“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.” Rumi
Zeynep Guvenc and Barbara Hochstetler connected this day over a choice that defined their commitment to their faith and values.
Zeynep is Muslim from Istanbul Turkey and lives in Miami. She has two young children and a husband who works at FIU. She is a mother and a freelance writer. She is the author of “Homeless”, a multicultural adult fiction book set in San Francisco, which is just released.
Barbara grew up in Iowa as a Christian in a Mennonite community and considers herself spiritual. She lived in Miami Beach for 3 years. Barbara is a mother of three. As a Director of Interior Design for notable public buildings internationally her role involves expressing culture in design. She is also an artist inspired by nature and humanity. Barbara current series of artwork, “the garden of even” depicts the balance and harmony of the center of flower.
Rev. Dr. Laurinda Hafner of Coral Gables Congregational United Church of Christ, invited muslim women to the women’s monthly meeting (sister’s on sojourn). The meeting was to promote understanding of our religious differences. The diverse group included midwesterners to latinos, spiritual to religious, career women to housewives.
Zeynep; I invited Barbara to my house, we talked about Rumi and his beautiful quotes. Even though we were originally from different countries, cultures, and religions, I felt there was an invisible bridge between our hearts. What she spoke started and ended with love, joy, and happiness. If there is love, the common language, there is nothing to worry about. One of the names of God is al-Wadud, i.e., He who loves. I think that the biggest problem in the world is that we are forgetting to love each other and this way anger grows and feeds violence all over the world. Spreading love increases happiness and peace.
Another time we met at a Miami restaurant with women from the Coral Gables church and Turkish women friends. Barbara took my picture in the restaurant’s garden and sent it to me with a comment saying that my red headscarf looks like a rose in the garden. She said, “I actually believe we all live in the same garden and each human being symbolizes a different flower in the garden. Love unites all of us in a field of flowers from various smells, colors, and shapes through acceptance. If we look at everything with the vision of love, this makes us rich, powerful, and happy. It says in the Holy Qur’an: “And of His signs is the creation of the heavens and the earth and the diversity of your languages and your colors. Indeed in that are signs for those of knowledge” (30:22). Diversity is in the roots of our creation, and we should all acknowledge that, and show empathy to each other.
The flower in the garden is a unique metaphor that I have not heard yet about hijab. I felt it was a great perspective. We as Muslim woman cannot see ourselves in front of the mirror. We need to step back to see what we look like. This connection with Barbara gave me a good opportunity to see myself from a different perspective. In this case I had a chance to better understand myself and others.
There are many paths that may take someone to God. We can only achieve peace when we realize that each path should be respected, and show love and empathy to each other. That’s what my Turkish Muslim friends and I experienced with Barbara.
Barbara; I found a kindred spirit in Zeynep, who was dressed in a hijab and covered body. Her modest dress was the main topic of conversation the day I met her. The Christian women wondered why a woman would want to dress like this and what it meant to the Muslim faith. They assumed it demeaned Muslim women and that they had no choice in the matter. Zeynep and her Muslim friends all dispelled this idea, and enlightened us about their beliefs and choices. When I spoke to her later I told her that I connected to her ability to stand firm in what she believes.
I grew up on a farm in a rural Mennonite Amish German community in southeastern Iowa. There were many rules about dress and behavior based on the Mennonite faith. When my grandmother grew up she wore a covering and long dresses with pins instead of buttons, which were too worldly. As a church member I did not follow the Mennonite rules which included no short dresses, no sleeveless, no short hair, and a mandatory covering for women in church. Because of this I was told that I was bad and that church members were judging me. Forty years later all the above rules in this Mennonite church are non-existent, they can dress how they wish. The women are not told they are sinners as I was.
Even though I chose to not wear a head covering and Zeynep did, I feel like we are are both unique flowers from the same garden. Cultures and religions are as diverse as the varieties of flowers in the world. Two of the same type flower will never be just alike. Flowers stand strong in their unique beauty while nurturing new life.
Zeynep and I continue to be inspired and grow through our differences, and our similarities.