A Message From Our Executive Director

Dear Sisters,

I am writing this as the Executive Director of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, but more than that I am writing as a Bosnian-American woman and a survivor of war in Bosnia-Herzegovina and siege of Sarajevo.

Before coming to the US as a student and before my experience of war, I lived in a vibrant, multiethnic, multi-confessional city of Sarajevo, a city that is also known as the Jerusalem of Europe. That same city underwent one of the worst sieges and bombings in Europe since the second world war. Living under siege, with no electricity, fuel, food, and in constant fear of bombings and sniper fire was an experience that I will never forget and that turned me into who I am – an advocate for peace, equality, and human rights.

As director of the Sisterhood of Salaam Shalom, I want to affirm our mission—to advocate for human rights and end acts of hate for all human beings. I also want to remind you of the beautiful vision we all share—a world where Muslim and Jewish people live without hate and where freedom, equality, and social justice are within reach for all.

We are experiencing the hardest moment of our organization’s history. The effects of the horrible killing of 1400 and kidnapping of nearly 200 Israeli civilians, followed by the killing of more than 10000 Palestinian civilians and flattening of Gaza have reached every single member of the Sisterhood. We all feel vulnerable and overwhelmed with emotions, but most of all, we all feel the need to act to shift the course of the current situation.

In this moment, we are surrounded by pain, anger, and extreme polarization in our families, communities, and society as whole. We are deafened by the noise of war mongering and dehumanizing rhetoric. Paradoxically, we are witnessing a simultaneous rise in ani-Muslim and anti-Jewish bigotry around the globe. Where does this leave us, the Sisterhood? How strong are we in our commitment to peace, justice and to each other?

We must counteract war mongering voices by upholding our friendships and values of our faith traditions that call for humanity, compassion, and protection of all human lives. We need to choose a side – side of peace, life and humanity.

This is the moment to bring our voices together and urge our government and all world leaders to facilitate and implement immediate:

Ceasefire in Palestine/Israel

Release of all hostage

Entrance of humanitarian aid into Gaza

Observance of international law

The current killing and destruction is taking thousands of human lives, as well as destroying any path to peace and just resolution. We must stand up and do everything in our power to stop further destruction, death, and suffering. As Jewish and Muslim women that value peace, human lives, and dignity more than anything we need to stand up and demand an end to the violence. And we must do this together.

In Peace and Sisterhood,

Tahija Vikalo

Executive Director

November 6, 2023

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