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Meet a Muslim As American As Apple Pie

Mona Haydar and her husband Sebastian are giving those in their community the chance to \

In response to the growing tide of Islamophobia, Mona Haydar and her husband Sebastian did something brave.

Standing in the shadows of Harvard and MIT—bastions of debate, proof, and reason—they opened themselves to strangers to talk about their faith. More than that, in an American city filled like so many with news cycles often laced with anti-Muslim rhetoric, they stood beside a tall, hand-made sign that read “Ask a Muslim.”

Giving Back the “Firsts”

My first word.

My first day of school.

My first time stepping onto a baseball diamond.

My first day of college.

My first day of my first job.

These moments for me are iconic, documented, and remembered.

For children with congenital heart defects, especially in Iraq, these experiences can be rare and miraculous.

3.5 Million Reasons Not to Be Paralyzed by Fear

9-11-terrorist_attack.jpg

One in 3.5 million.

This statistic, which has circulated in a number of articles (like this one) over the past year, is not your chance of dying from a cataclysmic storm. (One in 6,745.)

Or from an insect sting. (One in 55,764.)

Or from a dog attack. (One in 116,448.)

Or from a lightning strike. (One in 164,968.)

It is your chance of being the victim of a terrorist attack in the United States.

Mended Hearts: Zainab Is Ready to Run

This is Zainab.

She came to us a couple years ago with a combination of heart defects that kept her little body from getting the oxygen it needs. Children with her condition often have skin that looks blue because the blood coursing through their arteries does not carry enough oxygen. 

This Is Isaac's Moment

This is Isaac’s moment.

His mother buries her face in a scarf.

Father and brother watch as a stranger in scrubs carries Isaac down the hall, around the corner, and out of sight—the toddler’s cries still echoing back to them.

Isaac and his family waited years for this moment.

The woman who challenged poverty, cancer, and ISIS

She knew there might be traps or improvised explosives waiting for her. She knew ISIS might be there, waiting. But she went anyway. Om Hassan had to see what was left of her home.

The answer, it turned out, was nothing.

Where her family’s house once stood was a charred pile of concrete. “All my sweat and hard work, gone,” she sobbed.

What My Children Taught Me on Valentine's Day

Last year, my children threw a Valentine's Day party for their friends. The idea behind the party was simple: ditch the overpriced chocolates and romantic exclusiveness of Valentine's Day to celebrate a love that’s bigger. A love that can provide a lifesaving heart surgery for a child in a war zone.

It was a choice between chocolate hearts or giving the gift of a real, beating heart.  

4 Things You Should Know About the Death Toll in Iraq

Staggering.

That’s how the UN Commission on Human Rights described the number of civilian deaths caused by conflict in Iraq from January 2014 to October 2015. According to a report published last week, at least 18,802 people were killed during that time.

The report says at least because there are parts of Iraq that are off-limits, making it difficult to access precise figures. These no-go areas include sections of Anbar Province, west of Baghdad, where ISIS maintains a heavy presence. The death toll there could be much higher than official estimates.

Mended Hearts: Ali, the Life of the Party

For Ali, heart surgery meant traveling far from home—to another part of Iraq, where deep sectarian divisions meant he and his father might be treated as outsiders, or worse.

Weeks before Ali arrived in Nasiriyah, ISIS drove his family from their home in western Iraq. They are one of hundreds of families who received lifesaving aid, because of you. But Ali needed more. He needed surgery—and at 14 years old, he was running out of time.

This meant Ali and his father would have to cross into “enemy territory.” 

Arabs Who Fled ISIS Give Blood For Kurdish Peshmerga Fighters

A photo of men giving blood.

Iraq's Arab and Kurdish populations have a long history of trouble. 

Heavy fighting in the 1970s and 80s left a deep rift between the two group, as Arabs called Kurds "insurgents" and "terrorists," while Kurds called Arabs "occupiers" and "oppressors." 

