Reflections on Violence: We Are Human Beings First

Published on: December 23, 2015

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My Thanksgiving week was relatively hectic: Ecumenical service on Tuesday, our own Thanksgiving eve service on Wednesday, and then prep for my platform duties for our 9:25 a.m. and 11:25 a.m. Sunday services. But, midway through that week, in the midst of my own busyness, the Wednesday e-newsletter caught my interest, specifically the article from Linda Whiteside regarding our 8:00 a.m. Sunday service. Turns out, Linda, who is a final year seminary student here in Austin, had invited someone she had just met over a recent lunch—Kuaybe (Koo-why-bay) Basturk, a young Muslim woman from Turkey—to be the special guest speaker.

Linda recounted that on her way to seminary class on the Monday following the shootings on November 13, 2015, in Paris, “I kept thinking that I would like to talk to a Muslim about these events. Later that day, while attending a luncheon, I was serendipitously introduced to four Muslims who had been invited to speak about these acts done in the name of Islam.

“Kuaybe spoke to our group about her perspective on Islam and the events in Paris and elsewhere in a very moving, helpful and informative way. My experience of Kuaybe was that of ‘one lone voice crying out in the wilderness’ for peace and reason. I was compelled to ask her to speak at our [8:00 a.m.] service.”

And so it was to be.

As Kuaybe came forward to the podium, I noticed her wide smile and bright, kind eyes. Her voice was soft yet strong. As she shared with us her background and her current involvement with the Islamic and Interfaith community here in Austin, I somehow knew, as did others in the audience, we were about to have a meaningful conversation with Kuaybe.

We all listened closely as we became used to her lovely accent. She spoke of her commitment to “walk in this life with a purpose of only Love.” As we are all on the path to reach “Him,” we should be dedicated to serving all other humans. She emphasized that we are all human beings first, labels are only labels. She spoke of her deep sadness with the acts that had been carried out in the name of Allah, whom she knows only as Love.

She referenced the Muslim Prayer of Light—of having the Light in her heart, Light in front of her, Light behind her, Light above her, Light below her, Light to the right side and Light to the left side. She explained that as she prays, she prays for others. It is in the prayerful light that we hold for each other that we will ultimately vanquish the darkness of deed, word or thought.

As she spoke, we were all captivated by her honesty and love that permeated her being. We were truly blessed by having Kuaybe here.

Since Kuaybe’s talk I’ve asked myself, “Can’t we, who have chosen a path that sees and honors the Christ presence, the Christ consciousness in every soul, join together and pray for one another? Can’t we decide and commit to shine light where there appears to be only darkness? Darkness cannot be done away by more darkness, fear or anger. Only Light can dispel darkness.”

So, let’s hold one another in prayer and pray for one another that we each be inspired to reach out to our brothers and sisters from different faith walks, to unite our lights. Let’s hold a vision of a new dawn for humankind where peace and light are pervasive in our communities, in our countries and around the world.

Bob Withrow

Bob Withrow is a licensed Unity teacher at Unity Church of the Hills, Austin, Texas.

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