A Word from the Founder
The United States Government is shut down in a partisan dispute over border wall funding. Asylum seekers are being processed and then abandoned in the streets in border cities where they sleep until citizen advocates find them. In San Diego an immigration attorney filled his house with multiple families, just to get them off the streets. As the US Government now defines itself with border walls and selective immigration bans, the literal survival of displaced souls depends on citizen advocacy.
National attention is riveted on America’s southern border – for good reason. But, we have all witnessed that attention shift overnight with another distracting tweet. Ever wonder what happened with the North Korea nuclear negotiations? I do.
And I wonder when US troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, US involvement in the wars in Syria and Yemen, and desperate refugees from #MuslimBan countries will become the next tweetstorm and media focus.
Salaam presses on dismantling fear and creating mutual understanding. We focus on the Muslim part of the equation, but recognize that all facets of the shape that consists of “others” face the same fear-based discrimination. Thank you for your partnership.
In this issue you’ll learn about
- Salaam’s 5-week interactive forum at St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral in San Diego
- Salaam’s cooperative program with the Kroc Institute of Peace and Justice for long term refugee integration in San Diego
- VP of Communication, Nathan Johnson’s reflections on his recent trip to the occupied Palestinian Territories
- A sneak preview of Salaam’s first Portrait Series video – Houdah: The Powerlifter
Pressing On in 2019
Five-week Lent Muslim Awareness Forum at St. Paul’s, San Diego
Please join Salaam and St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral on Wednesday evenings during Lent for a thought-provoking forum featuring the diverse facets of Islam in the United States. If you’re looking for an accurate portrayal of Muslim-Americans, we’ll cover the full spectrum – from Sunni to Shia to Ahmaddiyah, and catch a glimpse of conservative to progressive Muslim thought. Don’t miss it! To get the full lineup, please bookmark our events calendar!
Refugee Integration Pilot Program
Salaam is partnering with the Joan B Kroc Institute of Peace and Justice at the University of San Diego to develop a long term refugee integration program. Most refugee programs function on a triage level, just making sure that refugees have their basic needs met in the early weeks of their arrival. But these programs fall short when it comes to long term integration into American society. Recognizing that integration is a two-way street, we’ll work with the Kroc Institute to bring groups of refugees together with mainstream community members for exercises and dialog.
Please contact us if you are interested in participating in the program.
The Plight of Christians in Palestine
Salaam’s VP of Communications, Nathan Johnson, reflects on a recent trip to Israel/Palestine. Nathan was not traveling on assignment for Salaam.
Late to the Show
Have you ever joined a group right in the middle of a movie? Confusing, right? Sure, you can understand the dialogue and see the action, but it all references an hour or so of plot development that you missed. You spend most of the remaining time asking your friends who is who, what exactly they’re trying to do, and why everyone laughed at that one line.
That’s how I felt visiting Israel/Palestine for the first time. Everyone else in the orbit of this contentious region had some crucial piece of information – factual, personal, or theological – that I seemed to lack. I was walking in late to a story, and everyone else in the room made it clear that the stakes were very, very high.
My role as a photographer gave me a narrow assignment, so I was admittedly under-informed about the politics, history, and demographics of Israel/Palestine. We’re all products of our culture, and I was raised in a segment of American Evangelicalism that blindly supports Israel. Though I’ve left that religious upbringing behind, it takes conscious effort to undo implicit biases. That’s a task I was never pressed to do – until this trip.
The Arab Christians
First of all, due to the nature of my assignment, I spent most of my trip surrounded by Arab Christians. In the American culture I’m from, this population is almost entirely ignored in any discussion of “the Holy Land.” Most of my Evangelical peers and family members are pro-Israel by default; the existence of a disenfranchised Arab Christian community would no doubt complicate their allegiances. During my visit, these Arabs were my tour guides, translators, hosts, and, by the end, my friends.
One afternoon, I paid a visit to the quirky micronation of Akhzivland. Akhzivland is a tiny parcel of land whose owners unilaterally declared independence from Israel in the 60s; like most micronations, this claim is disputed. Nonetheless, the eccentric inhabitants of Akzhivland (population: 2) have a constitution, parliament, elections, and will even stamp your passport after you pay the ~$5 “visa fee.” The owner talks with a straight face about the economy of the “country” (“dominated by tourism,” they say).
The whole thing is a bit of a farce. But in a land whose history has been defined by imaginary lines, unrecognized states, and disputes over sovereignty, Akhzivland stands as a poignant satire. What, really, makes a nation exist? A declaration, answered by a recognition. And when not everyone agrees, people fight to be seen, validated, and acknowledged. Identity is defined in the echoes that come back when we say, “This is who we are.” Without that agreement, an identity can cease to exist.
The West Bank
As part of my assigned project, I spent time shooting in the West Bank, internationally recognized as Palestinian territory, but occupied since 1967 by the Israeli military and ever shrinking inside of walls and outside of Jews-only settlements.There, I spoke with numerous Palestinians about the militarized occupation under which they live. Much has been written about this, but on a personal level, it was striking to hear individual stories of the inequity and injustice Palestinians face.
More than anything, I was pushed to remember that neutrality in the face of oppression is not neutrality at all, but rather complicity in injustice. The current status of the Palestinian people is not neutral, sustainable, or just. I can no longer cloak inaction with the guise of impartiality. I’ve been confronted with an injustice, and now I must act. Shortly after my return, I researched ways to join the Palestinian cause as they fight for their right to self-determination.
I like to think of myself as a well-informed person. I keep up with the news, travel often, and read history. But my visit to Israel/Palestine made me acutely aware of how much I don’t know. It can be difficult to step outside of our cultural biases. Spending time in the occupied West Bank made me realize how important it is to dig deeper than the surface rhetoric and learn the real facts.
Sneak Preview: The Portrait Series
To host a Muslim Awareness event at your church or community group, please contact us.