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Left to right: Deah Barakat, Yusor Mohammad, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, Kayla Mueller
ING mourns four young lives recently cut short by senseless violence, three in North Carolina yesterday, and one in Syria this week. These are among the many lives lost in a world racked by conflict and hatred. The loss of these four is especially poignant because they were living exemplary lives of service and commitment to the best values of their faiths. Deah Barakat, murdered in North Carolina with his wife Yusor Mohammad and her sister Razan Mohammad Abu Salha, was fundraising for a trip to Turkey where he, together with a team of dentists from the University of North Carolina dental school, planned to offer free dental treatment to refugees from Syria’s civil war. His statement in a video made for this effort shows the depth of his compassion: “These kids don’t have the same health care as us. We can relieve their pain.”
Kayla Mueller, murdered by ISIS, spent the years of her too-short life serving those most in need. In her senior year of high school, she received the Gold Presidential Volunteer Service Award for her volunteer efforts with Youth Count, AmeriCorps, America’s Promise, Open Inn, and Big Brothers Big Sisters. Later, she served in India, Turkey, Israel, and Syria as well as her home state of Arizona. ISIS abducted her in Syria where she was helping victims of the war. A quotation from a letter to her family speaks volumes about her faith: “In the end the only one you really have is God. I have come to a place in my experience where, in every sense of the word, I have surrendered myself to our creator because literally there was no else.”
These deaths hit home especially hard to us at ING because our Content Director Ameena Jandali’s son is married to Deah Barakat’s sister. Ameena writes, “I have no words to express my deep sorrow for the senseless murder of my daughter-in-law’s brother, his wife and her sister yesterday. Deah Barakat was without any exaggeration the nicest young man I have ever met. He dedicated his life to helping those less fortunate here and overseas. His smile and his character were a reflection of his name.”
It is not yet clear whether the murders in North Carolina will be classed as a hate crime. However that may turn out, ING urges all our Muslim friends to have courage and remain calm and confident that law enforcement will be resolute in finding the motive behind these murders. In the meantime, let us redouble our efforts to build understanding of our faith and our lives as Muslims.
Tragic as the loss of these four is, they are but a few among the myriad lost to violence around the world every day, including many who lived similar lives of compassion and service. No one of us can claim immunity from this scourge; we all live in this world together and must therefore all take responsibility for the cause of peace.
Let us honor the lives of these four by serving as they did. Here are some steps we can take:
- Build peace in the world, starting at your doorstep; do what you can, however small, to resolve conflicts in your home, your neighborhood, your city, your country, and your world.
- Give of yourself as a volunteer at homeless shelters, food banks, soup kitchens, and any organization that serves those in need, and advocate for public policies that promote justice for the poor.
- Reach out to people different from yourself in race, ethnicity, culture, or religion, seeking to build bridges and increase understanding.
All of us at ING pledge to expand our efforts to build peace by fostering education and dialogue across all boundaries of religion and culture, in honor of these four young people and the many who are following and will follow in their footsteps.
ING Staff, Affiliates, and Boards
February 11, 2015