[This blessing] is simply here
because there is nothing
is better suited for
than an ending,
nothing that cries out more
for a blessing
than when a world
is falling apart.
From Blessing When the World is Ending
by Jan Richardson
Here is how you greet people in Morocco. I know these things because I lived there as a Peace Corps volunteer with my husband several years ago.
Traditionally, one person says “Salam Walikum.” This translates to “Peace be upon you.” In response, the other person says “Walikum Salaam,” which means “And also on you.” It sounds familiar, doesn’t it? As a practicing Catholic, this is what I say at mass when I greet those around me after reciting the Lord’s Prayer.
Close friends of the same gender often exchange kisses on the cheek during these greetings. Mama Habiba and I, for example, could kiss each other ten times before settling in for mint tea. Children may also kiss the hands of their older relatives as a sign of respect. The handshake, though, is my favorite part.
In Morocco, handshakes are followed by lightly touching your heart with your right hand. This is a sign of respect and shows the sincerity of the greeting. I have been back in the United States for years, yet you can still see me touching my own heart after shaking someone’s hand. To me, the gesture is tender and thoughtful: a simple way of conveying love for the other, a stranger.
After hearing the news of the shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand, how I wanted to shake the hands of my Muslim brothers and sisters. I wanted to shake hands and press my palm to my own heart and say, “Peace, peace, peace be upon you.”
It feels like there isn’t much I can do in the wake of terrible violence. I don’t have political power, I don’t have medical training, I don’t know how to stop the internet from spreading hate. But I can make an effort to see the stranger as my own brother, my own sister. I can do this small thing: say hello, touch my heart, offer peace.
God, we are weary of praying for comfort after acts of violence. Give us strength to create a world where all people of faith may worship safely. Help us see victims of hate as our own brothers and sisters, not strangers.
by Britt Luby