Thursday, November 24, 2016

Guest Blogger, Dr. SimonMary Aihiokhai, Ph.D. "I AM A PILGRIM"

[Today, we have a guest blog post from one of our long-time supporters and colleagues, Dr. SimonMary A. Aihiokhai, Ph.D., written on the occasion of the November 8, 2016, presidential election]


Friends, that is what all of you are to me, friends. For more than a year, President-elect Donald Trump spent everyday alienating people. At first, I was shocked at how scary his racist statements were. I believed that all decent persons will reject his agenda. But I do not know if I was too assuming or not.


There is something you my friends need to know, it is what it means to be an immigrant. To be an immigrant is to take the greatest risk, to leave all one knows and journey to the land of the unknown. It is to uproot one's tree of memories and plant it in a new land and hope it will grow and not die. One fact always remains in this process, for some the tree shrinks, struggles to survive, and sometimes, it even dies. For others it slowly begins to grow and it sure takes time.


An immigrant is a person with two stories, of which he can hardly tell completely because his/her audience can never know the complete version of each story - a story from the homeland which is alien to the ears of those in the new home and the story from the new home which is alien to the ears of those in the first homeland. When asked to tell their story, an immigrant can only tell half stories. Such is the dilemma of an immigrant.


For many years now, I have journeyed through the road of pilgrimage, one all immigrants journey through. Slowly but surely, I began to plant my tree in this country called America. It has not always been easy. I have experienced discrimination, bigotry, hatred, and most often been misunderstood. I chose never to give up because if I do give up, there is no home to go to. My first homeland has moved on and I will be a stranger in that land should I go back there.


But what happened yesterday shocked me. A man ran for office rejecting my story and those of millions of fellow immigrants. Yet, he was voted into office by people I had thought have accepted me as a member of the family. That is telling indeed. Never for once did I see a sign of Trump on lawns of houses of Trump supporters in the states I travelled to and lived in during the times he was campaigning - Indiana, Illinois, Georgia, and Oregon. Everyone said they were rejecting Trump and his message of hate but that seems to have been a LIE. Trump was the silent buddy of many.


If my fellow Americans were willing to ignore the dehumanizing agenda of Trump, which was directed at people like me, Muslims, LGBT+ persons, women, blacks, Hispanics, and so on, and still vote him into office, it means that I have not yet found a home in this land I have called home.


One thing I want to do is this - I will intensify my prayers, for that is what has never failed me. An immigrant is always a pilgrim holding on to one sure companion, prayer. It is a prayer that is uttered in the language of those at the margins. The content of the prayer is never clear. The language is never clear. But God always makes the prayer clear. God is the one who understands the language of he immigrant because God continues to be a pilgrim with us who are immigrants.


Let us now use one sure strength we have, that of being pilgrims to embrace those at the center of power in this country to transform their hearts. The embrace is not of strength but of vulnerability. May our vulnerability transform the hearts of those who are alienated by the results of last night's election results. VIOLENCE IS NOT THE SOLUTION.

SimonMary Asese A. Aihiokhai, PhD
SimonMary Asese Aihiokhai is currently Visiting Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology at University of Portland, Portland, Oregon. His research and publications engage Religion and Identity in Islam, Christianity, and African Religions; African approaches to Virtue Ethics; Philosophy, Culture, and Theology; Theology and Economics; Religion and Violence; theological, cultural, philosophical, and sociological issues facing Catholicism in Africa; Comparative Theology dealing with Christianity, Islam, and African Religions; and Interreligious Dialogue in the Global South. Dr. Aihiokhai has continues to be an active interlocutor in the ongoing Christian – Muslim dialogue in Nigeria and the Catholic – African Religions dialogue. He worked as a missionary among many cultures in Nigeria for ten years and continues to reflect on the rich experience he attained from his encounters with people of the Muslim and African Religious faiths.

Dr. Aihiokhai comes from a very religiously pluralistic community in Nigeria and professed the Islamic Faith until his conversion as a youth to the Catholic – Christian faith. He joyfully professes a Catholic-Christian faith that is shaped, nourished, and affirmed by Islam and African Religions.

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