Expanding Safe Spaces 

IMG_0312By: Will O’Brien, Social Media Intern 2015

Yesterday evening I had he privilege of attending a prayer vigil. This in itself is not a unique or infrequent occurrence for me over the course of the past months. This one however struck a different chord for me; I felt that a safe space had been created for all in attendance. This is a feat that is rarely accomplished, and is made even more remarkable due to the nature of the vigil – an interfaith vigil for peace in Israel-Palestine.​

As an Arabic-speaking Christian who is dating a Jew, this is an issue that is becoming increasingly present, confusing, and meaningful in my daily life. The firestorm of rhetoric from all sides is ceaseless, and increasing more rapidly than the violence in the region over the past month. A topic with multiple facets – a small sliver of land thousands of miles away.

​However, among this constant bombardment of the twenty-four hour news cycle, forty plus people of all different faiths, ideals, and nationalities set these matters aside. They came together for a shared ideal that they all appear to place above everything else – peace. We held our electric indoor fire safe candles in silence before hearing prayers for peace from both the Muslim and Jewish tradition read in Arabic, Hebrew, and English. This was not a forum for debate, discussion, or argumentation. This was a space of grieving, hope, and safety.

​The most impactful effect of this safe place was the observation of my friend from the Arabian Gulf who had never heard this Jewish prayer read in Hebrew before. He was amazed at how much he understood and how similar the requests of the prayers were. For the first time the opportunity was presented for him to consider these commonalities with the goal to be understanding and not refuting.

​Before we could begin to ask for safety for others without a sense of safety among our own little group. The vigil closed with a word or two about getting to know everyone in the circle and seeing who around us cared and felt passionately about the issue at hand. Trying to take this safe space with us to create a network of safe spaces on a small college campus, that might spread into the surrounding communities, and maybe some day to that small sliver of land thousands of miles away.