When I was a child, I had the misfortune – in many ways, although I loved my childhood and my home country – of growing up in a country where much of diversity did not exist. I’m from Somalia, where nearly all people are Somali, Muslim and share a somewhat common culture. When you thought of diversity, it just didn’t go beyond different tribes. That was about it.
Later, I was fortunate enough to travel every continent in our planet, meet different people with different faiths and cultures. I have decided to make America my home because it is a country of the world where you find someone from almost every nation.
Leaving my little corner of the world forced me to deal with many ugly things such as racism, classism, homophobia, religious and cultural bigotry and so many other things that did exist in Somalia but I was not exposed to. But, my friends, that only made me a stronger person!
What I have learned ever since the time I discovered the world is that – and I really don’t care what people call this – there is a power out there way beyond our measures which unites us all. The biggest lesson I learned is that we all feel pain and that all pain is the same. This itself – though there are many, many other uniting factors for Humanity – is enough to make us put our differences aside and mourn, cry, hug, laugh and be with each other.
In Islam, the faith of my upbringing, we have ninety-nine names for God. In my very short experience of traveling the world, I was able to see each and every name of that in the faces of folks of all different racial, national, culture, religious and everything else that we use to separate each other.
I used to hear “oh, anyone who does not accept God will not make it to the good side of the world to come,” or “oh, anyone who is not part of our faith will not go to heaven,” or many other things that millions and millions of us – of different faiths – are taught to use to separate from each other.
These days, I believe the Glory of the One is Limitless. We are all one people. I have a firm belief that all of us will be one in the world to come, as well. When I was a little boy, my Mother told me that, “when you find yourself, you find the Universe.” I now understand that she meant we are all part of the universe and the universe is part of us, regardless of the petty things we use to differentiate between us.
American writer and filmmaker Afdhere Jama was born and raised in Somalia and moved to America as a teenager. From 2000 to 2010 he served as editor of Huriyah, a magazine by and for LGBT Muslims. He is the author of Being Queer and Somali: LGBT Somalis At Home and Abroad; Queer Jihad: LGBT Muslims on Coming Out, Activism, and the Faith; Illegal Citizens: Queer Lives in the Muslim World; and At Noonday with the Gods of Somalia.