Here’s a link to the latest installment of a project I do for Manhattan Magazine called The Last Word.
The project involves inviting two people who may or may not know each other to come together for a conversation about a topic chosen usually by me and/or my editor. I’ve been doing these for almost two years and am always amazed by how the conversation moves and finds commonality, while also offering new insight and inspiration.
This particular installment pairs Rev. Caela Simmons-Wood of the First Congregational United Church of Christ in Manhattan with Syed Haroon Bin Farrukh from the Islamic Center of Manhattan. Although we set this conversation up weeks before, it ended up falling on the evening of the current administration’s first executive order preventing entry into this country from several predominantly Muslim countries. Talk about perfect timing!!
The actual conversation included much more than could be used in this issue and I want to share one exchange that didn’t make it into print. I don’t usually insert myself into the conversation, but rather I’m there as witness and scribe. As this conversation wound down, Haroon and Caela asked me if I had any questions and I used that opportunity to ask Haroon how he and the members of his community were dealing with the fallout from that executive order. Haroon expressed great hope for America. He stressed how Americans had some of the biggest hearts of any people on earth and that he trusted “those hearts would do the right thing”. Here is what else he said, that left not a dry eye in the room:
“We have great hope for America. Whatever we are seeing here I think it is because of the lack of opportunities for people to interact and understand each other. The moment people have opportunity to interact and understand each other their opinions and views will change. America is not run by just one person. It is run by a group of people who are representatives of the American people. We believe in the potential of the people and we believe in the potential of the Democracy and the Constitution here. We are very hopeful that a single person does not have the power and the ability to outdo the wonders of centuries of Democracy and a very wonderful Constitution.”
After the conversation, we were invited to join the Islamic Center community for their monthly potluck, where we experienced some of their culture, their delicious food and such warm and welcoming hospitality. Having the privilege to witness this conversation between Rev. Caela and Haroon brought home how we are far more similar than different and if we just take the time to have a real conversation with someone who may appear or believe differently than us, we will likely find common ground for understanding, tolerance and acceptance.
The conversation begins on page 58. But feel free to browse through the rest of the magazine as well. I actually have several other articles in it, but am particularly honored to have been part of this one.