Parishioner Nick Hansen is a member of The Basilica Refugee Committee. He shares his reflections of a lively interfaith event: Building Bridges--Confronting Islamophobia, held on Sunday, April 3, 2016.
"This afternoon my mom asked me if I had any friends who were Muslim. I sheepishly admitted that I did not. I had met Muslims before, and I’ve tried to become intellectually enlightened on the faith, but that can only go so far. (Even though I have volunteered with the Basilica’s Refugee Family Committee, I’m not personally working with the family.)
I’ll admit that while I was interested in the program, “Building Bridges: Confronting Islamophobia” at the Basilica on Sunday afternoon, I wasn’t feeling motivated to go. I was tired. I had just eaten a big breakfast. I thought he’d just be preaching to the choir. It was everyone else who should be going to this program.
While I’ve challenged myself intellectually to become more acquainted with the Islamic faith, I haven’t quite challenged myself personally. I motivated myself and made my way towards the lower level of the Basilica at 1 p.m. on a bright, warm, Sunday afternoon.
Dr. Todd Green, a prominent scholar on Islamophobia gave an enlightening talk on the phenomenon. One thing that stood out to me was that he mentioned that most of the people in the room had probably benefited from a Christian or Jewish Institution or program (hospitals, universities, etc.), but they probably hadn’t with regards towards an Islamic institution.
At my table there were three members of the Catholic faith, a member of the Jewish faith, and Mohamed Ali Hassan, a Muslim who is president of the Somali American Peace Council. While we only talked for a little bit, I appreciated the symbolism of members of different faiths being able to sit down with one another and talk about this issue.
Being intellectually aware of the Muslim faith is good, but it’s not enough. Dr. Green implored those in the audience to build more personal relationships with Muslims.
While I felt a little more enlightened after leaving the talk, I know that does not absolve me of my ignorance. While I still don’t have many connections to the Islamic faith, I know that I need to be more open to when those opportunities present themselves. Whether that’s saying hello to a woman wearing a hijab, patronizing restaurants or shops owned by Muslims, or just attending more of these type of events that promote interfaith dialogue, I know I need to do more.
It’s that challenge that tears down stereotypes and ignorance and allows God’s love to come in."