Beyond Tolerance: Honoring the Call to Love our Neighbors

Masjid-Al-Madina-750x400Last week, members of the church where I serve in Springfield, Ohio, were graciously invited to attend a service at Masjid Al-Madina, a mosque that I have probably driven past at least a 1,000 times.

Each time I previously drove past the mosque, in the recesses of my mind, I thought, “They are in their world, I am in mine, and we have nothing in common.” It never crossed my mind that the mosque would be a place where friendships could form.

I had no idea what to expect. Inaccurate stereotypes had led me to believe that Muslims were reserved, distrustful, unfriendly, and completely uninterested in my Christian faith. To my shame, I believed these stereotypes to be true…until last week.

Prior to the events leading up to last Friday, I did not know a single Muslim with whom I could have a cup of coffee or tea and share a good story. In fact, I had never had a casual conversation with a person of Muslim faith. Never.

All of that changed dramatically for me over the last three days.

About 50 people from my church, male and female, young and old, were warmly welcomed to Al Madina Mosque for a Friday afternoon prayer service designed to help educate non-Muslims about their faith. Imam Yunus Lasania, his wife Zarina, and so many others (too many to name) extended a warm welcome. In fact, it was one of the warmest and most gracious welcomes I have ever received. They invited us back for dinner that night.

Instead of being reserved, they exuberantly welcomed us with open arms. Instead of being distrustful, they went out of their way to answer any question that we had, even hard ones about things like jihad and Sharia law. The Imam told self-deprecating jokes to put us at ease. They asked honest, deep questions about my Christian faith, and I realized that in many cases my faith was as mysterious to them as there’s was to me. We discovered areas of commonality, and we talked candidly of deep and significant differences. It was perhaps the most natural and easy conversation about Christianity that I have ever had with people who embraced a faith other than my own.

Yunus pointed out verses in the Quran that talk about the Muslim duty to protect the Christians and Jews who live in their midst. These verses come from the Ashtiname of Muhammad, a covenant signed by the Prophet Muhammad to protect Christians and Jews until the end of time. When Imam Yunus addressed members of his own congregation, he gave historical examples of times when Christians extended hospitality and protection to Muslims.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RED LETTER CHRISTIANS 

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Omar: The Muslim who walked from Somalia to attend my Christian son’s funeral

1472236706099(an astonishingly profound interfaith article  from Fox News. . . Miracles sometimes do happen).

I’ll never forget the day my son died.

I rushed Tim, out to the car—leaving Ruth with the other boys—and drove as quickly as I could to the nearest hospital. Halfway there Tim went into cardiac arrest. His sudden asthma attack was taking his life, and we were desperate.

The dark streets of Nairobi were deserted.

All I could see was a lone man, walking in the darkness from a shopping center. I quickly blocked his car with mine, and I demanded that he drive my car to the hospital while I climbed into the back seat and frantically administered CPR on my son.

In a passing moment of hope, Tim’s heart began beating and he started breathing again. When we reached the hospital, the medical staff began emergency treatment for Tim. Our son was unconscious, but breathing. As Ruth, my oldest son Shane, and some friends began to arrive, we huddled to pray.

When we next saw the doctors, their eyes told us what had happened even before they spoke a word. Tim was gone. He was sixteen years old.

We have never wept as we wept in that moment.  In the five years we had lived as missionaries in the Horn of Africa and its surrounding countries, we had experienced heartbreak and stared the evil of terrorism straight in the face; but nothing had prepared us for this.

We had devoted our lives to serving the poor, and yet God had allowed our son to be a casualty of our sacrifice. We couldn’t help but ask ourselves: is all of this really worth it?

Later that morning, we sat with our other sons and talked about what had happened. I said, “We did not choose this horrible thing that has happened. And I don’t know how we are going to live through it. But we are going to make sure that we don’t waste Tim’s death. Somehow, we will do our best to honor God through even this.”

I don’t even know where those words came from. There was something profoundly supernatural about it. It was as if God was sitting right there with us in our pain.

Knowing Tim didn’t want to go back to America for college, but wanted to remain in Africa and become a teacher—Africa was truly his home—we decided to bury Tim at his school in Nairobi.

The funeral was scheduled for the following Saturday.

