“What gives you #TangibleHope in the world today? How do your values and/or belief systems come into conversation with this #TangibleHope?”
Karen Leslie Hernandez, Mom, Theologian, Interfaith Activist, Animal Lover:
In a world where 19,000 children die around the world, due to effects of malnutrition and disease. In a world where famine is gripping South Sudan and Yemen and tens of thousands are at risk of literally starving to death. In a world where chemical warfare in Syria is a game of blame. In a world where Muslim girls are brutally beaten to death because of “road rage.” In a world where a building that houses hundreds of poor immigrants simply burns them alive. In a world where there are more slaves than ever in the world’s history of slavery. In a world where vans are used as weapons. In a world where men with guns and bombs kill our children while they attend school and concerts. In a world where prisons are an industry and those of color pay for the greed. In a world where the President of what was the most thriving nation on the planet, brags about grabbing women by their private parts. In a world where two men die defending a Muslim woman on a train. In a world where there are more refugees than ever before fleeing their homeland for a better life. In a world where those that are paid to protect us, in actuality, shoot us. In a world where we are closer to a nuclear war than we have ever been …
In a world such as this, how can we find hope?
I have I have had to think long and hard about what tangible hope is, to myself, and to the wider world. And, honestly, I’m still not sure if I actually have tangible hope in anything or anyone right now. Tangible hope, to me, is something that you can touch, feel, see, hear – in this ever-present world that we are experiencing at this moment in time, tangible hope feels like an impossibility. The question is however, is it? Is tangible hope impossible? Is tangible hope a feeling or opinion? Or, is it action and more, reaction?
In all that is wrong right now, I realize that I am presented with tangible hope with every step I take. As I weave my path through this world and make my way through life, as it intertwines with other’s lives, that is where the tangible hope is.
There are people that I think of every day. These colleagues and friends around the world that are peacebuilders, not only enter conflict zones every day to work on bringing peace, but, they also live in conflict zones. The Philippines, Afghanistan, the Central African Republic, Syria, Iraq – all have people I know and I love – all of whom simply walk through these conflicts, working to bring fighting factions together, in hopes of a peaceful resolution. I look upon these beautiful souls in awe. Not sure I could do what they do, they are unwaivering in their commitment to peace. They are role models and they are hope.
Closer to home, I admire and appreciate the work of my fellow Pastors, Teachers, Imams, Rabbis, Social Workers, and Advocates, all whom work tirelessly to feed, house, rehabilitate, keep families together, educate, and mobilize for a better community, and a better world. If you have ever drive through the Tenderloin District of San Francisco at night, as I did just last night, you can see the state of our world, up close and personal. Literally dozens of homeless, drugs, violence, mental illness, hunger, desperation, and several with a range of disabilities – the Tenderloin is a microcosm of human suffering. And, yet, every day, there are people out there, helping. They are role models and they are hope.
There’s another group of wonderful humans I must mention. I must give out a shout to my colleagues at the San Francisco SPCA, who, are a voice for the voiceless – people that care so much about animal welfare, they choose to save animals for a living. I am proud to say that my daughter is included in this group of people. I see that mine, and her father’s actions in her upbringing, have created a compassionate, giving human being, who cares about the state of the world, and, who simply gets it. In a world where we hunt sentient beings for sport, leave animals to live (and die) in squalid conditions, cage so we can enjoy them while they suffer, put in a pool of water to perform tricks, harm physically and emotionally, and even practice bestiality – these colleagues are exemplary in that their tireless efforts are non-stop. They see and understand that the world is interconnected and animals – they are a part of this beloved world of ours.
It is perplexing to me that it is humans that cause so much harm in the world, yet, it is in humans that I find tangible hope. It is in humans that empathy and compassion always win. It is in humans that I see faith. And, it is in that faith, where I find hope.
Hope is where love lives and thrives.
I close with one of my favorite poems by Emily Dickinson – because hope never asks anything of us but belief. Belief that all will be as it should be. Belief in all that is good. Belief in ourselves.
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.
With a focus in Christian-Muslim understanding, as well as religious fundamentalism and extremism, Karen is the only theologian who is a Latina and a United Methodist doing this type of theological work in the US. She has published with several media outlets including Feminism and Religion, the Women’s United Nations Report Network, The Journal of Inter-Religious Dialogue/Studies, and she is the only Christian to publish an ongoing Op-Ed Column with OnIslam out of Cairo, Egypt. Karen teaches and lectures throughout the United States and abroad, is currently working with the United Religions Initiative, is an Ambassador with Parliament of the World’s Religions, is pursuing her Doctor of Ministry at Claremont School of Theology, and she is also a domestic violence advocate.