Sojourners Magazine: September/October 2011
Loving our neighbors is usually easier in the abstract. The members of Heartsong Church, just outside of Memphis, Tennessee, made that love very real last year in a concrete act of welcome. An Islamic faith community was moving in nearby, and their new center wasn’t going to be ready in time for Ramadan. So the members of Heartsong, in a simple act of Christian hospitality, invited their neighbors to use the church building during the Muslim holy month.
Unfortunately, such loving actions between Christians and Muslims seem to be the exception these days. In nearby Rutherford County, just southeast of Nashville, residents -- most of them Christian -- blocked a mosque planned by the Islamic community. "Why do they hate us?" a child asked the local imam, Ossama Bahloul, according to a reporter. "I said it's just a misunderstanding, miscommunication," Bahloul said. "I told him to love the people because one day they can love you, too."
When we asked Bob Smietana, an award-winning religion writer for The Tennessean, to visit Heartsong Church this summer and write about their interfaith bridge-building, Smietana responded, "A happy Muslim-Christian story? I'm in."