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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Christians should welcome their Muslims neighbors

In spite of the words of welcome inscribed on our Statue of Liberty, we Americans have a sad history of showing inhospitality toward new people emigrating to our country. Irish and Italian Catholics, Chinese and other oriental groups, Hispanic immigrants from Mexico and Central America, and more recently, Muslims from the Middle East, have all experienced our suspicion and hostility.

     The following are good reasons I believe all of us, especially professed Christians, should reach out to befriend our new Muslim neighbors:

1. In spite of our differences, we can learn from the faith and devotion of people who regularly pray five times a day, fast daily during an entire month each year, and are taught to give generously to those in need.

2. The only way Muslims, or anyone else, will ever be drawn to our faith is if we offer them a warm hand of hospitality and welcome.

3. Muslims, like the Samaritans of Jesus’ day, share some of the same sacred history and scripture as Christians and Jews, and claim allegiance to the same Creator God.

4. Jesus goes out of his way to respectfully converse with “outsiders” such as the much maligned Samaritans of his time (John 4). At least twice he compliments them for their actions, as in the case of the leper who came back to Jesus to thank him for his healing (Luke 17:15-16), and the real “neighbor” who was the hero in the Good Samaritan story (Luke 10).

5. The Bible repeatedly urges us to reach out to the stranger and alien (Exodus 18:3, Deuteronomy 10:19), remembering that we were all once foreigners and aliens in need of such welcome.

6. The more we make friends of suspected Muslims extremists, and the more we form alliances with the vast majority of Muslims who do not support violence, the safer our world will be for ourselves and for future generations.

     My friend Steve Wingfield recently shared a conversation he had with his cab driver in Richmond. After learning the man was a recent Muslim immigrant, Steve said, “Welcome to our country. we’re glad you’re here.”

     His driver replied, “Wow, thank you. I’ve been in this country for six years, and you’re the first American who’s ever said that.”

     Is that a shame or what?
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