Muslims and Christians have far too many things in common to overlook the tremendous opportunities that both pastors and imams have to bridge the gap between Muslim and Christian communities worldwide. Here at home, the constant threat to the security of the United States by the Islamists and the expected backlash against Muslims in the aftermath of any potential attack (may the Lord protect our country) demands that Muslim and Christian leadership work together to build relationships and to remove distrust across lines of faith.
Does this mean that either side needs to give up on their fundamental beliefs in order to befriend each other and work together for mutual benefit? I would say absolutely not. If the intentions and expectations of both sides are clearly articulated, they should not disappoint or surprise either group. Today we are dealing with many common and critical issues, such as moral and social decay, impurity and immorality, constant attacks on the existence of God and traditional marriage. Rather than having merely another interfaith group, we must establish mutual trust based on common beliefs and values to help each other and to help our respective communities.
Pastors should reach out to the local imams and imams should not be hesitant in reaching out to local pastors. Recently, my father who is a pastor in Pakistan had a heart attack and was admitted to a hospital for quadruple bypass surgery. The local imam along with some Muslim leaders rushed to the hospital to visit my dad. In our conversation my father expressed his gratitude and told me how the imam was extremely worried for my dad’s wellbeing.
In a place where Christians are being persecuted every day, how do an imam and a pastor develop respect for each other? It can only credited to years and years of working together for the betterment of their shared community, with the goal of promoting peace and harmony. Their friendship is based on trust and the mutual desire to help their parishioners to help them grow in their faith. This is a clear example for both Pakistani Christian and Muslim communities that if their spiritual leaders are caring for and respecting each other, they should do so too. What their example has taught me personally is that it must begin by the spiritual leadership of both communities. It must start from the top.
My father-in-law, a Baptist pastor in upstate New York recently hosted a special event during Ramadan at his church to extend friendship and fellowship in the name of Jesus to build community. In return, he got invited to come and join an Iftar party (breaking of the fast) at the local Islamic center. Is there hope in building such relationships? I would like to think yes. Are there also ill intentioned people who perhaps take these opportunities only to deceive? Again, I think yes. But the real question that we should ask is should we not do what Christ has called us to today “love our neighbors” and be the agents of peace?
Again I am not proposing to compromise on our beliefs, but I am proposing to compromise on your personal reasons (fears and biases) and reach out to Muslim communities in this month of Ramadan in the name of Jesus, whom they respect abundantly. I believe, if today we invest in the trust bank (trust each other) of each other, tomorrow we will be able to withdraw abundantly. I invite you to engage in a healthy discussion, and if you find my article disagreeable please feel free to propose a better solution to bridge the gap to help both communities learn to love, respect and trust each other regardless of the fundamental differences in their beliefs that both communities hold very sacred.