Rhoda Reinford '76 Charles visits with Mya Ray, a fellow member of Habecker Mennonite Church in Lancaster, Pa. Ray, now a U.S. citizen, fled her native Myanmar. She and other refugees volunteer their time in Habecker's sewing circle, led by Charles. (Photo by Jon Styer)

‘Let Your Life Speak’: Fall/Winter 2016 Crossroads features alumni empowering neighbors in multicultural U.S.

The fall/winter 2016 issue of Crossroads focuses on Eastern Mennonite University alumni who have made conscious choices, whether vocational or avocational, to work in multicultural settings as advocates for social justice. The theme, “Let Your Life Speak,” is taken from an old Quaker adage, but some readers will also recognize the phrase as the title of a book by educator Parker Palmer about listening for (and hearing) your summons to a higher calling.

The print issue should arrive in mailboxes of alumni and friends of EMU who live in North America this week [Dec. 18].

To view or share a digital issue, click here.

Here’s a list of features, with individual links to articles:

Attorney Sharon R. Lopez '83. (Photo by Jon Styer)
Attorney Sharon R. López ’83. (Photo by Jon Styer)

Also see features on the Center for Interfaith Engagement led by new director Trina Trotter Nussbaum ’00, Pastor Matthew Bucher MA, MDiv ’15 and the welcoming signs spreading across the nation, and the similar work of Mel Lehman ’71 and Bshara Nassar MA ’14.

A Genesis Story, or How This Issue Happened…

The theme of this magazine came about nearly a year ago on a cold January morning in a minivan zooming through Harrisonburg.

I was in the back seat of the van. Trina Trotter Nussbaum ‘00, then associate director of EMU’s Center for Interfaith Engagement, was driving and Bex Simmerman MA ‘16, then a graduate student at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, was seated next to her.

The 2016 presidential campaign was warming up; indeed, already it was looking hot. We were on the way to a monthly Harrisonburg/Rockingham Interfaith Association meeting at the Islamic Center of Shenandoah Valley. The topic of discussion was how to respond to a growing prevalence “by citizens emboldened by presidential candidates and amplified by media outlets” of inflammatory language against immigrants.

I do not remember exactly how subject came about, but I do remember that when we hit upon the idea of devoting an issue of Crossroads to alumni doing similar kinds of advocacy work in the United States, Trina turned completely around in her seat to share her enthusiasm.

And she was driving at the time.

We did arrive at the mosque safely. The building was packed. By the end of two hours, the large group of faith leaders had collected contributions and agreed on language for a full-page ad in the local newspaper titled “A Call For Action To Create Mutual Understanding and Acceptance in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.” (See the text below.)

The other result of that day was a Crossroads theme that, in the coming months, would be refined to focus on alumni in the United States, working for the common good and for social justice in multicultural settings. We knew this magazine would come out after the presidential election. And we knew, depending on the country’s choice, that the world could be vastly different at its conclusion. As photographer and graphic designer Jon Styer ‘07 and I created this magazine, we both took hope from the stories of alumni working day to day in selfless compassion to bring comfort and care to their neighbors. Again and again, we were reminded in interviews with alumni that we can make the choice to meet our neighbors, to share our lives, and to live fully, even if we are uncomfortable, with our differences.

Nearly 11 months later, the words created so carefully in January 2016 by the men and women of the Interfaith Association are worth printing again. I thank them, Trina and Bex for the initial inspiration of this theme.

Harrisonburg-Rockingham Interfaith Association’s “Call for Action to Create Mutual Understanding and Acceptance in Harrisonburg and Rockingham County”

The organizations and individuals endorsing this statement are deeply saddened by the recent hatred expressed toward immigrants by citizens emboldened by presidential candidates and amplified by media outlets. We are deeply saddened by the violence that is taking place at home and abroad. We desperately need a productive public struggle over our different ethical and social choices. Productive politics can only happen within a commitment to live together in respect.

It is time to stop and recover our shared values. We are a nation of immigrants of different cultural, linguistic, and religious backgrounds, which makes our communities rich, diverse, and productive. Our community of Harrisonburg and Rockingham has a long lasting history of welcoming immigrants and celebrating the role that everyone contributes to our society, and we will not lose our souls to hate. Our call is not only to pray, but also to educate and engage in loving one another, as is the mandate of all of our faith communities.

We would like to let our community know that we intend to work together to stop religious intolerance, bigotry, religious discrimination, and fear of strangers from taking over the hearts of our institutions and members of our community.

We add our voice to the call of many others in the country who seek to promote common understanding, to love our neighbor, to dialogue with those who are different from us, to recognize and celebrate our differences, and to demand that our political parties return to civil discourse in society.

[Supporters, in the hundreds, were listed below the text.]