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Compassionate Connection

The first day of a lighthearted Swarthmore alumni “Getaway to Iceland,” a quick trip in search of the aurora borealis, was the March 15 massacre of Muslims at prayer in Christchurch, New Zealand.

We asked ourselves, what meaningful outreach could a busload of Swarthmoreans do thousands of miles from home and even farther away from New Zealand?

In Iceland, a tiny—mostly white and mostly Lutheran—country with a small Muslim population, I realized a letter to this community in Reykjavik was one way to express our support and sympathy. All 34 group members signed the letter, which read:

We are far from home and want to reach out to you as all of us feel linked in this time of unspeakable sadness.

We are here on a trip of alumni, friends and family of Swarthmore College, a small, nonsectarian Quaker college near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. With a tradition of Quaker activism for peace and commitment to working for a better world, we express our hope that change is possible and hate can be transformed into compassion.

I connected with the executive director of the Islamic Foundation of Iceland and presented our letter to him at the Grand Mosque of Iceland. Kasim Askari, from Reykjavik via Italy and Morocco, was truly touched and grateful.