Christians and Muslims should team up to preserve religious liberty

Sap_636266427630-1Steve Tennes is an orchard owner in Michigan. He frequently sells his produce at a local farmers’ market about 20 miles away, yet this summer, the city of East Lansing prohibited him from doing so. His crime? Refusing to host a same-sex wedding on his property.

The Tennes family holds a traditional Christian belief that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. When approached by a same-sex couple in 2014, Tennes refused to host the wedding, instead referring them to a different orchard that would provide the service. While it is entirely legal in the state of Michigan for business owners to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, East Lansing has an ordinance that prohibits this practice. So Tennes sued the city on the grounds that it was violating his religious freedom. The case is ongoing.

Similar issues of religious liberty are popping up all over the country, particularly around the issue of same-sex weddings. Yet it isn’t just Christians who face challenges to the exercise of their religious beliefs. Muslims, too, are fighting for their right to uphold their religious tenets in the public square.

In 2014, for example, a young Muslim woman was denied a job at Abercrombie and Fitch because her decision to wear a hijab violated the company’s dress code (she was not informed of this policy at the time of her application). The Supreme Court ruled in her favor 8-1, arguing that allowing the hijab was a reasonable accommodation that the business has a responsibility to provide. In 2013, two Muslim truck drivers were fired for refusing to transport alcohol, citing strong religious objections — ultimately, a jury ruled in their favor.

It’s time to forge a new alliance. Muslims are the most ethnically diverse non-Christian religious group in America today and are projected to grow in population in the future; they have increasing political clout as a group. Christians would do well to recognize that they and Muslims share a strong interest in preserving their liberty to robustly uphold their religious convictions.

FULL ARTICLE FROM RARE

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Where Christians and Muslims Live in Peace

596d53841500006603bfe059Before departing for my recent trip to Jordan in the Middle East, I was repeatedly asked if I feared for my safety. Such questions are not new to me. Since my daughter has lived in Jordan for the past three years, I have repeatedly been asked variations of, “How do you sleep at night when your daughter lives in such an unsafe [usually meant “Muslim”] country?”

 

These questions, however, sadly misunderstand both Jordan and Islam. The biggest threat to my safety in Jordan’s capital city, as in any big city in which traffic overwhelm roads, was drivers! Although I had some near scrapes, I survived my many dicey encounters with Jordan’s erratic drivers unscathed.

While surrounded by countries in civil upheaval or civil war or just plain war, Jordan itself is a remarkable oasis of peace. When you think of Jordan, you should think of tranquility, beauty, Roman and Greek antiquity (and older), Islam, and Christianity. And—have I made my point?—peace.

 

Think, instead, of Wadi Rum, Jordan’s severely romantic desert landscape (where Matt Damon’s “The Martian” was filmed).

Think of Petra, the towering and sprawling remains of one of the ancient world’s most amazing cities (and you don’t need to just think of Petra, you saw it in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”).

Think of the Dead Sea, in which you can magically float, if not walk, on water. Think of Jordan’s verdant and craggy north, replete with pine trees and hot springs and Roman ruins. Think likewise of rich Roman mosaics preserved for two thousand years under the floors of some of the earliest Christian churches. And think of centuries and thousands of Christians pilgrimaging to the sites of Jesus’s baptism, the beheading of John the Baptist, and the valley where Moses died.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HUFFINGTON POST 

‘Watu Wote’ film showcases Muslims’ love for Christians

31134-christian-muslim-facebook.800w.tnPeople from different faiths can extend kindness, show respect to one another, and forge friendships, and this is what the new film “Watu Wote,” which means “All of Us,” seeks to prove.

The film, which is set to premiere next month, will share the ordeals faced by a group of Muslims who went out of their way to protect Christians from the al-Shabaab militants, according to Christian Daily.

 The Christian bus passengers were ambushed in Mandera, Kenya in December 2015. Kenya’s northeastern region chief administrator Mohamud Saleh told Al Jazeera that the militants tried to flag the bus down. When the driver refused to stop, they fired shots at it, instantly killing two passengers and injuring several others.

When the militants got inside the bus, they asked the 62 Muslims on board to point out the Christian passengers. However, the Muslims refused to do so. Even though the militants threatened to kill or harm them should they refuse to cooperate, the Muslim passengers bravely protected the Christians and stood their ground.

“Watu Wote” director Katja Benrath, who studies at the Hamburg Media School in Germany, is simply astounded by the kindness and bravery shown by these Muslims to Christians on that fateful day. For her, their actions only prove that there is hope for humanity.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CHRISTIAN TODAY 

Ohio, Where Muslim and Christian Refugees Form ‘Impossible’ Friendships

lead_960Stepping out of an apartment complex into a warm Ohio night, Nashwaan Saddoon got into an old minivan and drove through Toledo to a hookah joint called Rocket Lounge. Sitting beside him was his friend, Amjad Arafeh. The two men had met only five months earlier, but they lived in the same building and already they were very close, despite their different backgrounds. Saddoon, an Iraqi Christian refugee, had been kidnapped and held hostage by Islamic State militants a few years before. Arafeh, a Syrian Muslim refugee, had escaped shelling and bombing in Damascus.

When the minivan pulled up to Rocket Lounge, Saddoon and Arafeh joined the group of Arabs and Midwesterners assembled outside for their monthly Sawa gathering. Sawa, which means “together” in Arabic, is a community initiative designed to introduce refugees to Americans and to each other

At this particular gathering, someone needed a letter from the Lucas County Department of Jobs and Family Services translated from English into Arabic. He passed the paper around to get advice from the other men, including a refugee from Sudan, a Syrian American who had arrived four years earlier, a Toledo resident named Jake, and a case manager from a local refugee assistance organization.

