It was St Ignatius of Loyola who said, “Ite Incendite Omnia,” a literal translation is “Go, set everything ablaze.” This was St Ignatius’ order to his followers- to spread their knowledge like fire and change those who they happened to encounter. As a constant witness to it, I can say with ease that there is something so fundamentally recognizable about Brandeis students–fire. There’s a fire, a passion, a certain strive in us all; we are the warriors of change. My interest in justice, human rights, ethics and public life is probably not rare to this campus, but the following is the memory of how I came to find my fire.
After the tragedy of 9/11, like many people, my family fled to their religion. As we arrived at church on Sunday morning it was packed and there was a certain feeling of not just unbearable grief but ironically deep community—as is usually the case, sorrow had brought us all together. The sermon was to have the message of hope, community and courage in the face of overwhelming pain and fear. Half way through the closing remarks the priest said “Lord, for those evil men who run around screaming and praying to their false idol Allah, show them the errors of their ways and protect us all from their savage behavior.” As the church echoed with amens, my father quickly pulled my family out enraged.
At the time I was confused of the implications of that priest’s words. I didn’t understand the anger that had suddenly possessed my father to pull us out of a crowded church mid-prayer. As we drove home he tried to articulate to the little, unaware, eleven-year-old girl I was then, what exactly the problem was. He explained that the priest had blamed all Muslims for an attack of a few, that had the priest done his research before spreading hateful words, he would have known that “Allah” is just the translation of the word “God,” and lastly he seriously pointed out how Muslims in this country would now suffer the consequences of not only association with this terrorism but the ignorance of those who hated blindly. He told me that I should never stand for or accept the mistreatment or blind hatefulness of other people, because as human beings they grieve and feel pain as I do. He repeated the golden rule, as he always had: “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” Only this time it meant so much more. I was young, but my father walking out taught me to always stand up. That is the day I caught my fire; the birth of my interest in justice, human rights, ethics and public life.