Woundedness and our collective healing through sharing of gifts, talents and histories

Woundedness and our collective healing through sharing of gifts, talents and histories

On March 31, I volunteered at a community Iftar hosted by Islamic Family and Tarjuma.  Iftar is the breaking of the fast during each of the 30 days of Ramadan fasting.  It is often celebratory, with some extra prayers to bring the Muslim community or Umma closer to God, and closer together for the whole month.   I, and Helena Ball from Holyrood, were warmly welcomed as non-Muslim volunteers.  We played our role of greeting the Iftar guests, and were included on the team with clear instructions.  We also had ample opportunity for dialogue as we chatted with our volunteer mates.

The theme of the Iftar was “Messy Faith.” They had gathered to do some art work in the hour before the breaking of the fast.  The artwork was riffing off of a Japanese art style that embraces messiness or brokenness – the ups and downs of life, or, for people of faith, how we engage through our faith with God our sustainer.  They were invited to paint a paper heart, tear it up, and put it back together with sparkly gold glue.  The inspiration came from a Sufi quote by Rumi: “The wound is the place where the light enters you”.  It reminded me of the Leonard Cohen quote:  “There’s a crack in everything.  That’s how the light gets in.”  And I would suggest our Lord and Saviour taught and showed us all how it is in reckoning with our woundedness that we find salvation.

During our meal conversation, I was invited to talk about what I do professionally.  I explained that I am a half time pastor, as well as a Bridge Building facilitator for Mennonite Church Alberta.  We talked about the challenge of building diverse inter-cultural faith communities, and I made the comment that – at least at this gathering – Muslims seem to know how to live into inter-culturalism very well.  I saw people from around the world all celebrating Iftar together. There were Pakistanis, Indians, Africans, Palestinians, Syrians, White European converts, Canadian-born, young, old.   Some women were hijabed, some not. Some men shook hands with women, some not.  But there they were, all together united around praying, fasting, and feasting. And there we were, joining them in their space, following their instructions, and dialoguing together.

A woman at my table picked up on the topic of Muslim inter-culturalism and shared that 9/11 shook the North American Muslim community.  As I understood her to be saying, before 9/11, Muslims were happy to just practice their religion in their cultural ghettos -- and be left alone by the majority non-Muslim culture.  In the context of 9/11, the mystery shrouding the Muslim faith turned to Islamophobia.  And so, 9/11 became an opportunity for Muslims to begin articulating for us non-Muslims what Islam is all about.  And this actually brought the diverse Islamic cultures together, which created opportunity to build stronger inter-culturalism.   But what I heard implied, as well, is that Muslims have gotten good at explaining themselves to outsiders – at explaining their “particulars” in order to help us understand and to demystify their faith tradition.   When we understand, fear dissolves.

In the last few weeks, I have been wrestling with the idea of faith and cultural identity in the context of the more universal aspiration of creating a harmonious human family.  My Jewish husband has brought me into conversations that overlay the very particular elements that make someone Jewish, vs. the outward-looking invitation by God for Jews to be a “light to the nations.”  How do these two modalities work together?  

And just today, I read an article in the CBC about our Edmonton Sacred Indigenous Site, 16 years in the making.  In Cree, the land is called “Kihcihkaw askî”, which means "this place here is sacred land." This article, for me, shed new light on the topic of “particulars” and a broader more universal coming together in harmony. 

Lewis Cardinal, a Cree Elder who guided a First Mennonite Walking tour across the North Saskatchewan River a few years ago, and who has been a lead indigenous voice in creating this space had this to say: “Each nation that comes to this nation brings with it gifts and talents. … When we sit in council, when we sit together as relatives and share, we learn and we create possibilities and a sphere of creativity that can change the future." 

This is the quote I would like to unpack to help us explore the identity of our “Mennonite nation.”  What are our Mennonite particularities in tension with the Kingdom of God vision of one Human Family following the precepts of God in Jesus?  I think we often think that we have to abandon one in order to live into the other.  But I actually believe that the Good News of Jesus helps us understand that we need both.  We need “particularities” that are our faith and tribal identity markers, seasoned by the invitation to follow Jesus.  It is in accepting the invitation to follow Jesus where our full human creativity is unleashed to bring mutual healing and justice through grace and love – a space large enough to birth the Kingdom of God for all humanity.

And, just as our Muslim brothers and sisters continue to work at coming together in unity in their diversity after the tragedy of 9/11, so too, can we, as our diverse Mennonite family, in the context of Ecumenism and Interfaith connections  -- learn to articulate our identity.  We can sit together as a collection of gifts and talents right here in our province!  Our current tragedy is reckoning with the remnants of colonialism  -- invisible in our current social structures to some of us --- and its concomitant racism – also invisible to some of us.

Let us come together to share gifts and talents as cultural and human equals.  

Let us celebrate family ties AND creates new family ties through curiosity about and love of histories different from our own.     

And let us learn from each other for the goal of multiplying creativity for the sake of our shared future – to the glory God our Creator!