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.