A verse from Exodus has haunted me lately: "You shall not oppress a resident alien; for you know the heart of an alien, for you all were aliens in the land of Egypt" (23:9). As the many words of compassion rolled in from the international community following Sept. 11, I was struck by the depth of the empathy. Palestinians and Israelis, Haitians and Salvadorans, Russians and Croats all spoke from their experience to our newly discerned vulnerability.
A visitor from Cuba, at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to receive the Gamaliel Chair in Peace and Justice, gently reminded us, "Yes, I know exactly how you feel. We have lived on high alert for fear of an invasion for 40 years." A young woman in a discussion group likened Sept. 11 to being raped and the subsequent inability to trust anyone. A turbaned Sikh friend shared how he suddenly found himself the target of nasty comments and suspicious stares. And we are reminded, "You know the heart of an alien," maybe now more than ever.
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