The following is an Opinion column written by our own Deborah Ensmenger and published in the Herald-Times on November 9, 2015.
When I read about the attack on Naciye Akgun and her 9 year old daughter I just dissolved into tears.. horrified that this happened.. right here.. in downtown Bloomington. I am a woman of faith. I am a mother. I have a daughter. I am a daughter.
A few days later, I read about the "headscarf sit-in" inviting women of all faiths to come and take a stand against hate and support Naciye and her family. I knew that rather than sit at home and cry I needed to go, and be an example of what God's love means to me.
My husband and I met at the Sofra Café at 5 pm. Like all the non-Muslim women, I wore my head covered in a scarf. We sat and ate, encouraged to see more and more community members arrive.
We finished eating and headed outside to make room for the line of people needing a place to sit. Outside we noticed among the people eating at tables and sitting sipping tea there were two figures talking with supporters who were undoubtably Naciye and her daughter.
I felt a similar tug on my heart as I had when I read about the sit-in, now it said 'is it really enough to just show up?'
As I stood pondering this, Naciye headed back into the café. I still couldn't leave.. I am sure I looked a little lost. My husband is very patient.. A woman who had been standing with Naciye made eye contact and approached me. She introduced herself and told me that Naciye had needed to go back in due to pure physical and emotional exhaustion. I assured her that it was fine and I would much rather she rest. Suddenly she clasped my hand and said she was sure Naciye would want to meet me. Before I could protest she headed into Sofra, so I followed.
We walked right into Naciye and I was introduced, "This is Deborah.."
Naciye smiled at me. At first I had no words, just tears. She nodded and said "thank you, keep praying" I felt love and physical pain as I looked into her eyes.. and then we talked. I told her my heart went out to her daughter. She replied that the initial trauma her daughter felt was lightened somewhat when she saw on the news that the man who attacked them had expressed great remorse. I let her know that I was praying that this experience would strengthen her daughter as she witnessed the response of the community. I hoped she would see how beauty can come from horrible experiences. How this does not excuse them or make them ok, but it is something mysterious that God can do.
We shared our hope that some of this beauty would be the awareness that hatefulness toward Muslims, or any religious or ethnic minority is wrong and will not be tolerated. That maybe this will prevent future violence possibly even save lives.
I commended Naciye and her husband on the graciousness of their response during and since the attack. She answered that they believe in forgiveness. I agreed, sharing how earlier in the day, when expressing my disgust for the attacker, my heart was gently reminded that grace and forgiveness leave no one out.
We hugged and she ended with the same words she had greeted me with "keep praying.."
As a woman, a mother, and a Christian, I will always treasure this experience. I was reminded that it is a privilege to live out our beliefs by loving and caring for others as we hope others would love and care for us.
This blog is written by various UBC members. They write about their ministry experiences, spiritual life or everyday encounters with the divine.