“Sam, can you pray for me,” said one of my Muslim friends who just had knee surgery from a long-term soccer injury. Of course, who can resist a prayer request, if you’re a Christian? Of course I said “yes.”
The week after, he saw me again. He asked, “Sam, did you pray for me?” I try not to be a guy who just says he’ll pray without really praying. So, throughout the week, I did say a casual prayer or two for his injury. So, I said yes. He joyfully exclaimed, “I bet you did. Look, I’m getting better.” He flexed his knee that’s still in the knee brace.
If we would pause for just a second to reflect on that conversation, I hope it occurs to you that a Muslim guy just asked a Christian guy to pray for him, and the Muslim guy was holding a Christian accountable for his prayer. This is extraordinary. It’s moments like these that build small bridges between two sides. I’m not saying that we believe in the same thing but that’s something we can talk about in some near future. Now isn’t the occasion. What is so extraordinary about our conversation is simple but hasn’t often occurred: a Christian and a Muslim can exist peacefully together as good friends even when we discuss religious matter like prayer. We CAN get along!
Another friend wrote on his Facebook this week that he’s very distressed about the extreme Islamophobic posts from Christians regarding the Syrian refugees. I can’t say that I disagree. The fact is, it’s very easy to demonize all Muslims if you don’t know any. It’s true. It’s easy to say, “Oh, I know those Chinese folks. They’re dirty.” Well, I’m ethnic Chinese. I’m fairly sure that all my friends will agree that I have impeccable hygiene (okay, maybe a few of them have some questions). It’s easy to talk about “them” when we have never known enough sample of “them.” While the above story with my friend is somewhat unusual, good and warm friendship with Muslims has been fairly typical of my past and present relationships with them.
It is interesting that a lot of remarks on Facebook are (wrongly?) based on what the media chose to show in order to bait for clicks. Some are even fake news. Sure, there’re some misbehaving refugees and they’re some who’re misbehaving simply because of the stress they’re under. Yet, for some strange reason, many Christians can lump them all together as this group called the “Muslims.” I understand there’re difficulties in policymakers and financial resources, but the way we talk about the whole group can use a lot of improvement.
When I had the above encounter with my Muslim friend, I think of the Good Samaritan parable where the perceived enemy by the society, the Samaritan, acted more like a brother than the true ethnic brothers. I often wonder how often we can be that Samaritan to others because he’s the truly good neighbor. Jesus’ command was very simple, “Go and do likewise.” He didn’t put conditions on it. He simply (and to some, quite naively) told the teacher of the law in Luke 10 to go and do it. How much more should his followers change their minds? In principle, we really need to create space for compassion towards people like the Syrian refugees.
My prayer is that Christians will do better both in their own faith and in their online presence so that they can prove once again that CHRISTIANITY is a religion of peace and love, not by historical facts or some other data but by their speech and lives. We haven’t done too well lately in the media. We can do much better.