Dear Sisters and Brothers,
I think we all know that our community has a lot of problems, and the reality is that the problems we as Muslims face are exactly the same problems any person in the world today faces. We share the same problems as our neighbours – from marital discord to child abuse; from drug, alcohol, and porn addictions, to doubts about the very existence of God.
The difference is that some of our youth, stuck in the mire of these problems, now have the option of ‘seeking refuge’ from their trauma, their mistakes, their discontent and their confusion in a manner that appears noble to their misdirected minds: committing an act of violence and labelling it jihad. For these youth, it’s a shortcut to end the pain. It’s a last ditch effort to “come clean” – a suicide disguised as an action they can find pride in.
Outside experts can come up with their theories, but Muslims watching from the sidelines are able to recognize the reality: that so-called religious radicalization and terrorism have nothing to do with religion, and everything to do with social and psychological problems in individuals who did not succeed in getting the help they needed to resolve their issues.
A major source of help that was missing from the lives of all those who we witness committing mass shootings and other acts of terror is safe, balanced, faith-based counsel on how to be Muslim even if you face challenges, and how to heal from past wounds without inflicting the pain onto others. If only someone had been there to tell them that regardless of their struggles, Allah knows, sees, and loves them. Such a teaching would have enabled many a perpetrator of terror to choose a path of peace, because they would have realized that inner peace was within reach.
It’s time we faced up to the need to provide our youth with safe and balanced teachings and ways out of their struggles. We need to be there from an early stage in the lives of our community members, to help answer life’s difficult questions, to support and guide, to comfort and reassure. Life is not a DIY project, and yet we are treating it like that and teaching individuals in our society that isolation is normal. This means those in need have no way to ask for help.
There are so many peaceful ways to address the challenges of our lives –including homosexuality, atheism, and other taboo subjects. Our rich heritage includes guidance that is healthy and uplifting, on how to address these problems that seem so difficult to a person dealing with them all alone. There is a way to transcend, and it’s through and with God.
This is what we intend to offer through the Lotus Community Corner:
not only a safe space where youth can hang out and enjoy themselves without being judged – but also safe guidance and counselling that make everyone feel welcome and accepted. That reassure a person that no matter what their struggles are, they have a place of belonging with God and within our community.
Thankfully, we have three professionals who have stepped up to the challenge to provide the counselling and programming that can change the story for so many youth. We have a social worker, a program manager (to provide community programming like senior-youth meetings, meditation and wellbeing workshops), and a counsellor. These professionals are ready to leave their day jobs (actually, two have already done so, without any guarantee of an income). Now we need YOU to help us to provide a living wage for these dedicated service providers.
Even if you can’t make it to our fundraising dinner on June 24, you can still offer support financially. Let’s do all we can to make sure that the next mass shooting does not take place. That the next frustrated and confused and angry youth in Ottawa knows where he can go for help and get it.
Buy your ticket and show up to become a partner in this project.