway? And yet time and time again I find the rewards from staying in the rough, walking through the trials as opposed to around them, and standing erect in my sorrows. Believe it or not, struggling does not isolate you from community, it doesn’t remove your influence on the lives of others, and it does not put your relationships on hold… at least it shouldn’t. If it has, then I’d dare to say you have thrown in your towel.

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Joy is present in the pain, especially when you walk it out with Jesus. One might never know that this picture was taken on one of my mentally and physically weakest days a couple weeks back. The photographed moment with this little guy followed a transparent talk about what was going on in my life with his mother, Fatemeh. I did not want to be transparent. I did not want to show my pain to others. But what would ya know… speaking from my center invited Fatemeh to be present with hers. And being there with her family actually brought some rest and authentic smiles.

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Community in Practice

It was Saturday afternoon. My apartment had been given the royal treatment. Candles were burning to create the aura I desired, though I knew that appetite-stirring aromas would soon dominate the room as valued guests found themselves in my home, bearing dinner dishes that properly represented their country of origin.
It is an honor to open up my apartment and my arms.

There are a handful of varying activities or places that bring me sweet joy. Those include everything from hiking mountains to attain glorious views to tasting the intricate flavors in a vast array of coffee beans. But no matter the experience, it is almost always enjoyed more when shared with a friend.

On a broad scale, there are few things I enjoy more in life than COMMUNITY.

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Here is a perfect representation of just that!

This past Saturday night, I had the privilege of co-hosting a group of Intervarsity college students who opted to spend their weekend away from Sonoma State and in Sacramento. They wanted to try out the flavors of our domain here , particularly the ever-growing refugee community.

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Food + Folks = Fellowship

So we collaborated…my refugee friends and I. Sometimes I forget how recent their transition to the states took place because it feels like we’ve been friends for years.  Fatemeh, Rustam and their son Arsalan are from Afghanistan. Bahram, Arezoo and their son David are from Iran.

I’ll admit.. collaboration was a stretch. It’s not within the cultural/societal norms in Afghanistan nor Iran to ask a friend to help you host other guests in your own home. You are either a guest or a host and culturally-speaking, you would never ask a guest to share in the work load. But I was brave enough to ask and they were brave enough to give it a shot. Together, we all understood our unified purpose of representing our city and community to the students through an enthusiastic presence and some authentic food!

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Learning from each other.

The evening was lovely. There were 14 of us in total, gathering around a suffra (An Afghan-style mat for eating on) on my living room floor, dishing out delicious dinner onto each other’s plates with little to no self-control. We each told where we were born, our names, and if we could travel anywhere in the world where we would go. I loved the diversity, but I particularly loved the bravery of my sweet friend, Dida. She is 12 years old and her family is from Iraq. We made friends here in my apartment complex a few weeks back. She heard about my dinner and wanted to come; I invited her and so she came! Sweet girl was the only one her age in the room and while Fatemeh and Arezoo could converse in their mutual language of Farsi (Dari in Afghanistan), Dida could only participate in English. She was ecstatic to share with the group where she would love to travel when she is older.

I was especially proud of the ladies.
Arezoo and Fatemeh made such a grand effort to engage the women students, even while they are still improving their own knowledge of the English language.
The men engaged swiftly as well, swapping stories of their favorites philosophers and theological teachers.

Differing culture, different faiths, differing paradigms, philosophies, and perspectives.
Isn’t this what the Honorable Jesus did while He dwelled on earth?

I had many reasons this night to be proud of the community I am surrounded by. We were accomplishing exactly what I know I’m commissioned by God to do here… connection, stories, community.
We were creating Raft Amad.

 


 

Categories: General, Raft Amad | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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