Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Poignant Message from American Muslims

When I encountered this musical message for the first time a few years ago, I wept. In fact, I teared up the first five or six times I watched it, because it poignantly reveals the perspective of many of my Muslim friends.

The music and lyrics are by Kareem Salama, an Egyptian-American who was born and raised in a small town in Oklahoma. Kareem Salama is a country-western artist, and it is noteworthy that his name means "generous peace." Learn more about Kareem Salama at http://www.kareemsalama.com/.

Enjoy this great music video and its excellent message!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Sacrificial Kindness is a Two-Way Street: Christians Protect Muslims in Egypt

Over the last several weeks, there have been many heart-breaking images from the Middle East. The heart-warming one below, shot during the height of the protests in Egypt, depicts Muslim protesters taking time to pray while Christians stand guard around them. No doubt, these peaceful protesters feared yet another surprise attack by the pro-Mubarak thugs.

From http://yfrog.com/h02gvclj, Christian protesters
in Egypt watch the backs of their Muslim counterparts.

If you have been following events in Egypt, you will know that this act of compassion and kindness was reciprocal, as Muslims had risked their lives to protect Coptic Christians in early January. For more on this, check out my earlier blog post at http://incomparabletreasure.blogspot.com/2011/01/honoring-mlk-day-2-egyptian-muslims.html.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Lessons Learned with Ahmed: Why Don't Christians Live by Their Book?

Ahmed is Muslim. I am Christian. And we are friends.

In fact, since we met about 10 months ago, Ahmed has become one of my dearest friends on the planet.

Ahmed with my kids, Hannah Beth and Nathaniel

A native of Afghanistan, Ahmed became my pal last April in New Delhi, India, where I had taken an interim assignment as director of a small English language school. Ahmed had come to Delhi to improve his English skills and to pursue a Masters in Political Science, and he was already enrolled at the language school when I arrived on the scene.

The first day I met Ahmed, he invited me for a special breakfast at his home. The following Saturday morning, I hired an auto-rickshaw to drive me to his residence. Ahmed greeted me warmly, invited me in, and we sat down to what would become a five-hour feast. As we talked about life, politics, theology and the Kingdom of God, we discovered an enormous amount of common ground.

Over the remainder of my three months in Delhi, our friendship blossomed. I saw Ahmed five days per week in class, and every weekend we met for five to eight hours of intense, enjoyable, one-on-one discussion. After my return to the USA last July, Ahmed and I vowed to continue our friendship over the Internet. Via video conference, we "meet" weekly, usually for 60 to 90 minutes each time.

Together, Ahmed and I often study both the Qur'an and the Bible. He has taught me much about Islam and about life. Driven by a passion for God and compassion for humanity, Ahmed, at age 30, is wise beyond his years. I have immense respect for Ahmed, I cherish his friendship, and I give thanks to God for bringing him into my life.

A number of months ago, Ahmed and I were studying Paul's admonition to love radically as found in Romans 12:9-21 (NRSV):

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honour. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

After reading those words and pondering them for a moment, Ahmed asked me a question that still haunts me: "Why don't more Christians live by their book, Thomas? This is a wonderful and extraordinary teaching, but why do so many Christians not live by it?"

I did not have a good answer for Ahmed then and still do not today. Do you?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

A Radical Experiment in Empathy: Helping Americans Understand the Perspective of Arabs

Sam Richards is a sociology professor at Penn State University. In this 19-minute clip, he helps Americans to put themselves in the shoes of Arabs in the Middle East. Sometimes, perspective changes everything!

Richards' entertaining, inspiring, and discomforting presentation ought to be required viewing for every American. (Thanks to my pal, Michael, for passing this along!)