During that week, our home was filled with people every hour of every day. Neighbors, Tim’s fellow students, colleagues and friends from our Kenyan church enveloped us in their love and care.

Yet the biggest surprise of the week came on Thursday when “Omar” appeared at the front door and said to me, “I have walked here from Somalia. I had to come to help bury our son, Timothy.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM FOX NEWS 

Muslim, Christian women build friendships, community in Michigan

muslim christian

Muslim and Christian women will work together sprucing up the dining room at First Step’s domestic abuse shelter this month.

They’ll clean, polish, buff and redecorate the space from ceiling to floor Friday-Saturday, April 29-30, in Wayne, Michigan, while also strengthening friendships and furthering the mission of their group, Common Ground Gathering.

“At this point, it’s to make a difference in the community,” Hasina Abdu explained their goal as a combined Muslim-Christian gathering. “We are building bridges while making a difference. The Canton-Plymouth community can only get stronger if we work together, if we work in collaboration.”

Nancy Sullivan of Plymouth, another member, looks forward to rolling up her sleeves and working with her Christian and Muslim friends.

“I’m really excited about it. When you’re scrubbing cabinets side by side, what better way to get to know someone,” she said.

Abdu, a Canton resident, is the outreach director for the Muslim Community of Western Suburbs in Canton and Sullivan is a longtime member of First Presbyterian Church of Plymouth. Common Ground Gathering is a loosely-organized group of approximately 50 women from all backgrounds and of all ages who attend the mosque and the church.

“Initially the mosque held an open invitation for people to attend a forum after the shootings a year ago in North Carolina of three Muslim students,” said Sullivan, who attended the event with her husband. “Hasina happened to be this lovely woman seated behind me. She and I exchanged contact information. We made a commitment that we would develop a relationship. That led to lunch.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM HOMETOWNLIFE.COM

Two Ways Christians Distort Islam (and Two Ways Muslims Distort Christianity)

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Editor’s Note: Christian. Muslim. Friend. received the 2016 Christianity Book Award in the category of Missions/The Global Church.

My wife, Grace, and I were in a restaurant in an Asian country when friends ushered to our table another American couple. Our friends introduced me as an expert on Islam. “Oh, how delightful to meet you!” the American couple exclaimed. “We want to learn all we can from you about Muslims. Of course, we both know it is difficult to describe Muslims, because the Muslim holy book teaches Muslims to be liars. So when a Muslim says he has become a Christian, we can all know he is still a Muslim because his lies actually communicate the opposite of what is true.”

On another occasion I was in a mosque on a Friday just on the eve of the Christmas holidays. In the sermon the imam confidently explained to the congregation that Christians get drunk on Christmas. So a proof of the truth of Islam is that Muslims do not get drunk, he said; they would never think of desecrating a Muslim festival by drinking.

Neither statement is true. Some Muslims do tell lies; some Christians do get drunk at Christmas. But this is not normal. Most Christians do not get drunk on Christmas, and most Muslims are not liars.

Muslims and Christians often participate in distortions of one another. Both would do well to be people of truth and avoid distortions or exaggerated overstatement. My goal is to communicate the essence of Islam in ways that, if Muslims were listening, they would agree. I am committed to accurately describing their faith and truthfully representing disagreements. I also plead with Muslims to exercise the same commitment. Muslims and Christians should be careful to portray each other in ways that are truthful, kind, and trust building.

In the spirit of building relations committed to truth, I will comment on four distortions that need to be addressed: two Muslim distortions and two Christian distortions.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIANITY TODAY 

Wheaton College seeks to fire Christian professor over view of Islam

Screen-ShotWheaton College has begun the process of firing a professor who said Muslims and Christians worship the same God, the teacher and the west suburban school confirmed Tuesday.

Larycia Hawkins, a tenured political science professor who in December demonstrated solidarity with her Muslim neighbors by wearing a hijab, said at the end of last year that the college appeared ready to force her out after she had rejected recommendations to resign. This week she received word from Provost Stanton Jones that the termination process had begun.

“The Notice is not a termination; rather, it begins Wheaton College’s established process for employment actions pertaining to tenured faculty members,” the private evangelical college said in a statement confirming the latest development.

