“For all our differences and disagreements, we can live in a world of peace. In opposing every attempt to create a rigid uniformity, we can and must build unity on the basis of our diversity of languages, cultures and religions, and lift our voices against everything which would stand in the way of such unity. Together we are called to say “no” to every attempt to impose uniformity and “yes” to a diversity accepted and reconciled.” Pope Francis
Tibbits Opera House was honored to team with the Arab American National Museum for a week long residency. In all, nearly 2000 students and 400 community leaders and citizens heard the presentation. The program was aimed at understanding what it means to be Arab-American. With the diverse community in Coldwater it is important to understand our neighbors; it is through understanding that we dispel our fears. Communication and education are the answers.
The program was about Arab-American Culture. It was not about religion. There were only two points made during the presentation about religion: (1) religion does not define who is Arab; and (2) the head scarf is not exclusive to Muslim women. Participants were taught Arabs can be Muslim, Christian or Jewish or any other religion. Sixty percent of Arabs in America are Christian. They also learned many religions and cultures wear head covering; it is not exclusive to Muslim women nor do all Muslim women choose to wear it.
This project has been more than a year in the making and took a great deal of planning and coordination. Tibbits was accused of poor timing because of world events. In reality, it was very timely. Rather than look with suspicion at our Arab-American community let’s learn the truth. They are not the enemy. They do not share the views of, or in any way support the extremists who are wreaking terror on the world. Contrary to the impressions given by media and Hollywood, the extremists make up a fraction of a percent of the Muslims in the world. If you speak with law enforcement in our community they have very little trouble with crime by the Muslim citizens.
Tibbits has shared many cultures through its school programming over the years and will continue to do so. This is not the first time it has shared the Arab culture. Through the support of the Michigan Humanities Council we were able to include more students, visit the service clubs, and add the public performance with music and food. The program has been promoted through media releases, radio interviews, website, posters, flyers and Facebook starting in July with the announcement of the grant. Because of the number of events held at the Tibbits, Facebook events are often created closer to the events so we can keep the page and events current.
Thank you to the Michigan Humanities Council, the Museum, the Branch County Community Foundation, the Arab American Society of Coldwater and the Coldwater Community Schools for their support and assistance. Thank you also to all who participated or allowed their children to participate in our week long residency or who came to the public event. I trust you found it informative. It could not possibly answer all questions but was meant to open the door to learn more.
The mission of the Tibbits Opera Foundation & Arts Council is to engage all in the support of arts, culture and the preservation of the historic opera house. We are proud of our role in this community and proud to be a part of sharing diverse arts and cultural programming.