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Jill R. Benson: In this space, a stranger was welcomed

Letter writer says she was welcomed into the mosque with grace. Would other churches do the same?

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Reader Opinion letter

I was nervous walking into the mosque. I am a small-town Lutheran, and only the sudden death of my beloved Ridgewater College student, Yasmin, brought me to the Willmar mosque in November 2018.

Yasmin had been a bright light: thoughtful, hardworking, and friendly. She dreamed of combining family with accounting work. When I discovered she died in a car accident, nothing could keep me from her funeral, even though I had no idea what to expect. I put a scarf around my neck.

From the second I walked into the old Lafayette Elementary building, friendly faces welcomed me. Another Ridgewater student saw me immediately.

I asked if she could bring me to Yasmin's mother, so I could present her mother with an essay I wrote: how Yasmin taught me, and how her memory would accompany me through the rest of my teaching life. Not only did I talk to her mother, I sat in a place of honor next to her in a small room filled with female relatives.

I talked to her cousin, Amina, the most, about Yasmin's life away from school and Amina's own dreams apart from her job.

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As it came time to join the other women in the large room that serves as the sanctuary, I told Amina I had worn a scarf but wasn't sure how to wear it on my head. She gestured to me with love. I leaned over her, and time stood still as she carefully tucked and folded, only a breath away.

Then, I entered a large room full of women that was dim but warm and inviting. I heard unfamiliar Arabic prayers, but stood joined with women who know grief but feel hope anyway.

If a woman in hijab walked into one of our churches, would we welcome her with so much grace?

Jill R. Benson

Willmar

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