What Can We Do?

From Danya Wellmon:

How proud and yet humble I felt sitting amongst such a diverse group of very special women. Proud to be working with women dedicated to harmony and open-mindedness amidst our varying faiths, opinions and cultures. Humble in that I was privileged to be a part of such an ambitious undertaking that will lead to many positive and productive endeavors. We have been given a wonderful opportunity not only to change communities for the better but also to build upon the enormous wealth of good that exists within us all. I know in my heart that we will meet the challenges placed before us with the highest level of integrity and with the utmost compassion for all of humanity.

From Betsy Wiggins:

Again I convey how affirming it is to hear you express your thoughtful responses as we meet together to consider how to deal with world events. We began our second meeting by passing our information sheet to the woman sitting next to us and having the experience of hearing ourselves described by an extremely solicitous new friend. We shared information provided by our first meeting participants who could not attend. Following introductions we had consensus that it was important to begin identifying projects to develop. We shared our ideas ranging from how we might bring to bear our cumulative experience as women to deal with educating our community regarding religious diversity, as well as dealing with harassment and discrimination. The ideas articulated and built on were as follows.

Danya Wellmon asked for assistance to help the Muslim community distribute the thousands of pounds of rice that the Muslim Relief Organization has been prohibited from sending abroad since 9/11/01 through existing Muslim agencies.

Noshin Jihan raised the dilemma of New York City Pakistanis and Bangladeshis who where afraid to come forward to inquire about missing family members and friends who worked at the World Trade Center because of fear of interrogation or harassment. Sue Wadley informed us that Muslims in NYC are afraid to make any claims for dead and missing Muslims. She will share articles and web sites with Internet resources we can investigate to see if we can find a way to help with this problem. An article on this from Sue was forwarded to all of you. Let me know if you didn’t get it.

When Jeanette Powell and Karis Wiggins asked for more information about the celebration of Ramadan, Hoda Gabar, Noshin Jihan, Arlene Baker and Danya Wellmon informed us and invited all of the non-Muslim participants, friends and families to break fast at the mosque on November 30 during Ramadan in an effort to deepen understanding of the Muslim tradition.

Molly King extended an invitation to all in the group to attend Dewitt Community Church’s annual Christmas tea to see the collection of religious symbols from all faiths that have been collected over the years to decorate their Christmas tree. Perhaps our non-Muslim participants should consider inviting our Muslim sisters to experience other seasonal celebrations of Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas with our families and in our places of worship. I suggest we add this to the agenda of the next meeting.

Barbara Fought informed us that the Fellowship of Congregations on Syracuse’s East Side is in the process of increasing awareness of religious diversity in the Syracuse community by visiting places of worship of different faiths and would give us their schedule via e-mail. We should think about how we want to take advantage of this opportunity individually or in small groups.

Kathy Benzel wanted to know how to reach out to homebound Muslim women and assist them with activities that take them outside the home such as shopping. Beatrice Muhammad confirmed the need for such outreach. Danya Wellmon will inquire about women in the Muslim community who would welcome assistance and will contact us.

Danya Wellmon also suggested we consider how we can bring young children and teens of many faiths together in recreational activities that will allow them to learn about each other.

Karen Involdstad, Beatrice Muhammad, Kathy Benzel, Aga Haupt and Husna Hamza brainstormed about increasing community awareness of the cultural diversity of the Syracuse Muslim community and other faith communities with a women’s ethnic pot-luck supper, open to the public in January, possibly at Dewitt Community Church. There was some thought about making this a fund-raiser for projects that our group develops.

Romana Hosain broached the idea of establishing a literacy project with the help of Ruth Colvin for Pakistani children, beginning in Karachi, with funds raised by local Muslim and non-Muslim women in community projects to increase awareness of religious and cultural diversity and by other means. Literacy projects are Ruth Colvin’s life-blood, and she was unfortunately unable to be present at this meeting, but we will approach her with the idea when she returns. Romana has first-hand knowledge of a similar successful literacy project and extensive contacts in Pakistan and has agreed to draft a proposal. Sue Wadley’s involvement at the South Asia Center may be able to provide us with some resources here as well.

The last item was when to meet next. We decided three weeks from this meeting would give us time to meet once again before Ramadan and settled on Sunday, November 11, at the house again. Jeanette Powell and Molly King have graciously offered to host future meetings, which should be an item on the next agenda.

Another thing to cogitate—do we want a name for this group? Several people have asked me this and some of the suggestions are: Community Sisters, Sisters for Peace, and Uncommon Women (consider the double entendre). Got any suggestions? Let me know and we can circulate them via email and get a reading.

I have one more thought about an idea brought up during our first meeting by Janet Mallan. She suggested we submit a letter to the editor of the local paper describing the coming together of our faith traditions in an effort to understand each other and address shared community concerns in the aftermath of events of 9/11/01. One of the things I am struck with over and over is how many women I speak to share these concerns but don’t know how to express or act on them. If we do this successfully, we may find a way to link with other women or diverse faiths in our community with similar concerns. I propose asking Barbara Fought to help us think about the implications of doing this and, if we agree as a group, drafting a letter to be circulated for approval among all of us before submitting it for publication in as many outlets as we can identify.

We had a great crop of new participants who added greatly to our discussion for this second meeting, and plans are underway to bring us more extraordinary women of diverse faith traditions. Our notes have been distributed to interested women who have not been able to join us in a meeting, but who want to be kept informed until they can join us. All participants for the first and second meetings receive our e-mail information and are encouraged to share their thoughts, ideas and informative articles. If any of you want to invite someone to the 11/11/01 meeting, please let me know who the new participants are, with their e-mail addresses, so I can add them to the list.

Thank you for your time, the genuine concerns you share, and creative problem-solving skills you bring to seemingly insurmountable problems. It is a delight and privilege to work with you all.