A Beautiful, Complicated Story
Saturday night my spouse and I were invited to the first of its kind gathering in Anacortes. The occasion was ancient: the Persian New Year Nowruz. It originated in the Zoroastrian tradition but is practiced my many traditions today.
The couple who organized the gathering are Zoroastrian, although they grew up Muslim. They are the kind of people you love to know and it was a blessing to meet them.
I was introduced as a person that does work among all wisdom traditions. As we told one another’s stories, I mentioned my work to counter anti-Muslim dehumanization, among others. This was the complicated part of the story. Zoroastrians continue to be under oppression in Iran.
I honored the pain the husband expressed. It is a deep pain, both historic and current.
I also made it clear that not all Muslims were responsible for this – collective blame is a game we all, eventually, lose. I said that we want to support people in all wisdom communities to stand with each other to resist dehumanization and the violence it leads to. I said that as a part of the majority religion in this country, that I felt it was my job to stand up for the rights and dignity of people in all minority traditions – including his.
His tradition, his family, and his own experience led him to a gracious response to me. He came to understand that in this moment we all must stand with each other. We name and acknowledge the pain we have experienced. We also recognize that dehumanization of any group, even when we have reason for it, strengthens a dynamic that makes our world less safe, and leads us away from the core values of our own traditions.
I continue to be moved that he hugged me after this intense, painful, and beautiful conversation. He said that this is very important work in a world of so much pain and conflict. It is, he said, the work of real peace.
His family, tradition, and experiences have formed this person I met that night. By a fruit a tree is known. I saw the fruit of a deep, strong, and expansive commitment to honor the humanity of everyone.
His response humbled me deeply. It made me wonder if my reaction would have been so generous.