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Column

My name is Elisa Crawley, and I am a foreigner. An immigrant.

My family left the coastal beauty of Belfast, Northern Ireland, for the hip metropolis of Boston, Massachusetts, when I was only 3 years old. I always wish my accent hadn’t slipped away so quickly.

My heritage provided a moment of bonding when I first met my now-boyfriend, Raul, a fellow student at Bob Jones.

We both share a passion for our home countries and cultures and both know what it is like to see things with a wider context.

We have both especially enjoyed seeing Christianity practiced in different tongues and cultures.

But we also have both been misunderstood by others, sometimes with a foul undercurrent—racism.

For Raul, because he does not look like a person of traditional western European descent, he is often typecast as a terrorist.

Here in the States, it is commonly assumed that terrorists are brown, hairy men with turbans, machine guns and foreign flags.

However, my family came from a place where terrorism had green eyes, brown hair and skin that burned in the sun.

Conal, my father, grew up in Portadown and Belfast.

Throughout his time at home, Northern Ireland’s sectarian, mainly political, conflict between the Irish Republican Army (typically Catholic) and the Ulster Defense Association (typically Protestant) was at its last great height: The Troubles (1968-1998).

My father’s family faced various acts of violence and discrimination, with even his home being shot at with murderous intent.

Car bombs, street shootings and knee cappings were commonplace.

My parents have seen a lot, and I grew up learning that humanity is too precious to label or settle scores with violence.

We moved to the States in 1998.

Raul is ethnically half Persian and half Puerto Rican and was born in Champagne, Illinois.

His mother’s entire family had to go into hiding because of his grandfather’s connections to the controversial ruler, The Shah, during the Iranian Revolution (1979).

Next, the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution evolved, a terrorist group of sorts to the people of Iran, to protect Islamic rule.

Today, conversion out of Islam is a crime punished by death, and the government commits various violations of human rights.

Islam is enforced by the state, but the fervor of the people varies.

Raul’s mother came to the U.S. for university and later married, ultimately moving to Puerto Rico.

Raul has lived there for over 13 years and has visited Iran several times.

He loves the cultures his parents have, especially his rich heritage of music. He has even learned to play the Persian setar.

However, I have been present for several incidences toward Raul since we began dating.

(“You look like a terrorist.” “You should make a Bob Jones ISIS video.” “Yeah, he looks like he would blow up the school.”)

He is called a terrorist just because of his Middle Eastern features—his coarse black hair, brown skin and full beard. Because of unjustified assumptions about his heritage.

It is painful to hear people label Raul as a murderer.

Terrorism is not a joke. Terrorism killed my family’s relatives and friends.

And as far as the stereotype goes, Raul does not even come from the stereotypical background of traditional terrorists.

Terrorism, the branch Americans typically refer to, is from Arab and Sunni backgrounds. Iran is Persian and Shiite.

I wish that these people could see that this kind of joking is not only insensitive and insulting, but it is also ignorant.

We know that terrorism is not a color, race or religion. At its root, it is a hatred for someone who is different.

Real terrorism is not a brown man with a bushy beard. It is the slaughtering of other humans for a cause. It is an ideology.

Terrorism can be white on white like with the IRA and UDA or brown on brown like with the revolutionary guard to the citizens of Iran and many other combinations of all sorts of skin colors and people groups.

When a person starts to associate terrorism with physical attributes,  he is stereotyping.

Racism, bias and ignorance is the soil from which terrorism grows—and God has called us to higher things than to racially profile one another.

These actions I have witnessed as an American Irish immigrant have deeply impacted me.

For my family, the typical Irish stereotypes of drunkenness, IRA terrorism and “you can leave if you don’t like it here” were commonly thrown at my father.

Our Irish culture and immigration status have caused our family to be labeled, judged, insulted and defamed. Bias has consequences.

As Christians, we cannot herald a King who redeemed people from every tribe, tongue and nation and yet discriminate within our hearts.

Understanding and empathy is our heavenly heritage, compassion and courage our heartbeat.

The Bible, not U.S. culture, should be our filter.

Our challenge is to love our world with the heart and mind of Christ.

This moral dedication is a privilege, as empathy gives knowledge that transcends the superficial to see a deeper beauty.

To see one another with the eyes of Christ is the high calling of each disciple. To see a world worth dying for, enemies worth loving and a family God is making.

Seeing others as Jesus sees us would have healed the Troubles of Ireland, stopped the terrorism in the Middle East and changed the biases upon America’s doorstep.

As believers, let us challenge each other to love and understand one another.