“After recovering from my rude awakening, I went for a walk…and my world began to change.
I met “Mrs. Pomo”, and old woman selling drinks from the rickety bench in front of her home, and the first Muslim I had ever met. She, and every Muslim I met during those days, was friendly, engaging, and incredibly hospitable. As I learned more about Muslim people and their faith I found that I understood them better—and not everything they did seemed so strange. And the more I understood them the more I cared for them…I discovered that every morning, and several times every day, my Muslim neighbors were praying a prayer that sounded very similar to a prayer I have often prayed myself:
‘You do we worship,
and Your help we seek.
Show us the straight way,
The way of those who will receive your Grace.'”
Additional Notes, Thoughts, and Background — Understanding leads to compassion. Or, we tend to fear what we do not understand. The best thing we can do to “love our neighbors” (as Jesus taught) is to get closer to them. When we get closer to people different than ourselves we begin to understand more. When we observe people and take the position as a learner, sitting at the feet of the other, we begin see them their humanity–people far short of the glory of God, not unlike ourselves. We begin to understand the reason for their words and actions which, previously, may have been interpreted from a very different context than the one in which they actually live.
The other often difficult, but important, side effect of getting closer to other people and seeking to understand them is that our own lives, the decisions we’ve made, and the very faith that we hold dear will be challenged. Questions will be presented to us from our neighbors (and often from within our own hearts as well). We will be challenged and sometimes earnest questions will be asked; questions for which we may have not good answers. This–as difficult as it is–should be embraced fully. So many of us have never had to exercise our faith muscles, so when are suddenly placed in a race, we can do nothing but stumble at the starting line.
Loving our neighbors is not only right and good, but great exercise for our faith.