Shoulder to Shoulder: In Wadea Al-Fayoume’s Memory – a Call to Counter Dehumanizing Narratives
[The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ are founding members of the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign.]
On October 14, Wadea Al-Fayoume, a 6-year-old boy, was murdered, and his mother, Hanaan Shahin, became the survivor of attempted murder in Plainfield, IL. These alleged crimes, and their brutal details – covered in various news sources – have been linked to the unfolding war in the Middle East. We grapple with how the crisis in Israel/Palestine, where already too many lives have been lost in violence, is also unfolding in our own context here in the US, leading not only to bigotry but also deadly violence.
How we speak about each other, especially in times of crisis, matters. In the many statements and news reports circulated about Israel-Palestine, we have seen a trend in dehumanizing and inflammatory rhetoric, disinformation, and harmful “us” vs. “them” narratives that serve as a means to justify violence. As a national multifaith coalition committed to addressing, countering, and preventing anti-Muslim discrimination (Islamophobia) in the US, the Shoulder to Shoulder Campaign is grounded by our commitment to affirm the human dignity of each and every person, regardless of their faith or background.
This tragedy highlights the alarming rise in hate crimes, hate-fuelled violence, and harassment in the United States (and around the world), targeting not just Palestinian Muslims like Wadea and his family but also, more broadly, Christian Palestinians, other Arabs, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and anyone else perceived to be Middle Eastern.
We call upon our partners, within and beyond our coalition, to recommit to the work of building a more inclusive and pluralistic society and to counteract dangerous and dehumanizing narratives with those that affirm our shared humanity. We applaud those leaders who already have. As tangible next steps, we urge our Shoulder to Shoulder partners, many of whom lead political and humanitarian advocacy efforts within their own mission and scope, to 1) reach out directly to someone who is experiencing the pain of this moment in a way that is different than yours, and 2) talk with your congregation and circles of influence about the importance of emphasizing the humanity of each and every human being during this time.