At Imago Dei Middle School, I co-teach a 7th grade religion class with the Reverend Susan Anderson Smith. Each year we visit different sacred spaces – Islamic, Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish – so students get first hand knowledge of what each is like.
We have Christian services at the school twice a day and a Eucharist every Wednesday, so it’s not like they aren’t exposed to Christianity as well.
This year we were invited by the Islamic Center of Tucson to participate in a short noon prayer service, were treated to an hour or so of instruction, several informal question and answer opportunities and met with a few men and women Muslim members.
Our hosts could not have been more gracious.
Even though they have suffered vandalism and extreme hatred and ridicule from outsiders, they were generous with their time and patience. Remember, the students are middle schoolers, so patience is a prerequisite.
The reason I bring this up is that it made me wonder if Christians would have the same response towards curious outsiders wanting to look in … for educational purposes. What if those outsiders had treated Christians the same way Christians have treated others for centuries and indeed still do today? Would that change our level of welcome?
I am not saying that I agree with all the tenets of Islam, the writings of the Prophet Muhammad or the teachings of the Qur’an. We disagree on several fundamental points. I know so because I have read the Qur’an and studied Islam. But – showing hospitality to the stranger, helping those in need without expectation of reciprocity, committing to a disciplined life of daily prayer and engaging in open and honest dialogue – those foundation stones I wholeheartedly embrace and respect.
As I did our host when, after hugging and thanking each other, I left him in the parking lot where he stayed, waving and smiling in the rain, until he was gone from my rear-view mirror.
May God’s peace be upon us all.
PS: On a totally different note, subscribe to and check out THE WEEKLY WORD that came out this morning. If you direct music or know someone who does, this week’s edition might come in handy.