Fear of the Unknown

I wrote this post before my trip to Egypt in 2009. I traveled for a course during my time at the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. I travel all the time but it never ceases to amaze me how fear is such a powerful emotion. It can literally stop us in our tracks…

I received a call from my father today asking if this trip was still going to happen. My mother continually calls and tells me (doesn’t ask) that I won’t be able to go to Egypt in a week. Their fear is linked to what’s happening in Gaza at this very moment. When I first heard their comments, I laughed and told them, “You do realize that I am going to Egypt and not Israel, right?” After time passed and I thought more about what they have been saying and asking, I realize that they are truly concerned for my well-being and don’t really care that Egypt isn’t Israel. Rather, when they look at a map and see the close proximity of the Gaza strip to Egypt, the alarm bells start ringing. As I put aside my own “traveler’s superiority” (you know, the attitude that many of us can acquire after being fortunate enough to travel internationally) I realize that their fear is not unwarranted.

As Americans, we are surrounded by “stable” countries. For many of us, 9/11 was our first encounter with massive tragedy on our home turf. When we watch the news and see the violence and poverty present in the world, we are disconnected for what the reality is for our brothers and sisters on the ground in various countries. My parents are tapping into a fear and concern because of a direct connection with the region they perceive to be dangerous. Now that someone close to them, someone whom they are in relationship with, is traveling to an unknown land, fear has taken hold of them.However, this fear is not irrational. I too fear the unknown. I have travelled to countries in sub-saharan Africa and I am wondering how I, as a Black female, will be received in a country that very rarely identifies itself as African. I wonder about the perception of black americans in Egypt and the perception of Black Africans. I also wonder about the identity of Egyptians as Arabs and what that means for those who are Coptic and those who are Muslim. While I am at times overwhelmed with a fear of the unknown, I am reminded of one of the most repeated phrases in our holy writ, “Be not afraid.” This refrain has been repeated to me and I have repeated it to my parents. I pray daily for the peace that surpasses all understanding. I also am coming to understand that living life abundantly means casting all fear aside and experiencing the fullness of life.

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