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Motherhood in an Age of Terrorism, at Brain Child

Quick link: Motherhood in an Age of Terrorism

This essay weighs heavily on me. I had something else planned for this month at Brain Child but I couldn’t stop thinking about what its like to raise children in a time when there is so much fear and division and more fear. I have plenty of things to be afraid of, we all do. The stranger handing candy out to kids, the drunk driver, the bicycle accident, the bully, the disease…Now schools and malls and planes are targets for violence too. I sometimes can’t sleep because of the what-ifs that flood my mind. How many other mothers in urban Paris, suburban Minneapolis, Syrian refugee camps, Djiboutian villages, go to sleep with similar and worse fears?

But. That very real fear that plagues parents raising kids in an age of terrorism is another full topic for a different essay. This one is about raising kids with intention right now, in this current climate. Okay, so there’s things to be afraid of. What do we do? Do we retreat and isolate? Do we engage? What kind of example to want to set? How? And is there any hope?

peace walk

Here’s an excerpt (and I’m excited that Brain Child chose this essay as their Saturday Think Piece)

Three days after terrorists killed seventeen people in Paris my daughter said at lunch, “Muslims can kill anyone they want, right?”

Terrorism and religious extremism is not hypothetical for my family. A week after suicide bombers blew up a restaurant in Djibouti my daughter asked how we could be sure the Somalia-based terror group al-Shabaab wouldn’t blow up our airplane. My kids go to school behind barbed wire, the walls guarded by armed soldiers and policemen. Sometimes a tank shows up to guard the entrance. We’ve received death threats and people have made throat-cutting motions at us. A man on a bus once shouted that I would be the first person he would kill.

This child asking about al-Shabaab and Muslims killing people? She was born on September 11. Not the September 11. Four years later but we will never be able to mention her birthday without thinking of 2001. She was born in a Muslim country and a Somali midwife delivered her. She is our light on a dark day.

Click here to read more of Motherhood in an Age of Terrorism

Christian and Islamic Extremism and Compassion

The Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda is an extremist Christian militant movement. Originally known as the United Holy Salvation Army, its intention is to rule Uganda according to the Ten Commandments as recorded in the Old Testament. The group employs rape, murder, child soldiers, destruction of property, mutilation, and kidnapping. It belongs on the Christian spectrum.

How does that make you feel, western Christian?



There are real problems inside religions. Not one faith system is immune. Muslims must wrestle with what is it inside the broad spectrum of Islam that people feel they can slaughter schoolchildren and office workers and claim it is being done in the name of Allah. Christians must wrestle with what is it inside the broad spectrum of Christianity that people feel they can protest on behalf of the unborn and at the same time call for the death of abortion doctors or perpetuate the death penalty, and when a group like the Lord’s Resistance Army can call itself a Christian organization.

I would like to distance myself as far as possible from the Lord’s Resistance Army. I know most Muslims would like to do the same with ISIS and al-Qaida. Please don’t be like the terrorists who lump people from other faith or political systems into single-story categories.

I think, I hope, people are moving beyond such simplistic generalizations but there is a long ways to go. Yesterday 3.7 million people marched in France. Thousands gathered in other cities around the world. Saturday night right here in Djibouti a Catholic priest, Protestant pastor, and Muslim imam led prayers at an interfaith gathering, praying for peace. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people came. Muslims, Christians, atheists…These are signs that we are moving in the right direction. Let’s keep moving.

It is time to start examining our books, our traditions, our hearts. I don’t know what it will take for violence to end but I know one of the first steps needs to be developing compassion.

Compassion: to suffer with.

I don’t mean developing an emotion or an inner attitude of compassion. I mean active, engaged compassion. Intentional. In order to suffer with we have to look at each other and engage with each other. We have to know each other’s stories. In order to do that we have to get into relationships, we have to meet people. In order to do that we have to take the gigantic risk of stepping outside our homogenous circles.

These kinds of international tragedies are excellent opportunities to exercise that kind of courage. Ask a Muslim what they think of current events. Ask a Christian what they think of current events. Ask if you could pray together for peace. Ask if they (the ‘other’) knows any passages from their scriptures about peace and healing. You might not think you know any of these ‘others.’ I doubt it. There must be a cashier or a fellow student or a coworker or a neighbor. Maybe you’ve never spoken before. Now is a good time to change that.

Brené Brown says, “Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It’s a relationship between equals. Only when we know our own darkness well can we be present with the darkness of others. Compassion becomes real when we recognize our shared humanity.”

We can’t simply defend a religious system by saying, “They aren’t real Muslims.” Or “They aren’t real Christians.” That isn’t productive. We have to get personal and do the hard work of reconciliation by starting with the darkness inside. We have to root out that darkness in ourselves and work on developing empathy and compassion. We have to recognize our shared humanity.

*image via wikimedia

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