Hawkins, 43, announced last month that she would don the hijab as part of her Advent devotion to show support for Muslims who have been under scrutiny since mass shootings in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.

Though the college did not take a position on her wearing the headscarf, some evangelical Christians said her statement should have spelled out what makes Christianity distinct from Islam. Not doing so put her in conflict with the statement of faith that all Wheaton faculty members must sign and live out, they said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CHIGAGO TRIBUNE

‘Double standards between Christians and Muslims’

mosque-attack-us-robert-doggart.siFollowing the news that a non-Muslim American who threatened to burn down a mosque was released on bail, double standards seem to be at play in the US, Paul Salahuddin Armstrong, Co-Director of the Association of British Muslims told RT’s In the Now.

Last week, Robert Doggart, 63, a former candidate for a Tennessee congressional seat pleaded guilty to charges that included threats to burn down a mosque and a school in a Muslim community in New York State. Doggart was released after posting $30,000 bail. Salahuddin said that the incident proves there is a “prejudice in our culture against Muslims.”

RT: Why the silence, because the man is Christian? Is it that simple?

Paul Salahuddin Armstrong: It certainly looks that way, doesn’t it? What is the other explanation? You’ve also got Timothy McVeigh, who was the Oklahoma bomber. Yet, there wasn’t so much emphasis placed on him. Then of course you’ve got (Anders Behring) Breivik in Norway and look at what he did. The press was very slow to call him a terrorist. Then you’ve got the Lufthansa pilot who took a plane into a mountain and killed everybody on board. And it was just put down to him being suicidal and having psychological issues. But those wouldn’t be taken into account if he was a Muslim. Yes, it does certainly seem like there is a prejudice in our culture against Muslims when it comes to the law and how the law deals with them, and it doesn’t help with community relations.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RT

A Framework for Christian-Muslim Relations

HistoryChristianity and Islam are the two dominant religious groups in our world. According to the Pew Research Center Report, the number of Muslims worldwide will be “nearly as numerous as Christians” by 2050. The study also points to the interesting statistic that for the first time in history, the number of Christians and Muslims will be 2.9 billion and 2.8 billion respectively. In view of this, interfaith relations assume an added significance. Christians and Muslims have a duty to work toward peace and betterment of humanity through a shared framework. It is imperative that the mainstream leadership take an active role in promoting positive relations that are based on the universal principles of these two world religions.

The extremely heinous acts committed by “Muslim” terrorist groups like ISIS are a betrayal of Islamic teachings, in the same way the genocide of Muslims in the Central African Republic (CAR) by “Christian” terrorists is a betrayal of Christian teachings; or the violence against Christians and Muslims in India by “Hindu” terrorists is a betrayal of Hinduism; or the violence against the Rohingiya Muslims in Burma by “Buddhist” terrorists is a betrayal of Buddhism. These horrendous acts should not be allowed to deflate the desire and passion among mainstream followers of all religions to continue to build relationships toward making this world safe for our future generations.

As I noted in my earlier blog, the Christian-Muslim Dialogue sponsored by the Minnesota Council of Churches and the Islamic Center of Minnesota recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. Dr. Jay Rock and Dr. Jamal Badawi were the keynote speakers at this celebration. Dr. Badawi’s framework for Muslim-Christian relations from a Muslim perspective was quite compelling. I would like to summarize that framework, quoting from his world renowned research paper, which is considered a mainstream thesis.

1. Faith in One Universal God (Allah in Arabic language):  Islam is founded on the belief that there is only one God, who is the universal Creator, Sustainer and Cherisher of all. Being the sole creator of all humankind precludes any notion of multiple, competing creators, each marshalling his creation against the other “gods” and their creation. Allah is One and is impartial toward His creation. He provides for all, including those who reject faith in Him, or even those who defy Him. He cares for the well being of all and gives them ample opportunity to repent to Him and end the state of separateness suffered by those who reject Him or are unmindful of Him. This belief implies that all humans are equal before Allah in terms of their humanity, irrespective of their particular beliefs. Only Allah is the ultimate judge of any person’s “theological correctness.” No human should be oppressed or mistreated by other fellow humans because of a perceived “theological incorrectness.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE