By Mark Naison, professor of history and African American history at Fordham University.
Anyone who thinks immigrants from Muslim countries are here to wage war on Christianity, or that Islam is a “terrorist religion,” would have left yesterday’s “Young African Immigrant Voices” panel at Fordham, organized by the Bronx African American History Project, with their belief system shaken to the core.
On the outside, the panel looked like White Conservative America’s worst nightmare. Five of the seven young women on the panel wore hijabs and both of the men–and one of the women–had “Muhammed” in their names.
But once they started speaking, every stereotype started to shatter. One young woman, a recent immigrant from Ghana who attended Kappa International High School across the street from Fordham, wore an Army ROTC sweatshirt along with her hijab, and spoke how much she loved the military and of her plans to pursue a career in the United States Armed Forces.
One of the men on the panel, an artist and teacher whose work promoting peace and gender equality has taken him all over the world, spoke of how his father, an Imam in Ghana, sent him to a Catholic boarding school, allowing him to sing all the same songs as his Christian friends and endowing him with a lifelong commitment to bringing people of different nationalities and faiths together.
A young women recently arrived from from Nigeria, now a student leader at Lehman College in the Bronx, spoke of how her Muslim faith did not separate her from her Christian siblings and spoke proudly of her family as a model of mutual understanding between people of different faiths.
And finally, three of the elders in the group–two Muslim, one Christian, who had worked for groups ranging from the Mayor’s Office to the City Commission on Human Rights to the offices of Bronx City Council members and Congressman Serrano, spoke of how you could not work effectively in the African Immigrant communities of the Bronx by dividing people along religious lines. They said Christians and Muslims faced the same issues and lived and worked in harmony.
On a panel that was diverse in age and experience as well as religion, there was not a single moment where anyone spoke critically of people of other faiths. And when people spoke of their own religious background, they invoked that tradition as something which promoted peace and the building of strong families and communities.
At a time when fear of immigrants, and Muslims, is being promoted in the highest places, the Bronx African American History Project provided an extremely valuable counterweight to misinformation and hysteria.
Special thanks must be given to the organizer of this panel, Jane Edward, Ph.D., a brilliant scholar brought up Christian in South Sudan, who has worked closely with the African Islamic Community of the Bronx since her arrival at Fordham ten years ago, and who has won their respect through her writing, speaking and advocacy.
The young people she brought together exemplified, for all who wanted to see it, the promise of an American future where people of all faiths, and nations and values live together in harmony and mutual understanding.
- Mark Naison blogs regularly at With a Brooklyn Accent.
The following has been attributed to Pope Francis, but as reported in La Stampa, it was not said by him at all. I’m researching the web, trying to figure out where this great advice comes from. I’ll update here if I find it. Pope Francis DID issue ten commandments for happiness, however. Here they are via Irish Central.
“You can have flaws, be anxious, and ever angry, but do not forget that your life is the
greatest enterprise in the world. Only you can stop it from going bust. Many appreciate you, admire you and love you.
Remember that to be happy is not to have a sky without a storm, a road without
accidents, work without fatigue, and relationships without disappointments.
To be happy is to find strength in forgiveness, hope in battles, and security in the stage of fear, love in discord. It is not only to enjoy the smile, but also to reflect on the sadness. It is not only to celebrate the successes, but to learn lessons from the failures. It is not only to feel happy with the applause, but to be happy in anonymity.
Being happy is not a fatality of destiny, but an achievement for those who can travel within themselves.
To be happy is to stop feeling like a victim and become your destiny’s author. It is to cross deserts, yet to be able to find an oasis in the depths of our soul. It is to thank God for every morning, for the miracle of life.
Being happy is not being afraid of your own feelings. It’s to be able to talk about you. It is having the courage to hear a “No”. It is confidence in the face of criticism, even when unjustified. It is to kiss your children, pamper your parents, to live poetic moments with friends, even when they hurt us.
To be happy is to let live the creature that lives in each of us, free, joyful and simple. It is to have maturity to be able to say: “I made mistakes”. It is to have the courage to say “I am sorry”. It is to have the sensitivity to say, “I need you”. It is to have the ability to say “I love you”.
May your life become a garden of opportunities for happiness. That in spring, may it be a lover of joy. In winter, a lover of wisdom.
And when you make a mistake, start all over again. For only then will you be in love with life.
You will find that to be happy is not to have a perfect life. But use the tears to irrigate tolerance.
Use your losses to train patience. Use your mistakes to sculpt serenity. Use pain to plaster pleasure. Use obstacles to open windows of intelligence.
Never give up. Never give up on people who love you. Never give up on happiness, for life is an incredible show.”
-NOT by Pope Francis
Peter Stults, creator of the “What If?” movie poster series that drop classic actors into modern blockbusters, tried his hand at a movie poster for a movie that doesn’t exist.
Enter: Idris Elba in “The Apostle of Ireland: The Saint Patrick Story”
I love the concept. Of course, I’d love Idris Elba to star in everything.
See more of Stults’ work here.
In Chris Christie’s first term as New Jersey governor, he nominated a black, gay mayor to the Supreme Court. In 2013, when Chris Christie was running for re-election governor of New Jersey, he won endorsements for his reelection from black church leaders, and NBA star, Shaquille O’Neal. He eventually won, enjoying majority Latino support in the vote.
Also in his first term, Christie nominated an Indian-born Muslim to Superior Court in Passaic County, N.J. As WNYC’s Matt Katz reports, “when conservative critics alleged that the man, Sohail Mohammed, was going to implement Muslim Shariah law, Christie unleashed his famous temper.
“‘This Shariah Law business is crap,’ he said. ‘It’s just crazy. And I’m tired of dealing with the crazies. It’s just ridiculous to be accusing this guy of things just because of his religious background.'”
This is a far cry from Chris Christie, the presidential candidate, in 2016. He’s running in almost entirely white New Hampshire and Iowa. And he’s been endorsed by Maine Gov. Paul LePage, who had told the NAACP to kiss his rear end and alleged that President Obama hates white people. So what changed.
Listen to Katz’ report on WNYC to learn more.
Coptic Church Recognizes Martyrdom of 21 Coptic Christians
The Coptic Orthodox Church has announced that the murder of the 21 Egyptian Christians killed by the so-called Islamic State in Libya will be commemorated in its Church calendar.
Read more here via Vatican Radio.