Other Voices

Daughters of Abraham: Through faith and sharing, we refuse to fear

Muslim women and children attend a Dec. 4 vigil and prayer service in Chino, Calif., held to honor the victims of the Dec. 2 terrorist shooting rampage in San Bernardino.
Muslim women and children attend a Dec. 4 vigil and prayer service in Chino, Calif., held to honor the victims of the Dec. 2 terrorist shooting rampage in San Bernardino. AP

These are perilous times, and people of faith can help make a difference.

One of the many partnerships and programs of Fort Worth’s Multicultural Alliance is the Daughters of Abraham. Members of this group come together to express their voices and concern about the rising fear and hate-mongering rhetoric against Muslims, both locally and nationally.

Sixty-four women attended the Daughters meeting on Dec. 9, the largest attendance ever.

Many of the Jewish and Christian women said they came because they were interested in the discussion topic (“Christian Christmas: How Jewish and Muslim Women Deal with the Holiday”), but also to stand in solidarity with their Muslim sisters and to offer support.

They share why they refuse to fear:

▪ Janice Harris Lord, a Christian member: Fear of terrorists is reasonable. What is not reasonable is being afraid of all Muslims and refugees.

Our monthly gatherings have resulted in growth from tolerating to understanding to loving one another as sisters. As we deeply delve into understanding Islam, we know that it is a faith of peace, as are Judaism and Christianity.

The holy book of each religion includes violence, and each has its own radicals and terrorists. Terrorists of any faith are not likely to engage in discussion and friendship. Our prevailing principal is to encourage all to know one’s neighbor.

▪ Debra Freidman Dayton, a Jewish member: We ask the people of Texas and throughout the U.S., as well as our political candidates and elected representatives to stop the hate speech against the Islamic community. Muslims are not terrorists.

The people who call themselves Muslim, Christian or Jew but engage in acts of terror follow no religion but hate and extremism.

We are women of faith. If we live in fear of our neighbor, if we label and berate our neighbor, if we leave them to suffer, we cease being Americans and people of faith.

We support the Islamic community in America. We support all people in need everywhere.

We refuse to give in to acts of terror by turning against humans in need — that is the act of the coward. Rather, we ask all to become better human beings and better Americans.

▪ Dina Malki, a Muslim member: Fear is a human instinct and emotion, yet resorting to hate speech, bigotry and violence does not soothe fear.

What calms fear is encountering the “other” face-to-face, seeing God in their face, acknowledging the human within them and starting a dialogue.

We have been blessed by sharing the traditions and stories of our sisters of other faiths, we have grown into a lofty culture of compassion and friendship, and we have been spiritually engulfed with the true meaning and value of diversity.

We live the American legacy because we believe our community and nation do not need any further divisions and conflicts based on fears stemming from lack of knowledge and understanding.

Our nation cannot move backward to sectarianism and racism, ruining the legacy of the Founding Fathers and the liberty and freedom that millions of Americans aspired to and died for.

▪ Carol St. Oge, a Jewish member: Closing any house of worship is against God’s teachings. We already see the scars left on people who have been discriminated against, whether for race or religion in this country.

▪ Elizabeth Shaheed, a Muslim member: Even though the vitriol is directed at Muslims today, God only knows who it will be tomorrow.

▪ Anita Beckendorf, a Jewish member: Each of us comes from different environments and experiences. God wants us to live together in unity, accepting our differences, loving and respecting one another. Commit today to live in unity.

Cheryl Kimberling is president of The Multicultural Alliance in Fort Worth.