2016 was a rollercoaster. Whether you emerged from it triumphant or uneasy, it definitely took us by surprise. 2016 showed us a side of humanity we thought had been left behind in the 20th century. It was dominated by conversations about race, politics, gender, refugees, and populist movements to divided us.
Despite all this, 2016 was also marked by remarkable acts of courage, friendship and acceptance that brought communities and people together. We saw people reaching out to each other in moments of need, despair and even survival. Here’s are 5 Interfaith Moments That Touched Our Hearts in 2016:
An American Jewish Rights Group Vowing to Join Trump’s Proposed ‘Muslim Registry’.
During election campaign, the now president-elect made alarming promises to create an online registry to track Muslims across the country. After his win, his supporters continue to praise and demand the initiative. In a strong show of solidarity with the Muslim people, Jonathann Greenblatt, who serves as director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) which campaigns against anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry, vowed to register as a Muslim if such a registry ever came to pass.
“The new administration plans to force Muslims to register on some master list,” Jonathan Greenblatt spoke at the Never is Now Conference just a few weeks after the election. “As Jews we know what it means to be forced to register.”
He later went on to comment “Making powerful enemies is the price one must pay, at times, for speaking truth to power.” Such an act of camaraderie was definitely welcomed following the tense environment following the 2016 US presidential election. It forged ties of humanity and fraternity that were much needed to calm fears and combat bigotry.
Muslim All-Girls Choir Singing Christmas Carols in Lebanon
Footage from a church concert in Beirut emerged this Christmas that touched everyone’s hearts. The video showed around 40 girls, most of them clad in white hijabs, singing Silent Night in Arabic for their Christian brethren.
The young girls were from the Imam Sadr Foundation choir and were performing at the Beirut Chants Festival. The festival is a free series of advent concerts that puts on performances from renown musicians around Lebanon. It strives to celebrate the diversity and coexistence Lebanon enjoys and this year, the performance from the Imam Sabr Foundation hit it home.
Watching a long line of girls clad in white hijab humming the iconic carol just takes the breath away. It is enthralling to watch as they match harmony with the famous Lebanese singer Abeer Nehme. In an impressive 12-minute performance their sweet voices deliver the promise a world where we can easily coexist.
Massachusetts Community Responds to Hate Crimes in a Beautiful Way
The result of last year’s elections had everyone tense, especially those affected by the wave of hate crimes that followed. While many heard of the incidents happening in major metropolises like New York and Toronto, smaller cities like Springfield, Massachusetts were also affected. In Springfield, Massachusetts, the appearance of swastikas, hateful speech against Jewish peoples, African Americans and Muslims on landmarks around the city shocked the city.
But then the community did something beautiful. The Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts hosted an inter-faith dialogue to help the community address the unease everyone felt. Martin Pion, professor of religious studies at Our Lady of the Elms College in Chicopee, helped coordinate the event along with Mohammed Bajwa from the Interfaith Council of Western Massachusetts.
“This gives a broad public message (that) any Muslim individual or a Jewish individual, or any minority is not alone. That’s the message that we are trying to give tonight.”
They invited religious leaders from various faiths of the community, along with local politicians, and school officials – basically everyone.
The results were astounding. Martin Pion was especially satisfied with the turnout. He told reporters “In terms of the attendance tonight, it was absolutely amazing. This is easily double then what we’ve ever had for one of these gatherings.”
The large turnout shows that the desire for acceptance and coexistence far outweigh the solitary acts of hate. It shows that even when things take a turn for the worse, how we chose to respond to the circumstances overshadow the hate.
Church and Mosque from Toronto Sponsor a Syrian Refugee Family
As the Syrian war escalated in 2016, so did the severity of the refugee crisis. We saw many harrowing images of families trying to escape the conflict in boats, living in refugee camps in freezing weather and enduring all kinds of hardships. Witnessing the persistence of human spirit and its dedication to survive took a toll on us all.
When Bayan Khatib found out that her own family had benefitted from the genorisity of a church community to establish their home in Canada, she decided to do something in return. Using her position as a volunteer with Muslim Association with Canada, she reached out to the First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto and Masjid Toronto.
The two organizations worked together to sponsor a family that could benefit from the avenues provided by the city. They began an intensive fundraising campaign to ensure the family would be secure their first year in Canada. After lots of hard work with various events to raise awareness and funds, they were promised their family would be in Canada by year end.
“It’s a very Canadian thing to do,” Khatib said of the two communities pooling their resources to support the cause. Khatib also indicates the group is currently in talks with a synagogue to start another partnership. The hope is to continue having more families sponsored to ease as much of the refugee crisis as possible. Another way to show how through turmoil and strife, we can find our humanity again.
Muslim Restaurant Owner Offers Free Meals to The Homeless on Christmas Day
The holidays are a time to be with those you love, but unfortunately that is a privilege not everyone gets. That’s why this Muslim restaurant owner in southeast London decided to open his doors to everyone who had no one else to go.
Britain has similarly seen a rise of Islamophobic incidents this past year, following the “Brexit” vote that has seen Britain leave the EU in a wave of populism. That is why, the Muslim restaurant owner offering a “3 Course Meal for the Homeless” and welcoming the elderly has been seen as more significant – and celebrated.
Many of us will be happy to bid 2016 farewell. It was a rollercoaster of a year, with many landmark moments that could hold very disturbing ramification for out future.
Despite all tough times we saw in 2016, we also witnessed serious efforts to bridge the gorges that divide us to create a more welcoming tomorrow. The lights of these bridges stands out brilliantly against during dark moments to show us what we are truly capable of overcoming. And if possible we can try to reflect this light to illuminate our own communities.
This article is written by Wajiha Suboor.