Cultural Glimpse

Enjoying diversity

Tag: community

Falling in Love with Political Matters

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During Saddam’s era, if you were interested in politics you had to either join the Baath Party, be neutral or, if you wanted to start a new party or movement, risk imprisonment or death. Today, the situation is ten times worse. You risk losing your life (in a most brutal manner) no matter what you do or believe in.

In America, it’s quite the opposite. You get city officials who actually have an interest in establishing a relationship with your diverse community – something the City of Sterling Heights has been known to do over the years. You can even get rewarded for your efforts. That was the case with my colleague Nick Najjar last week when he received an award as Commissioner of the Year for the City of Sterling Heights. Over the years Nick has fostered civic virtue and political awareness, promoted active participation in political changes, and helped citizens identify policies that would benefit them. He is an example of someone who truly understands and honors the privileges this country has to offer.

Americans frequently expect the government to do something about their problems. But, how does the government know what these problems are unless members of the community address them? Some think that getting politically involved would not make a difference. Others, like Nick, have the attitude that it’s easier to act and create than it is to complain and be pessimistic.

It’s easy to complain. It’s rewarding to act – with love. We fall in love with tourist destinations, religious institutions, restaurants or foods, fashion trends, television shows, celebrities, or a new hobby.  But we rarely fall in love with politics and government matters, even though they impact our everyday life and will affect our future.

If we expect the government to do something about our problems, we have to look at how we can help them do just that, even if it simply means becoming better informed and passing that knowledge on to our neighbors. Even if it simply means treating our community with love and appreciation.

 

Unique Relationships Serving Communities

As I watched Laila and Georgia, the 6th episode of the Intersection of Faith and Culture short documentary video series, I thought, “I know these people!” Laila has been quite supportive of my work and Georgia is the wife of Stephen Coats, a filmmaker I met at a journalism conference. We sat on the same panel and since we have followed each other’s work. But, I had no idea Laila and Stephen’s wife are such close friends.

Laila is a Syrian-American journalist who works incredibly hard, acting as an powerful and influential mouthpiece for her Arab Muslim community within the broader American culture. Laila’s friend, Georgia, is Greek-American, and has been a longtime companion of Laila.

“When I came to this country I had no one,” said Laila with teary eyes. “Georgia and her husband Stephen took me in like I was family.”

Over time, the two women have become like sisters to each other.

“I believe that life is deeper and richer and more spiritual when I know and love people who are different than me,” said Georgia, who moved to Dearborn just before the 9/11 attacks. The next day, on September 12th, she was teaching a class, English as a second language, to primarily Arabic-speaking women.

Before moving here, people warned Georgia not to go to Dearborn, which has a large Muslim population, because it’s considered dangerous. But she put her trust in God and figured, she just came from Colorado where in the 1999 the Columbine High School shooting occurred.

“How is this place safe to be, and Dearborn isn’t?” she said. “We don’t know where the dangerous people are.”

When the controversial Pastor Terry Jones wanted to have a protest in front of the Islamic Center of America, the community of Dearborn came together in opposition to his agenda.

“There’s a verse in the Bible that says in the end, there will be people worshiping God from every town, every tribe, every nation and every language,” said Georgia. “That’s what I believe.”

Laila and Georgia are of completely different backgrounds, but they have more similarities than differences – they are both mothers, both spiritual, and they serve their communities in wonderful ways.

Having survived cancer, Georgia shares her journey as a cancer survivor, a wife and mother through her blog http://thecrazyedamommy.wordpress.com/ Laila Al-Husseini is one of the most famous Arab anchors in the United States and is known for her popular show US Arab Radio. The program broadcasts Tuesday mornings, live on WNZK 690 AM to audiences in Michigan, Toledo, Ohio, and Windsor and for audiences in Washington, Virginia, and Maryland, the program broadcasts on WDMV 700 AM.

It makes you wonder why Pastor Terry Jones’ desire to burn Korans and not Laila and Georgia’s example of peaceful relationships get the media’s attention. And what role, do we the audience, play in that?

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Utilizing the Constitution to Stop ISIS

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I picked up my kindergartner from school the other day, he was wearing a white, red, and blue paper hat he made in class. I asked him what it was for, and he said, smiling, “It’s constitushi day.”

“What?” I asked.

“It’s constitushi day,” he said with an even bigger smile.

“Mom, it’s Constitution Day,” my daughter explained.

I was glad that the teachers had the children pay special attention to this important day, so kids can learn the value of the constitution at an early age. As drafted, the Constitution’s purpose was to create a government that had enough power to act on a national level, but without so much power that individual’s fundamental rights would be at risk.

But many adults need to revisit the values of the Constitution, and act upon this privilege that in many countries is obsolete. Having been raised under Saddam’s totalitarian regime, I can tell you that people in the United States do not fully utilize the political freedoms bestowed upon them.  Oftentimes this freedom is taken for granted. If that continues, I’m afraid that one day we will see ISIS strolling around in our neighborhoods.

“ISIS is here, they’re capable of striking,” CNN national security analyst and former CIA operative Bob Baer

Nineveh is Like Any Major City in the U.S.

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“Nineveh is like any major city in the U.S.,” said Pastor Aaron at today’s sermon.

Nineveh was an ancient Assyrian city on the eastern bank of the Tigris River. It is one of the oldest and greatest cities in antiquity. The area was settled as early as 6000 BC and by 3000 BC had become an important religious center for worship of the Assyrian goddess Ishtar.

“Nineveh, the capital of Assyria, was the superpower of her day,” said the Pastor. “It required three days to circle metropolitan Nineveh. And the Ninevites lived large. They enjoyed the best chariots, the finest food, and the most exotic entertainment. It had an extensive business and commercial system like none in the world. In addition, Assyria had ruled the world for 200 years and was the strongest military power. Sounds familiar?”

He added that Nineveh’s wickedness was great, and unbeknownst to them, their days were numbered. It would not be long before Babylon would overtake Nineveh. God gave them one last chance to repent, however, by sending Jonah. After Jonah’s sermon to them, the entire city turned from their sin of violence, which they were known for, and turned to God. (Jonah 4:4 NLT)

“Shouldn’t we be concerned with Sterling Heights, with that great city and its surrounding cities?” asked the Pastor.

The message is clear, and it resembles the heart of Cultural Glimpse. Wherever we are we are on holy ground. It is wonderful to recognize, honor and serve the sacredness of our homes and communities.

Rock Climbing –Get me out of Here!

My mom went into the hospital exactly one week ago today. The doctors didn’t find anything wrong with her and she was released three days later. However, the drama associated with her hospitalization lasted a few days longer. What kind of drama? Well, picture one of the Real Housewives episodes. No wonder I love those shows. I can so relate.

I guess the situation was so stressful that everyone began to play the blame game. We pointed fingers, with each sibling accusing the other of doing more/less than her/himself (it was unanimous, in my opinion, that the girls did a hundred times more than the boys). At one point, the conversation got so heated – right there in the hospital room – I thought the Beaumont staff was going to politely kick us out. They didn’t. Probably they’re used to Chaldean Americans yelling when trying to have a diplomatic conversation.

Well, the action did my mom some good. She’s always happy to have her children gather all around, worry and fret over her. Once she’s done with us, she clobbers us with guilt and more guilt. And she’s not even Jewish! Well, technically she is Jewish since her ancestors are from the land of the Chaldeas, the birthplace and home of Prophet Abraham.

Yes, to please my mom is like trying to climb a mountain and never getting to the top. Some days you end up feeling as my daughter did in the video, when she couldn’t get to the top! You feel like screaming, “Get me out of here!”