On Wednesday morning at a technical conference I attended in Miami, the female CEO of an impressive nanotech company from North Carolina gave the first presentation of the day, a departure from the printed schedule. She appeared to be Muslim since she was wearing a hijab (a traditional head wrap). The presentation had been moved up since there was an emergency that required her to fly back to North Carolina right away.
She gave one of the more interesting presentations, but was somewhat quiet and subdued, I felt. She then excused herself and left swiftly instead of taking any questions. The session chair explained that she would not have time for questions since she had to rush to the airport. Only later did I glean a hint about the nature of the emergency: three friends of hers had just been murdered. On Thursday I would see the headlines in the newspaper about the slayings of three Muslims in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. So terrible–how do I even begin to grasp what this kind of loss must feel like?
It was thoughtful of her to share as much as she did with us before her flight. I caught her on the way out and congratulated her for a great presentation, not yet knowing that there had been a tragedy. I had missed the announcement about the reasons for the change in schedule since I had been chatting out in the lobby. Had I known, I might not have wanted to bother her at all.
Her composure and kindness to the audience while facing such terrible news about her friends was very professional, but what pain she must have been facing! I am surprised at how calm and courageous she had been. Even if the victims of the murder had not been friends, just to have fellow Muslims from one’s town be murdered would have been a terribly troubling burden to face. This might be a good time for all of us to reach out in kindness to our Muslim friends as they face a trying time. They may face other cases of hatred and misunderstanding. May we help prevent such hatred and violence, and be a comfort and help to those who are at risk in our violent world.
We Latter-day Saints often recall the stories of past discrimination and persecution, but what our ancestors suffered many decades ago is minor compared to the pains of many in the world today. There are Muslims wishing to stand for peace who are slain by extremists. There are whole communities of Christians being driven out of their nations. There are minority religions and ethnic groups in many lands that are violently persecuted. May we not forget these brothers and sisters in their pain.
When it becomes our turn to face the wrath of bigots and madmen, may we remain calm and courageous, not seeking vengeance and not forgetting the need for charity even when there is cause for anger.