It happened. Again. On February 26, for the second time in a week, a Jewish cemetery was desecrated by a hate crime in the United States…this time in Philadelphia, known as the “City of Brotherly Love.” Headstones were toppled and damaged. Families were outraged. All of this happened alongside five waves of bomb threats toward Jewish community centers (JCC’s) since the American presidential election. If these facts don’t send a chill down your spine, then click on this link – “This is What a JCC Bomb Threat Sounds Like.” It contains a recording of what the people protecting our Jewish children have to put up with on a regular basis, not knowing which threat might be a real explosive in the midst of innocent victims.
The first time an act of vandalism in a Jewish cemetery occurred this week, it was in my own city of St. Louis where members of my husband’s family are buried. Over 150 headstones were knocked over or broken at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery. As a Christian, I know that sometimes people in the majority need to see a hate crime as personal before it touches their hearts. I sought to break down that barrier for others by posting about it on Facebook and asking people to comment with what action they would take about this hate crime. Some friends posted supportive comments that comforted me. Yet I was saddened by comments (even from one Jewish person) on other Facebook walls basically saying, “What’s the big deal? It’s a cemetery. Those people are dead.”
The big deal is that these are the memories of loved ones and a sacred space. The big deal is that these are hateful actions anti-Semitic cowards take because they figure the dead can’t come after them. But history shows us that when people are silent, the haters are emboldened and go after living people next.
Sometimes I’m skeptical of social media awareness posts for various causes when they don’t call for specific action, but I do think that they can serve this important purpose: They publicly let people know where you stand. I’m of the opinion that if others don’t know how you feel about racism and hate-crimes, then you probably haven’t said enough.
How can We Speak Out Against Hate Crimes?
I urge everyone to take on one of these actions against hate crimes as it makes sense for you in your country:
- Post on your Facebook about hate crimes in your community, your country, or around the world, so that people know what is happening and that you are against it.
- Write a letter to the editor about it to be published in your local paper, so racists in your community know that their feelings are opposed. Here’s an opinion piece I wrote after Indian-American families were targeted in my neighborhood.
- Tweet or write to the President of the United States (@realDonaldTrump). Let him know that only one statement about hate crimes isn’t enough. His silence is perpetuating these acts and that is not okay. The White House address is 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, DC 20006.
- If you are a U.S. resident, thank your U.S. senators for speaking out against the hate crimes in Jewish cemeteries. On March 7, ALL 100 US Senators signed a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, and FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday asking for “swift action” over repeated bomb threats against Jewish organizations around the country. It is extremely rare for the entire Senate body to send a letter on any topic.
A Silver Lining
To end on a positive note, I am heartened that there are many people who do understand both the enormity of what is happening in America today and the need for people of different faiths and ethnicities to support each other. A Muslim group leapt into action immediately with an on-line fundraiser to help repair the damage with a goal of $20,000. “Through this campaign,” the website read, “we hope to send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities that there is no place for this type of hate, desecration, and violence in America. We pray that this restores a sense of security and peace to the Jewish-American community who has undoubtedly been shaken by this event.” They reached their goal within three hours. They now state that they will donate part of their total, currently $135,316, to the Philadelphia cemetery that was also damaged. An impromptu cleanup crew worked at our cemetery the very next day, including Muslims, Jews, Christians and even U.S. Vice President Mike Pence. Pence happened to be in town for a scheduled visit to an area business.
Use their story as inspiration to find your own voice in your own community wherever you are in the world. As the late American civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
Don’t be silent.
How do you speak up against injustice?
This is an original post for World Moms Network by Cindy Levin. Photo: SKDK-TV.
Paris, 1989, on a playground. A young girl only a year or two older than I asks me, in French, “Where are you from?” “I am from Saudi Arabia,” I reply. She asks me where that is. This happened to me frequently, and I couldn’t understand how children didn’t know where Saudi Arabia was! I knew where France was… Why shouldn’t they know where Saudi was?
Vermont, 1993. Camp Kenya. “Do you have an oil well in your backyard?” “Are you a millionaire?” “Do you live in a tent?” We indulged the questions at first, but it started to get a bit old. My cousin and I tried to blend in as best we could, without joining in on the conversations about boys and first kisses. While we obviously stood out, our novelty wore off quickly, especially when our answers to their questions were not as exotic or mysterious as the other children hoped.
