The Friday morning news of the mosque massacres in New Zealand found me just a little sad at first. Too shocked to really feel. I was mostly thoughtful but could barely wrap my mind around the details. I decided to do what we always do in a pinch – pray.
I, who had been raised Muslim but later fell in love with Christ, joined my Christian prayer group on a pre-scheduled conference call at 7 a.m. The prayer leader led us to pray for the families of the Muslims killed in two mosques. We prayed for the Muslim community and prayed that God wipe out hate everywhere. I was reminded of Christians killed in a church in Charleston, Sikh’s slain in a temple in Wisconsin, Jews gunned down in a Synagogue in Pittsburgh. I prayed that God uses my hands to help in the healing.
I reached out to Muslim family and friends. My sister-in-law, who was raised Muslim and continues to grow more devout in Islam, was at work as usual, safe and sounding unrattled when I called.
“Just had to make sure you’re OK in the midst of all this madness,” I said.
“Um, which madness are you talking about? You know we’re in a crazy world. S— going on everywhere. What’s up?” she asked.
“The killings at the mosque. New Zealand.”
“Ain’t that some crazy s—?” she said, breaking the ice, the hardness, the protective numbness around my heart and mind. “People in this world are crazy. And you know Muslims have been under attack, basically, since 9-11.”
Hearing her talk her usual, sharp, quick-witted Black girl jazz, warmed me up. She was safe physically, mentally, emotionally, and most of all, spiritually. She told me of bag checks at the local mosques that started recently due to increased hostilities against Muslims, and that took us both back to our youth when, as children in the Nation of Islam, we submitted to body and bag searches before entering the mosques. Now, I pray love prevails against any new instincts to install metal detectors in churches, synagogues, temples, and mosques.
My Muslim sister-in-law and I laughed for old time’s sake, and I began to feel again. She is one of the strongest, smartest, most compassionate, funniest, most generous people I know. She respects my new-found faith in Christ – even when my Muslim brother mocks, “Why would you go backwards to the church!”. She and I agreed that there is a Supreme Being, a loving God. We believe God’s love can prevail against these outbreaks of violence, and their root causes.
On Saturday, I joined a prayer group at a labyrinth outside a church at noon. In a circle, we read scriptures about forgiveness. We walked in meditation, then formed a human circle again to share.
“How do we apply this to the killings at the mosque?” I asked the group. “Y’all know the Bible better than me. The Bible says ‘when my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I heal the land. So, when and how do we forgive the shooters?” I asked.
A woman I had not met before spoke up. “We flow love and forgiveness to them. We, who know, we go to God and seek forgiveness. We check our own behavior. It begins with us. We flow more love and forgiveness…It may not change them…but it will change someone, and it will change the atmosphere.”
Love flows forgiveness. Love reaches across religious divides and sees the spark of God in everyone. Love embraces. Let love prevail through each of us. Let’s discover that we, as humans and divine beings, have more in common than not.
My Muslim sister-in-law reminded me of something the Quran says.
“You know, the Quran tells us we may not always understand what’s going on, but we can trust that Allah has a plan,” she said. “And in due time, He will reveal it.”
“In the church tradition, we sing the old hymn, ‘We’ll Understand It By and By,’” I told her.
In the meantime, we agreed, there are things we can do. Muslims, Christians, Jews, believers, humanists, atheists, anyone who believes in love: Let love prevail.
Sonsyrea Tate Montgomery is a former managing editor at The Washington Informer, and the author of “Little X: Growing Up in the Nation of Islam” and “Do Me Twice: My Life After Islam.” She can be reached on Facebook.