A Muslim in a Lutheran Church

So my guess of being the only Muslim present on Tuesday evening was wrong.

The Advent Lutheran Church in my neighbourhood was hosting a lecture titled "Christian Responsibility towards Muslims". The first lecture had taken place on November 22nd, which I had missed, so I made a promise I'd attend the one on the 29th. I literally drove by the Church twice a day on my to and from work, so I had no excuse to miss it!

I walked in at 6:50pm to already find around 25 people there. Was I mistaken?! Oh that's right, MST in this context refers to MOUNTAIN Standard Time and not MUSLIM Standard Time! :P I smiled and said hello to a few people and took a seat. I was then approached by two Muslims, ironically enough who are related to a school principal I work with! We exchanged "salaams" and briefly spoke about our work, and the elder gentleman told me he had attended last week's session and had to come to part two. Now I was even more intrigued.

An elderly lady saw me sitting by myself and asked if she could sit beside me. Of course I replied, as we launched into conversation. She told me about her apartment's plumbing problems and how she had rushed to get here and left the leak going in her bathroom! She then asked me a barrage of questions, quite sweetly: if I had any children, where I lived, what I did, etc. It was quite cute when she kept nodding off during the lecture, her head leaning over in my direction. I gently woke her up, afraid she'll fall over. I'm glad I did, she later told me she had Parkinson's Disease and had a hard time controlling her core muscles.

The lecture was hosted by the University of Alberta's Ronning Centre, by a professor called David. The main topic of the event was how we, as Muslims and Christians, can enter into a spiritual friendship with one another, in a way that transcends the notion to want to retreat within our own religious circles.

An interesting notion indeed.

He then proceeded to pose another thought provoking question. How much presence in public spaces are there cultural and religious interactions?

Apparently, in the late 1960s until the 1980s, Edmonton was at the forefront of interfaith dialogue. A gallery was built in 1967 in Edmonton that united leaders from every major faith, including the Imams whom at the time led the Edmonton Muslim community. Even at a time when Palestine and Israel were in the heat of battle with one another, the Rabbi and Imam were close acquaintances. In fact, when a synagogue at that time was burnt down during religious hate crimes, the Imam offered the Rabbi to bring his followers to the basement of the mosque and to set up a temporary synagogue in the meantime.

Now the question begs itself: do we see that same outreach happening in Calgary, here and now?

Even more pronounced was that during the time that the first Mosque and Synagogue was being built in Edmonton, Muslims and Jews were business partners and actually worked side to side to erect the two buildings.

Another ah-ha moment.

Another example came from Lac La Biche, when Imam Al-Shakawi led the congregation there. He apparently took a different stance and spoke more about the love of Allah rather than the wrath and justice that Allah would take on those who fell off the path. Apparently, many were concerned because the Imam was taking a "softer" approach during his khutbas, but in all honestly, we all have been exposed to words more about the punishment that awaits rather than the bounty of Allah's mercy.

And why is that?

To end the lecture, spiritual friendship was defined as that which brings people together by the means of serving others, and by bringing out the goodness in each other's souls. It transcends boundaries of religion and in fact, this connection can often be seen by people of multiple faiths. Yet both faiths seem to recluse back into their own spheres. Why is that? Fear of losing one's faith to another? Fear of the unknown? Fear of corruption?

Fear breeds ignorance.

The rest of the lecture was then opened up for discussion. A few Christians spoke up, voicing their opinions, and then the few Muslims there were asked about their opinion. And of course, if you know me as the keener I am, I raised my hand!

I spoke about growing up with mainly non-Muslims in my sphere, and having always been respected by my peers for being Muslim. And how just recently, having become more active within the Muslim community, that I have found a solid group of like-minded individuals...yet I've also come across Muslims who fear interacting with those who are not of the same faith (side note: I challenge our leaders to lead a lecture entitled "The Muslim Responsibility to Christians"). I was asked what Christians could do to enhance friendships, and I referred to my work linking community agencies with Muslim families, and I suggested an open dialogue and small steps to gain trust.

After the talk was over, coffee and snacks were served. I was literally cornered by a senior couple who asked me about my cultural background and why and where I wear my hijab, etc. It was awesome to openly talk and share perspectives. The wife of the couple then talked about her experiences growing up in Ontario around multiple cultures and how that helped her keep an open mind. And then the next ten minutes were about their travels to the Middle East, and how she always covered up when a tourist, took her own scarves to wear in mosques, etc. It seems like commonplace information to us Muslims, but you need to look beyond that to why she was sharing this information with me.

She was trying her utmost best to connect with me in some way.

And it's as simple as that...so what's stopping us? :-)

Comments

  1. Once ppl learn to see the commonality between us and stop focusing on differences..and to see that difference is the spice in life, only then can we unite..Muslims are encouraged to read 2:62 and 5:82 in the quran to learn something useful

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