Center for Interfaith Cooperation

Hoosiers of Many Faiths in Community

Ala’a Wafa remarks at Indiana’s 200th Statehood Day.

Many of CIC’s friends and board members were guests of Governor-elect Eric Holcomb and Vice President-elect Mike Pence at “Ignite the Future” … an interfaith celebration of Indiana’s 200th birthday. Observers agreed that the speeches at the event were some of the most important and inspiring statements they had heard. Here are the remarks by CIC board member Ala’a Wafa.

Ignite the Future: Ala’a Wafa 

Assalamu Alaikum. I greet you with the Muslim greeting which means ‘peace be unto you.’ It’s so wonderful to be here with such a large and diverse group of fellow Hoosiers.

Today as we celebrate our state’s 200th birthday, there’s much to reflect on as we think about the future.  As a Muslim American, I have many of the same hopes for our state that I’m sure many of you do.

Because my Muslim faith has taught me the importance of compassion for your fellow human, regardless of background. Our scripture reminds us that we should do good–be kind to our parents, our relatives, our neighbors, whether familiar or unfamiliar, the companion by our side, and those in need. Looking at the life of our prophet, we learn that in order to make our community stronger, it is important to serve our fellow humans.

So when I look to the future, I think not only about our state’s successes for motivation, but also about the work that still needs to be done. For example, in our state, working parents are struggling to pay their rent and put food on the table. Children across the state rely on free school lunches as the only meal they will have all day.  Minority students including Muslims, Latinos, or LGBT are being bullied in schools because of who they are. I hope for a future where none of these problems exist.

Instead I hope for a state that stands-out as a model welcoming community—a state where all those in need, whether financially, medically, or emotionally, are all taken care of—a state where people of all backgrounds are treated equally and justly, and a state where we all show kindness to one another. I hope for a future where Muslims and other minorities are not so gravely misunderstood, where I do not feel uncomfortable or fear for my safety or the safety of my family because of the way we look or the faith we practice.

Despite some of the fears people in my community feel, we are also hopeful because of some of the great examples we see in our state. Indiana happens to have one of only two Muslim American representatives in Congress, and has one of the few Muslim American judges in the nation.

This past year, our new Mayor appointed one of the most if not THE most diverse ‘cabinet’ in our city’s history, one that includes two Muslims. We have long been a fabric of this state and this nation, engaging with and serving the community, and Indiana recognizes that.

As you all know, we are a state that is known for its Hoosier hospitality—a hospitality that is much like the teachings of kindness and compassion in my own faith. Let’s ensure that definition of Hoosier hospitality extends not only to visitors, but to the people of our own state.

I challenge each and every one of you to take your Hoosier hospitality to another level. Invite someone who is different than you into your home, someone who you may not otherwise interact with, perhaps someone from a different religious, cultural, or ethnic background. When we get to know one another, our misunderstandings, apprehensions or fears of ‘the other’ slowly erode and instead, we start building friendships that create a strong, caring community. We must not fear one another—rather we must get to know one another.

So let’s make sure we show kindness not only to our neighbors but to strangers, to the sick, and to the needy, including those seeking shelter from war abroad. That hospitality and compassion must always be blind to race, religion, or other identifying factors. When you see something to the contrary, stand up and speak out against it.

You are each an ambassador to this state and each individual interaction you have not only impacts the lives of those around you, but also helps attract and keep the best and brightest in our state so that we ensure Indiana thrives well into the future. Together, we can make our state a beacon for others to follow. Each and every one of you has the power to make that happen.

Thank you.

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