Our chuckles fill the Mosque on this brisk night. We sit in an oblong circle with just enough space between each person so that everyone can see each other. My breath is warm on the silky fabric of the headscarf I am wearing and my toes feel a cool breeze between my cotton socks. I am sitting feeling so small and unqualified within this large group of Christians and Muslims. My eyes can’t stop darting across the beautifully worn Qur’ans that glaze the shelves around us. The ceiling is so high and I feel unexpectedly comforted by the similar characteristics between the architecture of this mosque and large churches I have grown up seeing. I am careful not to let the souls of my feet point towards the Jordanians that are respectably sharing with us, a cultural expectation here in the Middle East. I am sorely unaware of what has brought me to this moment. My wandering mind is caught by the conversations occurring around me, as I am drawn back into the discourse about the similarities between Christianity and Islam.
As our dialogue about religion commences, I realize that I have been given an amazing opportunity. I am an American who has been influenced by the images of 9/11, the recent attacks in Paris, and negative portrayals of Islam in the media. However, as all of this negative fills my conscious, I am also an American who gets to sit with Muslims and be humbled enough to listen, learn, and share in the similarities between my own religion and the religion of Islam. I am amazed by our matching depictions of Allah, God, as merciful, just, and great. I am captivated by our identical emphasis on peace, love, and surrender to our creator. As I look at these educated Muslims around me, I don’t feel blocked by a barricade of ‘us’ and ‘them’, I feel united by our common beliefs and our call to love. Instead of isolating our own religion to an Island, we share in the fellowship of critically discussing both Islam and Christianity. This matches my definition of beautiful in every sense.
I want to keep this image engrained in my memory: 30 or so humans from different backgrounds, ethnicities, religious sects, and social classes, all searching for truth and sharing beliefs. I wish that we had more time, as this is an ongoing conversation that has both divided and bonded people together, but I am so thankful for the blossoming of new friendships. As I reflect on this experience, I am convicted again by how easy it is to use a blind eye when I see a Muslim anywhere in the world. My mind can easily be drawn to unsupported conclusions about Muslims that are fed by the media, my peers, and even some of my classes. As I am pressed into understanding more, the pictures I had placed up on the walls of my ignorance were shattered by the kind and hospitable words of the Muslims who sat in front of me on a crisp Saturday evening in Jordan. I can sit there with the pages of my notebook open studying Islam, but speaking with those who live as Muslims every day is magnitudes more special. The lines that are drawn between my Christian beliefs and the beliefs of Muslims are smudged by these acts of understanding and genuine care for another person, just as God calls us to do. I recognize that Islam and Christianity are not equal, but I also identify that what has pushed us apart for generations also has the power to draw us closer in fellowship with God as we look to understand His character more. I am continually challenged to solidify my beliefs in Christ and accept the truth He has revealed. Through my interactions with those who see Jesus as different than I do, I am pushed towards a lively faith, not a dry stagnant one. To God be the glory in all of this.
Your perfect goodness overwhelms us. You are all merciful, perfect, and just. We recognize you as creator, guider, and the most compassionate. There is so much pain in this world, but your creation looks towards you for our hope. Please help Christians, Muslims, and Jews to unite and stand against the hurt in this world, all led by you, to glorify you. Humble us so we can listen and learn. Show us the common truth of you so that we would not be separated by spite, but connected as your beloved.
You deserve all of the honor and glory forever,
Peace be with you.