Every October I take a large chunk of vacation time to spend with my kids.  Typically I also make a goal of independent study on some area I feel lacking.  A couple years ago inspired by religious violence in the world I chose to actively learn more about religions I knew little about.  One of my friends took me to her Jewish Synagogue and we also listened to the teachings of a Buddhist monk.  Another friend took me later to a traditional Catholic service and yet another brought me to his Mosque.

All were surprisingly foreign territories for me but none so much as the Islamic Mosque.  My visions had been unquestionably filtered through the media and the high profile Islamic extremists so often pictured there.  On the Friday of my visit, my friend and his wife helped me put on a hijab.  We walked through the Mosque center visiting with people as we watched the children gather in their version of “Sunday School” and watched members collect used clothing and supplies for the poor in the area.  My friend’s wife and I filed in with the other women to the back of the Mosque while my friend went to the front with the other men and sat down for the service.  Prayers were said and all the bowing and kneeling seemed meditative and reminiscent of calming yoga sequences I love to settle into.  Children flitted back and forth between mothers and fathers.  The setting was undeniably warm and casual.  And then the Imam got up to speak and you know what his sermon was about?  Conservation, helping those in need and having compassion and understanding for people in other religions “because in the end we are all worshipping the same God.”  That’s right, I had experienced the most liberal sermon of my life.   As my friends and I drove back to their home they told me that all contributions to their mosque had to be in cash as they were concerned credit card or check records if discovered could make them vulnerable to locals who did not like Muslims.

Fast forward to this last week and the horrible violence experienced through the world in the name of Islamic extremism.  My heart sank especially for the city and care providers of Paris as I know this city well and could imagine being on duty there as the rush of wounded flooded their Emergency Department doors.  This creative world of mine seemed kind of silly in context but as I process my emotions in making, I couldn’t help but put something together.  I cut into some beautiful First of Infinity linen generously given to me by Lecien Fabric and next thing I knew I was making up one of my Mini Museum bags with a French Flag variation in appliquéd leather on the front.  If only there was more room, the Lebanese, Syrian and Iraqi flags would all deserve a place on my make.

My heart sank in equal measure for my friends who brought me to their mosque and I know are feeling more vulnerable because of world violence perpetrated under a warped vision of Islam.

As a side note when I went to these different religious ceremonies in sum what I came away from was the commonalities.  In each an ancient language was used (Arabic, Hebrew, Latin).  Each held great comfort in the value of prayer or song and each held special reverence for their children and their participation in the process.


That’s a lot of thought pent up in one bag huh?  The good news is it can carry a big load.


19 thoughts on “Paris

  1. Hillary
    This post is spot on . Your openmindedness And your intelligence is a gift for our creative community. I Love that You always want to learn more. This bag has my heart.

    1. Ah Sophie, I consider you a bit of a soulmate across the ocean. Working mother, eager to learn new things, gifted in all aspects of design. It must be terribly complicated as a European to process everything going on. Blessings to you and your family.

  2. Love this post. So thoughtful! I must declare my ignorance and confess that when hearing about refugees I had to look in a map where Siria exactly was. I certainly need to learn more especially in order to not be manipulated by mass media…

    1. Hi Sonia,

      Honestly over the past year I have tried to stay away from the constant stream of news directed at all of us. I get a large dose of the dark side of human nature at real job and sometimes the sorrows of the world seem too much. The situation right now is obviously different and time for me too to engage again.


  3. I think your approach of education instead of judgement is brilliant. We human beings really need to get to know each other a little better. We may have different colours, languages, cultural practices or religions, but at the core we are essentially the same. And those that practice hate usually come from a place of fear. Learning about the other side really helps to dissipate that fear, and breed love instead. As usual you inspire good thoughts, Hillary. Thank you for that.

    1. Ah sweet Berene, if only we could share a cup of tea and chat more in depth. I think we share a similar outlook on the world. xo


  4. It is a beautiful bag. I love that you actually took the time to study these other religions first hand, and are able to share your experience with us. I agree too – the more I look at different religions, the more commonalities I find.

  5. In Gr 11 I took a history course where one of the units dealt with world religions. In pairs we were given a religion, foreign to us, to delve into and present our findings to the class. I remember distinctly our feeling at the time was the same as yours: There are more similarities than differences. I could never put it as eloquently as you have, so thank you for this. Oh, and the bag you made is wonderful and heavy with meaning…..lovely.

  6. What a lovely expression of cathartic support for Paris. You are correct that making may seem frivolous in crisis. When you pour yourself into your creation like this, it is anything but.

    It is amazing how similar we are when we “peek behind the veil” of our opposites.
    Great reflection and great bag.

  7. Your projects are always both beautiful and thought-provoking.
    No one religion has a monopoly on crazy extremists. It is frightening how murderous this lunatic fringe group is in all the countries you mentioned. It is also frightening how ignorance and bigotry affect good people.
    I had four close friends in high school. We hadn’t consciously realised this until a recent catch-up, but we directly or indirectly have links to many different faiths. One friend is Jewish; one sends her son to a Catholic school; one is from a Chinese Buddhist background; and I am an atheist with a Muslim stepfather.

  8. I only wish I had the opportunity to do this, unfortunately my friends are for the most part not religious people, unlike me. I would only end up being exposed to religions similar to my own, which is sad. Perhaps I should seek out a course at the university on different religions?

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