Can Christians and Muslims get along? What is an appropriate Christian response to the discrimination and just plain hatred many in the United States are displaying toward Muslims today? These are questions I’ve been asking myself often over the past few months.
My church’s women’s group is going through the Angie Smith book Seamless, a study that goes through the Bible and notates the common thread that pulls the entire story of the Bible together.
Yesterday morning, I read about Isaac and Ishmael. The two sons of Abraham–one who began the father of Judaism (the religion from which Christianity stems) and the other the father of Islam.
The two were born of different mothers, who did not get along. To make a really long story short, Ishmael and his mother were eventually sent away.
As Angie wrote in the study:
“Remember I told you this story related to the news you might watch tonight?….the anger and hatred between these two groups of people originated with one father and two mothers thousands of years ago.”
I’ve only known two Muslim families in my life. Yes, just two.
Lamis and her husband lived across the hall from us for the 4 months we lived in Vancouver, BC, Canada back in 2009, when our firstborn was a baby. They had a new baby of their own as well, a boy.
They were from Bagdad, Iraq. My first thoughts upon meeting them were: “Wow, they must have endured so much.”
The war in Iraq was when I was a little girl, and Lemis looked to be around my same age.
I never thought they might be terrorists.
They brought us food. We cooked them food in return, and we invited them in.
She and I took walks together through a gorgeous national park in a small valley nestled below majestic, snow-covered mountains.
We talked about God openly.
She invited me into her home one day, too, and she was not wearing her hijab. I was surprised to see her long, wavy hair flowing freely.
We talked about our families, how Skype was a godsend.
They came to our daughter’s first birthday party at a park across the street from our apartment building. They brought her a toy princess, horse, and carriage.
When we packed up to make the sudden move back East, we didn’t get to say goodbye.
We got rid of a lot but kept these toys. We still own them. They stay with the girls’ Little People, and when I see my youngest’s tiny hands trotting the horse and pushing the carriage, I pray for Lemis and her family.
If we were neighbors now, would they sense the love we have for them, or would they be afraid?
I once told myself that I would pray for them every time I saw a woman in a hijab. It was not hard there in Vancouver. The area where we lived was full of Muslims, on the bus, in the mall, at the parks.
They did not scare me.
When we moved back to North Carolina, I stopped seeing hijabs–until Hadeer and Marjuan moved into our townhouse complex.
She was pregnant with her first; I had just had my second.
Our families ran into each other while on neighborhood walks. Freshly immigrated from Egypt, her English was broken, but she improved every day.
They brought us food first–a rice and chicken dish. We later reciprocated, although steeped in the fog of PPD at the time.
I look back and wish we had done more.
Their hospitality far overshadowed ours.
We ran into each other once after we moved and excitedly exchanged phone numbers. But I lost theirs, and I haven’t heard from them.
Do they think we are like “everyone else”?
I’ve been thinking about both Lamis and Hadeer a lot lately.
I told Will: “I don’t even know if they still live there, but are you OK if I go take Hadeer some cookies or something? I know this might sound like the strangest.thing.ever, but I just want them to know that not all Americans hate them. They need to know they are loved. I can’t imagine being a Muslim in this country right now.”
He said he didn’t think it was strange at all.
So the girls and I went by the old neighborhood right before Christmas, homemade gingerbread cookies wrapped in foil.
But they had moved. We were too late.
I stopped the van and rolled down the window when I saw some neighbors walking, and I asked about Hadeer and Marjuan, and she said they had recently bought a house and moved their growing family across town. She didn’t have their information, but she knew the name of the subdivision.
“Well, I will just pray we will run into them,” I said. “I want them to know they are loved.”
Because here’s the thing: On our own, there will always be division among us. But Christ came to bridge unreachable divides. He came so that the world may look to us that are in Him and sense His love and redemption–not hatred.
If we hate, they will never know the hope of the gospel we have within us.
May we love with Christ’s love–and pray for Muslim friends to share it with.