Here we are: Christmas Eve and Hanukkah 2016. For seven years this column has focused on peace, inner and outer; open mindedness in a tolerant, judgment-free zone where many contributors have shared their wisdom. We choose peace but we live in a world where conflict and war dominate and the gestures that speak of brotherhood, Oneness, understanding or mercy are rare.
However, just such a gesture was witnessed in November. There he was, standing in front of the Trump International Hotel in New York City and Central Park West, brave and blindfolded Karim Sulayman, an Arab-American man holding a large, hand-written sign with the following statement:
"Hello, my name is Karim and I am an Arab-American. Like many people who are Black, Brown, women, LGBTQIA, Latinx, Muslim, Jewish, immigrants and other, I am very scared. We are anxious and uneasy in our own country and it's difficult to see what lies ahead for us. But I have hope that I am safe with you. Together we can build a community of caring rather than one of fear. You can trust me to care for you no matter who you are, what you look like or where you are from. Will you embrace me as willingly as I embrace you?"
"Will you shake my hand and/or hug me
and or take a photo of me and post it
as a sign that I am safe here with you?"
"I TRUST YOU"
To see Karim and the video of the honest response that he received, paste the following in your browser https://vimeo.com/193125533 or Google "Karim Sulayman on YouTube."
What would you do if you saw Karim with his sign on the street? He clearly made himself vulnerable by tying a blindfold over his eyes so that he could neither judge those who accepted or rejected him and likewise others could not feel judged by him. The choice is simple. In every situation, do we strive for unity, peace, and love — or do we make the choice for divisions, conflict, and fear? Yes, many people think the choice is more complicated than that. Is it? His vulnerable gesture is echoed in a portion of a poem by the late 19th century,English mystic and poet William Blake’s “The Everlasting Gospel”:
This Life’s dim Windows of the Soul
Distorts the Heavens from Pole to Pole
and leads you to believe a lie
When you see with, not thro’, the Eye.
We depend on what our “dim” eyes see or, better yet, that our brain interprets and/or distorts what we “think” we perceive — but is it the Truth? When this column began in 2009 we were five years into the Iraq war debacle. That long slog of ongoing suffering in the Sunni-Shiite complicated Middle-East continues to be an immense disaster. And look at what resulted; a fear of Islam and the Muslims refugees victims now flooding Europe, running for their lives but blamed and banned for seeking safety and shelter from a disruption based on lies not of their making.
They follow a religion that means peace, but are fearful and feared because their exodus now causes a disruption in the same countries whose governments were implicit in the first place. In our country of the free, intolerance has raised its ugly head and freedom of religion has flown out the window with Muslim Americans now being attacked and afraid. They must feel like the Jews did in Europe during Hitler’s reign of terror.
In this the season of “Good Will to All Men,” what gesture of peace can we make to those who feel afraid and alone? What can we do to reach out and say “I Trust You” and “You can Trust Me,” I will not abandon you; I have your back; I will never exclude you from my love; I will be kind, helpful and harmless so that you may find a safe place where everyone is respected and cared for.
In any situation where there is conflict, let us remember Karim's message and not allow inner fear to take away the intention for peace and love.
If you would like to send a message of hope to Karim you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jim Meissner lives in Ashland and Sally McKirgan facilitates the Tidings Inner Peace Column. Reach her at email@example.com.