1998, London, American University. “Oh! You don’t seem like a Saudi,” a fellow student exclaimed. “How many Saudis have you met?” I asked her. “None,” she replied. Another student remarked, “Wow, a Saudi woman studying graphic design in London! What a huge step for women!” I couldn’t help but be offended. ”Ummmm… my mother studied in Switzerland, is fluent in 3 languages and has devoted her life to women empowerment… Studying graphic design in London is no great feat.”
2000, London, American University. In response to the news of my engagement, one of my teachers called me into his office. “Are you ok?” he asked me. “Yes, why?” I replied. “Is it your choice to get married?” he asked. I was shocked by his question, so I replied, “Yes, it is. Why would you ask me that?” “I would hate for you to be coerced into something you didn’t want.” This is from a professor I had known for 2 years. In his classes, he knew me to be an opinionated, creative and confident woman. But apparently the cliches don’t shift.
September 11, 2001, London. At home. The phone rings. “Switch on the TV!” my cousin tells me. “What channel?” I ask. “Any channel,” she replies. We get a warning to stay home from University for a while, so my sister camps out in the living room in front of the news for days on end. “I am from Saudi Arabia,” is not longer greeted with curiosity and questions about oil wells in our backyard.
Watching the events unfold that day was horrific, devastating and gut wrenching. As a 21 year old college student, I felt society expected me to take responsibility or apologise, even though this act was so far away from anything I knew, anything I was raised with, anything I or anyone else I knew believed. I didn’t understand why these acts by these men changed people’s impression of me. “It’s me!” I wanted to shout. I haven’t changed as a result of what terrorists have done. I don’t have a hand in this.
The cliche had changed overnight. ‘I am Saudi,’ was no longer only synonymous with, “I am an oppressed woman whose biggest ambition in the world is to buy half of Harrods.” It now also became synonymous with “I am a hateful person to be feared. I come from a country without a shred of good in it. I come from a country that breeds terrorists. Therefore I am sure to breed the myself. And my silence means I condone every terrorist act committed not only by a Saudi but by anyone claiming to be a muslim.” You may think this is a bit dramatic. I wish it was. It was very much black and white.
Looking at the world events in the last few months. Listening to the rhetoric coming out of the UK after Brexit and the US after the elections it is clear that nothing is ever black and white. Every country, every community, every family and every person has the capacity for both good and bad. I have lived my whole life knowing this. We were raised knowing this. That is why it is so difficult to understand when people paint a whole culture and country with one brush. I did not look at these situations and think, “That’s it! They hate us! They would rather see us gone.” Maybe I had the luxury of travelling to many places and meeting many people from different cultures. What I am certain of is that nothing and no one is perfect, what matters more is the effort people put into their betterment.
They have opinions about me, and about my people, but there is much that they do not see, that they do not know. Since September 11th Saudi Arabia has had dozens of terrorists attacks on its own soil targeting not only expats but Saudi civilians and law enforcement, as well as members of the government. The Saudi government has been actively fighting terrorism and has had many successes in this war against terror. Saudi Arabia has taken measures to regulate all charitable donations, requiring proper permits and security checks to ensure every donation is going where it is intended. The Saudi government recognised an underlying problem in our education system and has since changed the textbooks and method of teaching.
The Arab and Muslim world has lost many lives to extremist ways of thinking and terrorism. Likewise, the Arab and Muslim world has a great deal to gain by fighting the war of terror. We are together in this.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Mama B. of Saudi Arabia. Photo credit to the author.
Recently, my family and I were invited to attend the baptism and confirmation of a neighbor’s son. They are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Days Saints, and they asked friends, family and neighbors to witness this special rite of passage. I am an agnostic, and we do not practice formal religion in our home, but I was excited to take my sons to support their friend.
I grew up in a Catholic community, but I reached a point when I realized that Catholicism wasn’t the right fit for me. I explored other faiths, but none stuck. However, I have a tremendous amount of respect for formal faith-based communities. I may not agree with all aspects of any given religion, but there are many things that I do agree with and that warm my heart.
