muslim-christian relations

Ramadan Karim: Revelation

Book of Revelation photo, Stephen Orsillo / Shutterstock.com

Book of Revelation photo, Stephen Orsillo / Shutterstock.com

It was the summer of 1994 and about 10 friends and I sat huddled around Bibles in my friend’s living room. It was a “scripture party.” The lights were dim and the air was full of anticipation and mystery. We did not know what God might reveal as we opened the book of Revelation and read it out loud, in community, in one night. 

This bears resemblance to the way the early church would have read the scripture. They were an oral culture, not a written one. The Hebrew Bible was written on scrolls that were read aloud to congregations. Most of the New Testament was written as letters to the worshiping bodies of whole cities (i.e. the saints in Ephesus, the church in Philippi, the body in Corinth, etc.). When received, the letters would be read out loud to the whole church community and received as God’s instruction revealed through the apostles for the edification of their communities.

Imagine being one of the very first followers of the Jesus “Way” (Acts 9:2). 

Imagine being a persecuted religious group. You have to use code — the sign of the ichthys — to identify yourself to other believers for fear of religious persecution. Only when you are gathered together in secret can you speak openly about your faith. Only then can you be fully known and appreciated for the whole image of God that lives inside of you.

Imagine huddling in a secret meeting place and reading the Apostle John’s Revelation of Jesus Christ for your nascent faith community in Ephesus or Smyrna, or Pergamum, or Thyatira, or Sardis, or Philadelphia, or Laodicea (Revelation 2-3). Imagine living in Ephesus and reading Paul’s prayer for your church to understand its hope and inheritance (Ephesians 1:17-2:22). 

And imagine being rich in the early church and hearing James’ letter warning: “Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your field, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.”

Imagine hearing it all for the first time. It all feels so real. The call to holiness feels so urgent because God feels so present. 

An Open Letter to the People of Joplin

Neighbor illustration, Picsfive / Shutterstock.com

Neighbor illustration, Picsfive / Shutterstock.com

The first violence happened on May 22, 2011 when a tornado killed 158 people, injured 1,000 more, and wiped out more than 25 percent of  your  town. That was nature's violence.

A human form of violence began 14 months later, with two attempts in 2012 to burn down the mosque of the Islamic Society of Joplin. The first attempt, which  took place on America's 236th Birthday, July 4th, only burned part of the roof. The second attempt on Hiroshima Day, August 6th, was successful in totally destroying the mosque.  

You are not alone. Around the country, other forms of violence have occurred this year — daily, weekly, monthly:

  • Chicago's daily shootings have led to more than 300 gunshot homicides so far this year.  (1/3  happened this summer.)
  • The July mass shooting in a movie theatre in Aurora, Colo., killed  or wounded 70 people.
  • The August shooting in a Sikh Temple by a neo-Nazi in Oak Creek, Wis., killed or wounded 10 people.  

What can I say to the good folks of Joplin?

Ramadan Karim: Living Like Angels

Angel sculpture at Melbourne cemetery, Neale Cousland / Shutterstock.com

Angel sculpture at Melbourne cemetery, Neale Cousland / Shutterstock.com

I’m on day 14 of my Ramadan fast — almost the halfway point. My schedule has been so scattershot with travel that I haven’t been able to make it to a mosque yet. Nonetheless, lightheadedness brought on by lack of water and sleep has become my new normal. 

I asked Daisy Khan, Imam Feisal’s wife and the Executive Director of the American Society of Muslim Advancement: “What about sleep? How do people do it?” She explained, during Ramadan we live like angels. Angels don’t need sleep. They don’t need food or water.

“But how do they do it, physically?” I pressed.

“Spiritual energy,” Daisy said.

Loving our Muslim Neighbors

Illustration by Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners

Illustration by Sandi Villarreal / Sojourners

A few weeks ago, we asked you to sign a petition asking the Department of Justice to investigate hate crimes against the Islamic Society of Joplin’s mosque. Federal officials are offering $15,000 for information leading to the man who set the mosque on fire July 4th.