Amid the serious business, men cracked jokes and took jabs at one another. Some seemed eager to have a guys’ night out, while others, in their silence, were harder to gauge. Saddoon and Arafeh sat side by side, chatting and laughing.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE ATLANTIC 

 

 

Muslims and Christians unite to call for bridges not walls

ap3841919_articolo(Vatican Radio) US President Donald Trump’s Executive Order to tighten restrictions on arrivals to the United States has been widely condemned, although polls suggest that US public opinion is sharply divided on the policy.

Amongst other restrictions, the Order issued on January 25, bans nationals from seven mainly Muslim countries from entering the US, it places a temporary ban on all refugee admissions and prioritizes refugee claims by religious minorities (Christians in mainly Muslim countries).

Faith-based organizations and human rights groups have called for a re-think of the Executive Order and have urged governments to address the structural causes of forced displacement and share the responsibility of providing for refugees.

Amongst them, the Jesuit Refugee Service – JRS – that has released a joint interfaith statement with the Italian Islamic Religious Community – COREIS- calling for bridges, not walls.

Linda Bordoni spoke to COREIS President, Imam Yahya Sergio Yahe Pallavicini and JRS Advocacy Officer, Amaya Valcarcel about their appeal.

Imam Yahya Sergio Yahe Pallavicini explained that a common sensitivity and Christian and Muslim shared values are at the roots of a continuing collaboration and cooperation between the Italian Islamic Religious Community and the Jesuit Refugee Service that goes back in time over the past 12 months or so.

“Unfortunately what is happening in the US, through the statements of President Trump, somehow pushed us to increase our brotherhood and react – or pro act – giving a joint brotherly interreligious Islamic-Christian response on the need to be much more consistent and honest on humanity, on refugees and migrants, and even on politics” he said.

Amaya Valcarcel pointed out that JRS is very glad to be able to speak out together with the Islamic Community in Italy and said that theirs is first of all a message of faith.

“Christians and Muslims inhabit religious traditions that are rooted in the experience of exile and in the hospitality of God and of God’s own, so hostile attitudes towards displaced persons have no place in our religious traditions and manifest a grave moral failure” she said.

In line with their faith, Valcarcel said, all people of goodwill should promote a more generous culture of hospitality.

She points out that within the Christian tradition, in the Old Testament there are no less than 36  explicit invitations to ‘love the stranger’.

“Also Jesus tells us to love the stranger and care for the stranger. He himself puts himself as a stranger” she said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM VATICAN RADIO 

Central African Republic Christians, Muslims unite to heal trauma

CRS | Lobaye Prefecture Emergency Food Security Project | Lobaye | Central African Republic

BANGUI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Blindfolds secured tightly, more than a dozen men and women are led by their partners around leafy plants and trees in the compound of an international charity in the Central African Republic’s capital, Bangui.

The occasional stumble sends nervous laughter around the group of Christians and Muslims who have been paired up at random for the experiment – an exercise in building trust between communities torn apart by conflict.

At the end of the session, those guiding the ‘blind’ along cracked concrete and pebble paths spoke of having to be patient, responsible and compassionate.

“We all have a need for each other,” community worker Nicaise Gounoumoundjou told the group.

For a long time, Hada Katidja Siba was skeptical.

One of the participants, Siba saw her house burned to the ground in 2013 when mainly Muslim Seleka rebels toppled the government in the majority Christian nation, sparking a backlash from Christian anti-balaka militias.

Thousands of people were killed in the ensuing ethnic cleansing and the country’s defacto partition between the Muslim northeast and Christian southwest.

For Siba, a Muslim, seeing her home disappear in flames caused her to anger ‘very easily’, and to distrust and fear Christians.

“I would see a Christian coming toward me and I would just think: ‘What is he coming to do to me? Is he coming to kill me or to do something to me?'” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

How Christian entertainment is upending stereotypes about Muslims

Christian comedian Jeremy McLellan, from Charleston, South Carolina has struck a chord with Muslims all over the world but particularly in North America. He has over 100,000 followers on Facebook, and about half are from the United States.

The second highest fan base is from Pakistan, followed by the United Kingdom, Canada and India. McLellan says he knows many of these followers are Muslim through comments and messages he receives.

 McLellan puts social justice at the center of his work and his comedy has turned into an unlikely form of advocacy against Islamophobia.

 

Christian comedian Jeremy McLellan has struck a chord with Muslims all over the world. His comedy has turned into an unlikely form of advocacy against Islamophobia, and he’s become a staple at Muslim festivals around North America.| Tyler Sawyer

“I didn’t set out to write jokes for Muslims. I tell a lot of jokes about a lot of things — race, immigration, police brutality — all these hot-button topics that I love addressing. But over the past year, a lot of stuff I was saying about Muslims started to go viral, and it actually makes perfect sense. Here is this large demographic, in the United States and around the world who are interested in these exact same issues,” McLellan said.

McLellan, 30, has become a staple at Muslim festivals and events around North America, including the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) annual banquet in Los Angeles, one of the largest CAIR banquets in the country attracting 2,000 people, including prominent American Muslims, interfaith activists and politicians, and the Muslimfest in Toronto, a festival bringing together more than 20,000 people every year to celebrate the best in Muslim art, entertainment and culture.

Dubbing McLellan a rising star, Hussam Ayloush, executive director of CAIR Los Angeles, says McLellan is an important ally to the Muslim community. “We need both voices: a Muslim voice is important because it lives, feels and experiences the challenges. But we also need non-Muslim voices that will humanize our community. You never know, a funny message coming from a Caucasian non-Muslim might resonate with someone who may not be open to listening to a Muslim.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM DESERET NEWS