Family, community, connection, support, love…these are the things that you can find playing out in houses of worship around the world.
I talk to my children about religion. We discuss the different forms that prayer can take, and the ways in which people of various faiths interpret the presence of God in their lives. We also talk about people who do not believe in God, and ways in which they can be spiritual. We have visited Christian churches, a Buddhist temple, and a Hindu monastery. We celebrate Christmas, and we spend time in the fall and winter discussing the festivals of light celebrated around the world. We have our own version of prayer in the form of secular daily intentions that we recite together.
We talk about mindfulness, morality, and being positive members of our community. I try to draw parallels about how we think on these things and how those who practice religion do.
Prior to attending the baptism, my boys and I talked about what it would mean to their friend and his religious community. I explained that it would be OK if we didn’t understand everything that happened during the service. We would go to observe, learn and show support.
It was a joyous gathering. Family members spoke and guided the service. They did a wonderful job of explaining the process to everyone there, especially those of us for whom this was new. People sang and cried happy tears. Their friend was immersed by his father in a font while everyone, especially a front row of the littlest attendees, looked on him with smiles. He became an official member of his religious community, surrounded mainly by people of his ward but also a few from the outside.
As we drove home, I asked my children what they thought. They had both had a great time. They had interesting observations and were able to talk about what they expected and how it compared to what actually happened. But overall, they knew that this was a special day for their friend, and it helped them understand his life a bit more. As a family, we are still content approaching all things spiritual in our own manner.
However, I want to make sure that while my children don’t practice religion, they are tolerant and respectful of religion. We live in a time when it is so easy to become cynical and focus on what we don’t like about someone or something.
While it is important to champion our own beliefs, it is equally important to continually learn about those who choose a different path than ours.
Opportunities like this recent one benefit us all by bringing us closer together while still allowing our differences. At the end of the day, it’s all about the larger community, and I love mine.
Do you practice religion with your children? How do you talk to your children about faiths that are different to yours?
This has been an original post for World Moms Network by Tara B. Photo credit to the author.
Attendees were asked to arrive prior to the doors opening at 6:30am on Tuesday morning. I arrived at 6:20am, and the colorful line of women’s clothing wrapped for an entire block around the entrance of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC. While on line, I met Kinda, a woman originally from Syria and who had been living in the U.S. since 2010.
While wearing a golden colored hijab, Kinda explained that she worked as the regional director for the Women’s Initiative for Self-Empowerment (WISE), an organization which seeks to inspire a network of young Muslim female leaders to become ambassadors for women in their community in Dallas, Texas. We spoke excitedly about our roles to advance women, which made our wait to get inside the building fly by.
We parted in the crowd once we got to registration, where we were separated by last name. I made my way through the convention center, grabbed breakfast, and even bumped into a fellow World Mom, Lashaun Martin from the Mocha Moms!
To get a good spot, I headed to the main room and met another woman who was studying to be a human rights lawyer. We joined the women from the Rape Crisis Center of DC at their table. When they told me about the work they did, all I could get out was a big “THANK YOU!” Here is a photo of us:
With awesome women from the DC Rape Crisis Center in Washington, DC for the State of the World Women’s Summit on June 14, 2016.
As the crowd was settling down, I saw Kinda, my friend from about all of 30 minutes ago, set her stuff down at a table nearby, and I went over to invite her over to sit with us, and she did.
From June 14th -15th this year women change makers from around the country were all led together by invitation from the White House to attend the first ever United State of Women Summit. Speakers included United States President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Save the Children CEO and President Carolyn Miles, US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Oprah and more.
The Violence Against Women Act (check out my post about VAWA on a fellow World Mom, Another Jennifer’s Blog), equal pay, paid maternity and sick leave, raising the minimum wage, women empowerment, women entrepreneurship. women in politics, LGBT rights, terrorism, poverty, and keeping more girls in school worldwide were main topics of the event.
Introduced by Mikaila, the child entrepreneur behind the now popular Me and the Bees Lemonade, our country’s Commander in Chief took the stage. His first words?
“This is what a feminist looks like!” — US President Barack Obama
He was the only one on stage, and the crowd of over 5,000 women applauded with intensity and whoops of joy.
