Thursday, January 27, 2011

Muslims: Our Neighbours!

Many of you probably watched the US president’s state of the union address Tuesday evening. Apart from his pre-occupation with political and economic issues, one thing he said caught my attention. 

He made a direct overture to the Muslim population in the States, assuring them they were part of the American family. The whole chamber gave a standing ovation to this statement.

Personally, I was heartened by this display of inclusion, although Maclean’s May 24th 2009 magazine found that 45% of Canadians consider mainstream Islam encourages violence, and many Christians are ambivalent about the growing Muslim presence.

The massive migration of Muslims from their homelands to the west in recent years, bears testimony to the desire for escape from religious tyranny to the freedom of expression (however challenged) of western nations.

Ann and I have had contact with a number of Muslim families over many years, and found that, whatever interpretation others place on the Quran’s promotion of violence, most Muslims want what we all want: freedom and security to raise their families. The violent Islamist fringe threatens them as it threatens us.

I find Jesus’ own approach to people enlightening. He took exception to the leaders of His own faith who discriminated against “sinners” opposed to their ideals, and spent most of His time with those “sinners.” While making clear His message, He still attended to their needs for healing and forgiveness though none except 120 would respond to His message.

It seems to me that Jesus’ would censure us for our reluctance to engage and serve the Muslim and other religious communities. They are as deserving of His care and concern as the “sinners” of His earthly time. Disagreement with  beliefs is no excuse for discrimination. For Jesus, they are like sheep without a shepherd.

What do you think is our first priority: to convert them or care for them? Certainly the two are related, but where do we start, and is the purpose of love to convert?

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