It has been over a year now that I haven’t been actively a part of my interfaith community. I find that especially odd since I graduated last May from the Claremont School of Theology with a Masters in Religious Leadership. I had hopes that I would be empowered by new education to go out and do more for my community, be invited to be a guest speaker at local houses of worship, or sit on panels; all the things I used to do more frequently and now have all stopped.
I am mostly to blame. Although my personal life has definitely changed with the birth of my son, two new businesses for my husband and me, and the ongoing pressure I put on myself to study for the bar exam any free moment I get (I really don’t have any leisure time to study, but thinking about it takes a lot of energy!), and now expecting my second child, I stopped attending my monthly meetings– whether it be with the Interfaith Youth Council of Orange County, the Muslim-Jewish forum of Los Angeles, or my own beloved organization “I Am Jerusalem.”
It’s easy to put blame on my new role as a mother, or my lack of energy because I am a mother to a toddler, and being pregnant, but I know that my disconnect with this part of my life stems from something greater than just being busy. I have lost my spirit. That spring in my step is missing. I’m disenchanted and discouraged. The world events over the last two years from the Palestinian-Israeli war, to Syria, Muslim Brotherhood, Boko Haram, Da’esh and not to mention our own problems at home with the 3 students murdered over a parking spot, to the most recent incidents in Texas, and ongoing hate crimes, has just made me shut down.
I am a peace promoter, I am conflict resolution supporter, I am the person who wants to build bridges and have lots and lots of dialogue– today I just want to do nothing and be still.
When there are forces so much greater than I am at work to promote all things evil, the goodness I have to spread seems dim. Of course I have colleagues who are of the same frame of mind and collectively we can combat the evil of the world, and normally I would be willing to link arms and continue toward achieving the goal of peace, but it’s not happening. There is no peace to be had at this time. It’s the harsh reality for me to face. I hate even admitting it.
But I need to take the rose colored lenses off. This world is not at peace and there are lots of bad people leading the way. There will come a time when the peace promoters of the world can rise up again and continue doing the good work within their communities but right now it just seems like my voice of peace is lost to the voice of fanatics who get more media attention than I ever will.
I’m not throwing in the towel, I’m not giving up my hope of peace and understanding between people, cultures and communities, I’m just more interested in being quiet. Sometimes through the act of intentionally being still and letting things just happen can make a bigger difference than always facing things head on. I’ve sat on panels, defended my faith, have explained why Islam is a religion that promotes peace and co-existence, but at this time it’s falling on deaf ears. How can an unfamiliar person really believe what I am saying to be truthful? The actions they see from so called Muslims on the news go against every grain of what I am saying.
So at this time, it’s best for me to be still. Just allow my actions as a human being not as a Muslim speak for themselves. I don’t want to be identified just as a Muslim, but first as a human. So that a non-Muslim can see me at face value with no preconceived notions or judgments. Through that interaction of starting on a level of humanity first, we can begin, start to talk. Until then, I don’t see too much value in being actively involved when my audience is doubtful, judgmental, scared or uninterested.
Valentina Khan received her Masters of Arts in Muslim Leadership Context at the Claremont School of Theology. She is also a law graduate and candidate for the California Bar Exam. Valentina is a co-founder of I Am Jerusalem, an interfaith organization which promotes friendship, understanding, and striving for the “greater purpose” by dedicating time to community service and social justice. She spends her time at UpLift:body, life, community where she is the owner and teacher of all things positive for the mind, body, and soul.