Daily Democrat Woodland - January 4, 2014
Teens heed message to give back as part of one's faith
By KHALID SAEED/Director, Islamic Center Woodland
"What matters is how quickly you do what your soul directs." -- Rumi
Decades ago George Orwell said about the government system, "Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful, murder respectable and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." Today probably the situation is much worse than Orwell's time where today there are five Wall Street lobbyists for every congressman to manipulate the system.
People feel that after the politicians are elected they do not do what has to be done. People vote them in and they ignore the same people who brought them in power with the average American is increasingly alienated from the political process. Even the institutional or organized religion is facing many problems -- especially the youth is staying away as to them the religious discussions are no longer visionary, challenging or intellectually stimulating.
Despite all that, the current Pope of the Catholic church, Pope Francis born Jorge Mario Bergogliois is getting much acclaim and esteem. He is the first non-European pope in 1,200 years and is selected 2013 Person of the Year by Time magazine. According to a BBC report, Pope Francis nearly tripled Vatican City crowds and drew more than 6.6 million people to his audiences, Masses and other events in Vatican City during his first year in office, compared to predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, attracted just 2.3 million people for the whole of 2012.
On Dec. 24, I was at Loaves & Fishes in Sacramento with about 40 volunteers -- men and women of all ages from the Muslim community who were preparing and serving the Christmas Eve meals to about 700 people. A young volunteer was very excited about his volunteerism that he was there doing his religious Islamic duty of helping the less fortunate.
During the conversation this Muslim college student also reflected on much applauded Pope Francis' recent pronouncement, which condemns the "new tyranny" of unrestrained capitalism, causing income inequality and poverty.
The Pope said: "Just as the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say 'thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?"
The Pope continued, "This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape."
Islam and all other the religions emphasize on social justice, fairness and helping the needy. The Bible says to its followers, "as often as you did it for one of my least brothers and sisters, you did it for me." (Matthew 25:40) And Jesus said to his disciples, "There is no need for the people to go, give them something to eat yourselves." (Matthew 16:14)
Allah Almighty says in the Quran, "Give to the near of kin his due, and also to the needy and the wayfarers. Do not squander your wealth wastefully; for those who squander wastefully are Satan's brothers, and Satan is ever ungrateful to his Lord." (17:26-27)
It was heartwarming for me to see that infused with such strong teachings of their faith, just like serving Christmas dinner to homeless, the American Muslim Voice Foundation's volunteers when saw the appeals in local papers about extreme cold and need for warm clothes, many dedicated volunteers came on board, got organized, raised funds for mostly new clothes and also collected nearly new clothes, had them dry-cleaned and delivered to the homeless shelter. They also bought new toys for the kids in Sacramento and delivered them to the Shriner's hospital.
Great Sufi Maulana Jalal-al-Din Rumi asks us, "Don't be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth. Love calls -- everywhere and always. We're sky bound. Are you coming?"