Left me crying just thinking about it


Last week at the school, one of the other mothers caught my eye. It was just before the gates opened and the parents crowded into the playground to pick up their kids at the end of the school day. No time or space in that moment for a chat, she simply asked if we might have a word later. I worried.

Her daughter is in the same class as Beangirl and mostly they get on wonderfully. They are very similar kids. Quiet. Kind. Clever. Ambitious.  There are also big differences. Their family are Somali Muslims and Beangirl’s friend wears a hijab to school. They have different traditions and beliefs. Yet being from faithful families is something the girls have in common. On top of everything else, they are kids, and misunderstandings happen between kids. They’ve had their storms.  That afternoon in the playground, I worried that something new had happened between them and that maternal ironing would be necessary.

But that wasn’t it at all.

She wanted to offer me condolences for the violence in Nice. She thought that she remembered me mentioning family in France and wanted let me know she felt our grief and fear. Her eyes were kind and weary, and she held her hands open as she spoke. I wanted to hug her, but didn’t.

Instead, I thanked her and explained that, no, we don’t have family In France. She must have been thinking of the Netherlands, where my father-in-law’s family lives. But oh, I understood. I, too, want to reach out and soothe … what – the grief away? The violence and the fear. To comfort those who mourn and fill those who hate with love so that the world doesn’t have to keep on grieving like this again. And again.

There has been too much violence and fear. But I think that my friend’s impulse to comfort has deeper roots. It is in the name of her faith that so many murders have been committed. Their violence is a perversion of her faith; the fear they spread insults her own faith-filled hope.

As Felix Marquardt wrote in the Globe and Mail over the weekend, claiming the name Muslim creates a common thread between the peaceful majority and the violent, perverse few. There is a difficult relationship between faith and its perversion. We know that all too well in the Church. Through centuries, but also throughout our own shorter denominational history. Bruce Cockburn’s haunting lyrics keep ringing in my mind

Went to a pow wow, red brother
Felt the people’s love/joy flow around
It left me crying just thinking about it
How they used my saviour’s name to keep you down

My Muslim friend didn’t apologize to me, of course. That wasn’t her responsibility . Instead she offered grief. And coffee, which will be lovely. On Wednesday morning, we’ve planned to sit down together at our local crêperie. We’ve met there before for coffee and treats, and it is a pleasant place to sit in the morning.  We all need that in these turbulent times.


About Katie Munnik

Katie Munnik is an Ottawa writer currently living in Cardiff with her Spouse and three growing children. Each Monday on the Messy Table, she writes about the practice of reading lectionary and the practical theology of parenting - from birthday cakes to broken hearts and everything in between. Katie also writes Kaleidoscopically, a monthly column in the print edition of the Presbyterian Record. You can also find Katie on twitter @messy_table Subscribe to this blog.