Recently in Kurdistan, a group of displaced Arabs gathered to call Kurds something different: 

Friend. 

How our pain can remake the world

“Good news! Your daughter does not have pink eye! But we think there may be something wrong with her heart.”

Stunned silence echoed through the sterile exam room. I peered down in disbelief at Madeline, my 6-week old daughter. I closed my eyes, trying to comprehend the doctor’s words through my new-mom-sleep-deprived fog.

Her heart, I thought. That sounds serious.

Yes, it’s hard to be a Christian in Iraq. But that’s not the whole story.

A new report covered by Christianity Today last week identified the 50 countries where it’s hardest to be a Christian. Number two on that list is Iraq, the country that has been my family’s home for nearly a decade now. 

I can confirm something for you: it is hard to be a Christian in Iraq.

I know.

Kenyan Muslim Who Shielded Christians In Bus Attack Dies of Wounds

A photograph of Salah Farah on his hospital bed in Nairobi.

A Muslim teacher who shielded Christians during a recent attack by militants has died of his wounds.

The story, which you can read here, gained worldwide attention after Al Shabab militants stopped the passengers of a bus and demanded the Muslims and Christians split into two groups. Salah Farah was among the Muslims who reportedly defied the militants, saying "Kill us together, or leave us alone."  

Mended Hearts: Hamam the Escape Artist

Today, we’re sharing the story of Hamam. You helped save his life last year. This Valentine’s Day, you can invite others to join you in mending hearts like his by throwing a #HeartMender party. Over the next few weeks, we'd like you to meet some of the kids who are walking around with mended hearts today, thanks to you.  

Like most five year-olds, Hamam loves to play chase. But sometimes the stakes are a little too... real.

Summer shaves her head for refugees

 

She did it!

Last week, we introduced you to Summer Downs, who started her own fundraising campaign to help women who’ve been kidnapped and exploited by ISIS. In solidarity with those who’ve lost so much, Summer promised to shave her head at the end of her campaign. 

Fighting Like Dr. King

In his book David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell describes a night in Birmingham when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was attacked while giving a speech. “A two-hundred-pound white man charged the stage and began pummeling King with his fists,” Gladwell writes. 

"I'm in the middle of a lot of beautiful stories."

“It’s all about relationship and working with really beautiful people…”

A newspaper in Canada, the St. Catharines Standard, recently featured our very own Erin Wilson talking about her work with us in Iraq. Erin has lived in Iraq for two years, and for the past year, she’s been a member of our team, sharing beautiful images and stories of those you’ve helped save.  

Not every story is easy to witness. “I do see a huge amount of heartbreak,” Erin told the St. Catharines Standard. But at the same time I’m in the middle of a whole lot of really beautiful stories playing out.”

Proving Love Is Stronger Than Fear: Summer's Campaign

“It only took two-and-a-half months for our fear to make us forget.” 

That’s what prompted Summer Downs to do something we think is, well, pretty amazing.

How to step off the path of fear and hate

We can emerge from this darkness, but only by vigorously, defiantly affirming one another’s humanity.
— Saladin Ahmed

What does it take to become capable of denying someone else’s humanity?

How many negative portrayals of Muslims do we have to see, for example, in our movies and our Facebook feeds before we can no longer tell the difference between caricature and reality?

Four Ways to Wage Peace In Your Own Community

“I never thought I would hear such words of acceptance.”

Last month, we introduced you to Sofia Ali-Khan, whose Facebook post went viral, encouraging non-Muslims to speak up for their Muslim neighbors in the wake of increasingly hostile rhetoric aimed at Muslims in the US. But it’s more than just rhetoric—there’s been a documented rise in violent attacks against Muslims in the US.

But we can respond to fear with both our words and our actions.

That’s what preemptive love does. It reaches across “enemy” lines, both real and imagined. Preemptive love builds relationships where fear and mistrust dominate.