Jennifer Burden proud to be listening to US President Barack Obama speak live at the State of the World’s Women Summit on June 14, 2016 in Washington, DC.
President Obama gave a speech of unity and inclusion. His message was about a country for everyone, regardless of race, belief, sex, or sexual orientation. He mentioned how his daughters and their millennial counterparts saw the world very differently from how the world is today. His girls think it’s strange to treat people poorly just because they are different. How their generaton thinks it’s weird that there hasn’t been a woman President yet. Or that it’s surprising that women make less pay than men.
He also said that we’re on track for women to achieve equal pay by 2080. 2080??? And that the nation needed to work together to close the gap now.
After his speech I felt like our voices of women across the nation were being valued. I needed to hear that someone cared about equality so passionately. I needed to hear that everyone was accepted.
With news of a systematic race problem being unveiled through the powers of social media in the United States, gun violence, poverty and world terrorism, I knew what the President spoke of wasn’t the full reality today in our country, but what we aimed to be. Dreams of unity and equality that we can make it happen. We WILL get there, but everyone needs to play a role on the team. It gave me hope, and I was quite emotionally moved by hearing his words. They motivated me to try harder.
When I turned around to face the table after he spoke, Kinda could see my teary face. She started walking around the circular table towards me, and I met her half way. We hugged. We were pure strangers just a few hours ago. We hugged the hug that we needed to hug after that speech. A hug that we all belonged. A hug that we were all understood. A hug that it is not only ok, but also safe, to be different from one another. A hug that supporting each other should be our normal first intention and reaction above all else.
Kinda and Jennifer Burden pose for a photo at the State of the World’s Women Summit in Washington, DC on June 14th, 2016.
This is my America. And I am proud to be a part of it, just one citizen among the many helping to lead it forward in progress. We can all do our part in appreciating our differences and finding ways in which we can work together. For staying positive. For seeing the good in the world, instead of being afraid of what makes us different. For finding what brings us together as humans.
This is where I see my country’s future. This is how I see the world’s future. This is what I want for the world’s children. Freedom. Peace. The ideas are out there, so no doubt it can be achieved. It is possible!
As a part of World Moms Network, we seek to bond together and do our part to help create a world of friendship, peace, acceptance, and understanding. It’s even in our vision statement,
“We envision a world of peace and equality, grounded by our common bond of motherhood.”
We believe it can happen. We’re aiming for it. Join us. Hang out, here, on our website. Sign up for our newsletter. Follow us on social media. Share and like our posts. Comment and share your thoughts on how we can make the world a more peaceful place. Tell us what you’re doing to help achieve these goals from your corner of the world, whether it be a random act of kindness or a major campaign — no step is too small! And we are so interested to know about YOU! This space is for all of us. This project is real. Be a part of our movement — you’re invited, and we’re still just getting started!
This is an original post to World Moms Network by Founder and CEO, Jennifer Burden, in New Jersey, USA.
Photo credits to the author.
Fasting in Faith
A little while ago, a news station in South Carolina (USA) had a story about a religion of which many people have not yet heard. It was about the Baha’i Faith. Although I was a bit surprised by the coverage, as I listened to the story it made sense that this Faith would be well accepted in South Carolina because of the Baha’i Faith’s main principle of oneness.
I should mention, I am a Baha’i; or I try to be.
On March 2nd every able member of the Baha’i Faith over the age of 15 years began a Fast. The Baha’i Fast occurs during the last month of the Baha’i year. This last month is called `Alá’. In our year there are 19 months composed of 19 days each. The last month is `Alá’, which means “Loftiness”, and the first month (which is coming up in just a couple of days) is “Bahá”, meaning “Splendor.”
Right before the month of `Alá’ are four or five intercalary days, depending on whether or not it’s a leap year in the Gregorian calendar with which the Badi calendar works. This year, for instance, there were five days between the month of Mulk (Dominion) and the current month of `Alá’. The intercalary days are also called the Days of Ha and Ayyam-i-Ha.
Ayyam-i-Ha is a time to prepare for the Fast and it is also a time for gift giving and a more focused intent on service.