Beau Underwood wrote for Sojourners two weeks ago: “The biblical call to love our neighbors as ourselves requires Christians to speak out against these attacks. By protecting the rights of American Muslims to worship in the United States, we provide a powerful witness to those countries where Christian minorities face attack and persecution, such as Nigeria, Egypt, Somalia, and Kenya. If we expect others to take our advocacy for global religious freedom seriously, then our efforts must begin in our own backyard.”

More than 5,500 of you signed this petition, which is incredible! But we don’t have to stop there.

Ramadan Karim: The Poor Will Be Fed

Prayer bead photo, Zurijeta / Shutterstock.com

Prayer bead photo, Zurijeta / Shutterstock.com

After two days of deep and unwavering pangs of hunger and thirst that had to wait for sundown to be filled, I had an epiphany:  In the same way that I waited eagerly for the breaking of the Ramadan fast each night — counting it as something to celebrate — on the day Jesus comes again, we will celebrate. On that day there will be no injustice anymore. Imagine it! There will be no hunger anymore! There will be no one who is thirsty anymore! All will have their fill! All will taste the sweetness of life!  All will be free of oppression! All will be able to laugh and play, and no one will be lonely any more.

Then it struck me: Ramadan offers an emphatic example of what is to come. Just as the community of creation suffers and groans waiting for all the relationships broken at the Fall to be made right again (Romans 8:18-23), so the communities that practice Ramadan suffer and grow together each day, waiting for their very bodies to be made right again each night through the intake of food and water. 

Filmmaker Switches Sides, Now Opposes Mosque

An outspoken supporter of a planned mosque that has sparked opposition in Murfreesboro, Tenn., has switched sides and joined the anti-Islam movement.

Eric Allen Bell, a documentary filmmaker, was a fixture at court hearings and protests over the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro in 2010. Back then, he was making a movie called Not Welcome, which depicted mosque critics as Southern Christian bigots.

Now he says the mosque is part of a plot to destroy America. He claimed the mosque is "built on a foundation of lies" in a recent op-ed piece at the anti-Islam site Jihadwatch.com.

‘Radicalization’ Hearings on American Muslims Return to Capitol

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. Republican Representative Peter King at an earlier hearing in March. SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

House lawmakers split along party lines at a hearing on June 20 meant to gauge Muslim responses to earlier hearings on the “radicalization” of American Muslims.

Testimony by four witnesses was overshadowed by Republicans who defended the four prior hearings and Democrats who questioned whether they were misguided or actually harmful to Muslim Americans.

Short on new data but long on rhetoric, lawmakers argued both sides of the same statistics and relied heavily on anecdotes.

“The overwhelming majority of Muslim Americans are outstanding Americans, yet the reality is that the Islamist terror threat comes from the community,” said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who chairs the House Committee on Homeland Security.

What Muslims Have Taught Me

Muslim woman praying, wong yu liang  / Shutterstock.com

Muslim woman praying, wong yu liang / Shutterstock.com

I have been discovering more each day how much I love Muslim people. They are beautiful, warm people, yet we are afraid of them because of misconceptions based on our stereotypes of their race.

I have friends who were living in the Middle East for four years and were sharing about how amazing they find Muslim people. Through my own encounters and my friend’s experiences, here’s what muslim people have taught me.

Report from the Global Christian Forum in Indonesia: Day Two

The compelling story of the Global Christian Forum, shared with the more than 300 forum attendees (many of them new), was told in moving testimonies from Orthodox, Pentecostal, Evangelical, Catholic, and historic Protestant members of the forum's steering committee. ... It's remarkable to hear how an Egyptian surgeon became a Coptic Orthodox priest, or how a woman Anglican Bishop from New Zeland heard her calling to the priesthood as a teenager, long before her church ordained women. Story after story simply puts you in awe of God's grace.

Report from the Global Christian Forum in Manado, Indonesia.

The Global Christian Forum is the most exciting and promising ecumenical initiative I've participated in all my years of ministry. Its import can be summed up simply: This is the only place where the leadership of evangelical, Pentecostal, Catholic, historic Protestant and Orthodox churches -- which comprise all the major "families" of world Christianity -- are brought into sustained and intentional fellowship. In so doing, the Global Christian Forum is also responding to the dramatic shift of the center of Christianity from the North and West to the southern hemisphere.

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