The woman in the red coatBy Samaneh Sazegarnejad
I will never forget my first day at the Mennonite Central Committee United Nations Office. At the airport all of my luggage was opened and the contents examined piece by piece. My laptop was held for two weeks, and my family and I were interrogated for almost seven hours.
I knew that as an Iranian Muslim woman I would be different from everyone else in my office. Being a Muslim in a Christian organization would be challenging.
On the other hand, interning with MCC on interfaith bridge building while living in a country that considers itself an enemy of my country could be both interesting and demanding.
On March 15, my first day at the office, I knocked on the door. My boss, Doug Hostetter, welcomed me and mentioned that he had dreamed of me arriving in a red coat. I was wearing a red coat.
Then I met my two friendly co-workers, Kayon Watson and Karen E. Flores Vidal, who have each been helping me professionally and personally.
Doug asked if I need a place to pray. He knew I would need a space to pray by myself. We went upstairs and found a small quiet place where I could do my prayers whenever I want. It brought such peace. I had tears that I tried to hide. I have been surrounded by kind-hearted people who make me feel safe.
A few weeks after my arrival, I went for a one-week MCC orientation in Akron, Pa. I was the only Muslim in a group of Mennonites and other Christians. It was challenging. I was supposed to learn how MCC works.
Everything at MCC is done in the name of Jesus. At times I felt alone with my understanding of God. Sometimes it felt as if I was seen not as a person who also cares for God’s love, peace and justice but only as a person with a different understanding of and worship of God.
I felt as if the orientation belonged only to the people of Jesus and did not include all of the people of God. It took me a while to understand that whether people work or speak in the name of Christ or in the name of God, both can represent the same identity, the Lord. Though I was not sure that others at MCC would agree, I believe we worship the same God.
I was feeling homesick, but a few friends were there to support me — people who had worked in Middle East and understood.
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