It was a simple act made unique because a worldly 9-year-old carried it out. Back in May 2012, Josef Miles of Topeka, Kansas, held up his notepad that read “GOD HATES NO ONE.” The act alone showcased a beautiful message of peace and was made all the more poignant because he was bordered by the hateful signs characteristic of a Westboro Baptist protest. Josef and his mom, Patty Akrouche, have been featured in countless news stories, including on NPR and The Huffington Post, but she was kind enough to tell me about her personal fight, and Josef even provided us with a video. First, Patty’s fight:
“My fight in life is to get men to step up in their communities and become mentors and big brothers to the growing population of boys with absentee fathers, such as my son Josef. He is currently waiting for a big brother. He is 201st on the waiting list and sadly, there is a severe shortage of good and strong positive male role models here in Topeka that are willing to make the commitment.”
As a mother, she has not stopped at only finding Josef male role models, but she’s also being the change she hopes to see within her community. She’s recently started a book discussion club at the Shawnee County Juvenile Detention Center, where the vast majority of detainees are male and, as she’s discovered, also without male role models in their lives.
She said this of Josef’s fight in life: “It’s for nations to stop fighting, to concentrate not on our differences but our universal similarities. He wants the world to stop sweating the small stuff and giving importance to the things that do not matter and focus on the issues that do matter, like putting an end to groups that promote hate. He is also making a concerted effort for kids to learn how to be accepting and tolerant of those from different cultures and religious beliefs. Joe feels very strongly about changing the world’s perception about Topeka and the marred image that the Phelps/Westboro Baptist Church has portrayed of the city and its citizens.”
Now, here’s Josef in his own words: