This is a photo from the supposed and alleged arson that destroyed the Petra restaurant at 21st and Woodlawn. Ranya Taha, the proprietor, a native of Syria, has lived in the United States for 22 years.
The words Ms. Taha spoke to Katherine Burgess of the Wichita Eagle moved me.
“When an Iraqi-American family was detained at Emprise Bank – sparking accusations of racial profiling – Ranya Taha and Bashar Mahanweh wanted to build bridges.
Closing their Petra Mediterranean Restaurant to the public, the couple held a private event, inviting police officers, bank employees and Muslims to talk together.
“It was a very, very nice meeting for peace,” Taha said.”
What Taha and Mahanweh say they hate most is not that their business is gone or that they may have been targeted. Rather, it’s that this incident could cause divisions.
“We hate to be labeled as ‘us,’ ‘they,’” Taha said. “It always should be ‘we,’ we as a community. … We hate to see our community divided.”
Hate Groups and Fear
When you see the words, “Go Back” spray painted on the back of the restaurant, it is obviously not surprising that this is an alleged “hate crime.”
This unfortunate situation reminds me of an important Christian truth: hate is not a family value. I believe the witness of St. Paul as recorded in I John 4:18 is true. “Perfect love casts out all fear.” The opposite of love is not hate. The opposite of love is fear. And fear, when unchecked or unresolved, leads to hate. That is precisely why “hate groups,” always, without exception, have a scapegoat – someone or a group on whom they place or project all of their fear.
The reality is we are living in extremely anxious times. Therefore, we should expect “hate groups” to rise and for expressions of hate to increase unless wisdom prevails and we all come to see the futility of living by fear instead of faith. This is precisely the time, for those of us who follow Jesus, to stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers, regardless of religion, against anyone or any group who would seek to scare the heaven out of us.
Be Not Afraid
Fear, as we know, leads to fight, flight, or freeze. In response to feelings of fear within and without, most followers of Jesus become paralyzed. And too often, paralysis creates silence. This is our opportunity as the people called “Christian,” to stand up and speak out against any form of hate against anyone. It is precisely why Jesus repeatedly said to the Disciples of the first century and to us in the 21st Century, “Be not afraid.”
I want to increasingly become a NIMBY Christian. I want to say to the person or persons who wrote, “Go Back,” on the back of the restaurant in Wichita, three miles or so from where my family and I live, “Not In My Back Yard.”
Find more in St. Arbuck’s Chapel.