The Baha’i day begins at sunset, as the current day ends. As the Fast began on March 2nd, many Baha’is around the world gathered for a Nineteen Day Feast after sunset on March 1st. This is when the Fast actually begins. Before dawn on March 2nd, those who fast typically awaken to nourish their spirits and bodies through prayer and food. Between sunrise and sunset we are to abstain from all food and drink.
The physical portion of the Fast is to remind us of our souls and the soul’s connection and need for closeness to its Creator. Fast is broken at sunset with prayers and food again. Because the Baha’i Faith was born in Persia, many Baha’i communities break the Fast with similar items including hot tea; at least this has been my experience in Italy, Tanzania, and the USA.
The Baha’i New Year
This year the Fast ends on March 20th which means that March 21st marks time for the next Nineteen Day Feast, as well as the Baha’i new year: Naw-Ruz.
On Naw-Ruz most communities have a big party; usually the biggest of the year. There is no required dress to celebrate, as long as what we wear isn’t a cause of ridicule. People do still try to wear festive clothes and share festive foods. The communities that can afford to rent a big ball room or similar space have disc jockeys and other entertainment. Most communities that have children in Baha’i families organize in advance so that the children are a part of the entertainment during the Naw-Ruz party.
I have not yet been to a Naw-Ruz party in South Carolina, so I am looking forward to participating in this year’s festivities! Everyone is welcome there!
If you are a member of a religion, what is something special that you personally like about the religion?
If you aren’t a part of any religion, what do you that makes you feel like you are developing your soul?
If you don’t believe in having a soul, what do you do that makes you feel like you are a part of all of creation?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Sophia. You can find her blogging at Think Say Be and on twitter @ThinkSayBeSNJ.
Photo: Courtesy of Mona Haydar
In the age of cellphones and social media, it’s very easy to disconnect from people without realizing you’re doing so. How many of us create walls subconsciously, especially if it concerns people of different nationalities we don’t usually associate with?
I was struck by a story of a woman who decided to set up a stand outside of a library in Cambridge, MA. Inspired by a story her husband saw on NPR titled “Ask an Iraqi”, Mona Haydar thought that it was important for her to establish a connection with those who may not know what’s it’s like to be a Muslim, especially a Muslim woman living in the United States.
For Haydar, setting up a stand titled “Talk To A Muslim” was a way for her to dispel any preconceived notions or stereotypes so many have of foreigners, especially of Muslim women.
With so many crises affecting different nationalities, in light of events happening in Syria, Haydar’s goal of creating a physical stand and waiting for people to approach her was a bold move since she had no clue how it would be received. What was surprising and hopeful was that people did stop by and spoke with Haydar, and that was a start. She was quite surprised to see how people did respond to her stand and while the reception was initially uncertain, it was enough for her to think about setting up the stand again.
In the current climate regarding people of cultures we aren’t familiar with, not willing to find out about them says more about us than them. There shouldn’t be a division of “them” and “us”, but unfortunately, there is.
How many times have we been guilty of giving in to fear of the unknown instead of taking a step back and dispelling the stereotypes we have learned about other cultures?
As someone who has had to answer questions about my nationality or religion over the years, the initial offense I felt has made me rethink of how people perceive me. Over the years, I have been mistakenly identified as either Korean or Japanese, rarely a Filipina. In addition, since I’m married to a Jewish man, I have been asked whether I’m a convert or adopted due to my Jewish maiden name, and to which I answer “no” to both. Answering these questions over the years, my frustration over being categorized primarily due to my physical appearance has made me realize that it’s not because of ignorance, but lack of communication. Asking questions and conversing about each other’s cultures would go a long way than being presumptuous about other people’s lives.
After reading about Haydar and seeing the NPR segment titled “Ask An Iraqi”, it made me wonder if we should put ourselves in Haydar’s shoes. Should we have to set up a stand in order to be understood or be compassionate towards others? Have we become so desensitized by our own prejudices that we have no room for being tolerant? I would hope not. Haydar’s stand may just be one form of starting conversations regarding one’s culture, but I think it’s an idea worth exploring. We might just realize that we may not look alike, but we all share the same intrinsic values of goodness towards humanity.
Read the original article regarding this post Here.
How do you think we can nurture better cross-cultural understanding?
This is an original post written by World Moms Blog Contributor Tes Silverman of The Pinay Perspective