This story, and the next one, were submitted by folks involved in local interfaith organizations. I am a founding member of Detroit’s InterFaith Leadership Council, so I know the commitment, the risk-taking and the hard work that goes into building such networks. People who undertake this work often are unsung heroes and, in these two stories, I am inviting you to help me start singing! That’s a perfect way to introduce today’s guest writer: David LaMotte, a wonderful singer-songwriter and deeply committed peacemaker. I don’t know if the ballad of Abdullah Antepli will be on his next CD, but we have it here at Read The Spirit’s Interfaith Peacemakers.
Imam Abdullah Antepli
By DAVID LaMOTTE
My friend Imam Abdullah Antepli is the Muslim Chaplain at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. He is a man of faith, courage and humor, and is also a courageous campaigner for human rights. I met Abdullah when I was working to put on an interfaith music event. Muslim, Jewish and Christian students from several area colleges and universities worked together to plan and promote the concert, and Imam Antepli was a wonderful supporter and advocate for that event. Through it I began to know him and glimpse the depth and breadth of his peace work.
The “Abraham Jam,” as that event was called, involved three professional musicians of the three Abrahamic faiths performing together on stage. The artists traded songs rather than sets, remaining on stage together for the entire concert. They jumped in with each other on harmonies, leads and percussion, thus embodying mutual support, connection and respect rather than simply talking about those things. Abdullah, as well, embodies his beliefs through his peace work, giving tangible substance to his convictions.
In the summer of 2011 Antepli went on a speaking tour through Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya. In all four countries there were deep tensions and overt violence between Muslims and Christians. What made the trip powerful was that he was traveling, speaking and leading workshops with two Catholic bishops. The three not only preached and taught about the importance of peacemaking in both traditions, but represented the ideas they were espousing through their simplest actions.
“Sometimes it didn’t matter what we said,” Abdullah said, in reflecting on the trip. “It was just being seen together on the same platform, treating each other with respect. That was enough to astound people, and to change the tone.”
In the last year alone, he has traveled to Palestine and Israel five times, along with trips to Turkey, Malaysia and within the United States, visiting faith communities and trying to inspire them to do God’s work together. Currently he is working to challenge what he sees as rising antisemitism in Muslim circles and rising Islamophobia among Jews and Christians in particular, as well as delineating the difference between legitimate criticism and bigotry, especially in the context of Israeli-Palestinian issues.
Abdullah describes his current work as ‘re-humanization.’ “There are 400 million Muslims in Southeast Asia who will very likely never have the opportunity to meet a real Jew. In that context, and with only one-sided news sources covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it is easy for them to dehumanize the ‘other.’ Happily, I am not alone in perceiving the need for this work. Now, many American Muslim leaders see that antisemitism is getting worse—and it is poisoning our overall spiritual well-being, this hatred. It is hurting us.” Similarly, Islamophobia is poisoning many hearts and minds and corrupting many beautiful souls “I’m trying to find conversation partners, in my re-humanization and anti-hate efforts. We, as people of faith, can never be who we claim to be if we let dehumanization and hate of anyone fly so easily.”
A little more about our guest writer
David LaMotte is a musician, peacemaker and public speaker from Black Mountain, North Carolina. He is the author of White Flour, an illustrated book about creative non-violence, and the Clerk of the AFSC Nobel Peace Prize Nominating Task Group.
Care to read more?
Learn more about Daniel Buttry’s series of books on global peacemakers.