On Friday, January 27, 2017 President Trump signed his first Muslim travel ban. In the days after that the streets and sidewalks of Cedar-Riverside were noticeably quiet. People were afraid to leave their homes. In their own neighborhood.
Just before I left for home the following Thursday Wali called. I’m embarrassed to admit I still do not understand everything he says. But what I caught was that on Friday at 1:30 there would be a gathering to let the people know they are welcome here as they came out of Friday prayers at ICSA/Dar Al-Hijrah. I also heard the word ‘tea.’ Wali makes really good Somali tea.
I emailed some Trinity people, Urban Hub folks, mission partners, texted a few and let them know what was coming together even though I wasn’t really sure what it was. Earlier in the week Dee from MAS forwarded me an email about the MN Council of Churches hosting some kind of plan of support, being at Friday prayers with the Muslims. She wanted to know if I knew anything. I didn’t, but I emailed Wali. He didn’t know anything either. But Wali, Mike and Imam Sharif had decided to put something together. I let Dee know and she and John joined our group.
It was cold as we stood outside of the doors of ICSA/Dar Al-Hijrah. There was some sun, but the wind cancelled out any warmth we might feel. There was hot coffee and Somali tea waiting. Mike greeted us as we gathered. We were maybe 12 of us. Judy, Matt, Steve P., John and Dee, 3 community members, Mark H. and a few others. As the men and women came out of their separate doors after prayers we were there to greet them. All we did was stand there, hand out coffee and tea and tell them that we are glad they are here. We shook hands. Even most of the men shook my hand. I wondered if it was OK because I had on mittens. Wali and Imam Sharif did a kind of mini-hug.
For twenty minutes or so all we did was stand there and tell them we are glad they are here. As the worshipers came out their surprise and apprehension were obvious even though Imam Sharif had mentioned that we would be out there. But once they understood what was happening they were very grateful. They smiled, had some coffee or tea and some stayed and talked a bit. Finally the crowd thinned as everyone had come out and gone on about their day. Someone was video taping for Somali TV. Some pictures have been put on Facebook.
It was so simple, but so powerful. I know that all of us non-Muslims felt good about what had happened. I can only hope that those who came out from prayers and found us there were able to feel welcome and safe, for at least a short time.
Original journal entry date: 2/6/17
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