A Long Journey of Small Steps

Hooray for the California legislature, passing stricter gun control, and for Gov. Brown signing 6 of the measures! In 50 years, these may seem so obvious that we’ll wonder why such common sense was ever debated. Limiting magazines of more than 10 rounds? Background checks on ammunition? Yet these steps make CA more restrictive than many states. Maybe sensible gun control is a long journey that begins with small steps.

After the Orlando killings, some said that the hatred once projected onto the GLBT community was simply shifted onto Muslims. But as Ramadan ended this week (with a courteous reminder from the mosque president about increased traffic in the neighborhood), I remembered that same celebration several years ago, in Omaha.

Some of us, summer graduate students at Creighton University, had prepared carefully for our visit to the local mosque.  We’d gotten scarves and managed to fashion them into awkward hijabs, wanting to be dressed appropriately for the prayer that evening.

Our leader was a Franciscan following directly in the footsteps of St. Francis, who urged Crusaders to stop battling, and engaged in dialogue with the Sultan of Egypt. Some of the same issues he faced in 1219 continue today, but at that time popes promised eternal life to those who would kill the “enemy.” Instead, St. Francis entered the world of “the other,” and apparently established rapport with the Sultan, who after their three week visit, sent him away with protection and a horn which summoned to prayer.

We weren’t prepared for the warm hospitality we met at the Omaha mosque. Our guide, a Creighton graduate, would always refer reverently to Jesus, repeating, “Blessed be his name.” (People are often startled to hear that Mary, Jesus’ mother is mentioned 34 times in the Koran.)

Muslims who had fasted since dawn had prepared a large and delicious meal for us. (Unknowingly, we’d already had dinner in the cafeteria.) They spoke of how local police had gotten used to hate calls targeting them. (One day, a young boy, bored with long services, had played with a paper airplane outdoors, tossing it against the wall. Neighbors had phoned in with dire warnings of terrorism. An innocent barbeque grill, purchased for outdoor meals, was immediately branded a mysterious weapon.)

Yes, some Moslems are violent. So are some Christians, Jews, and Hindus—in short, humans. But what kind of projection is going on when we foist off our own evils, our untended wounds and shadow selves on convenient scapegoats? Didn’t Jesus try to put an end to scapegoating, once and for all?

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