Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Can Muslims and Christians Celebrate Thanksgiving Together? (The Answer in 12 Compelling Images)

Last month, in partnership with Fellowship of Christ (our wonderful church), the lovely Carrie and I and our Peace Catalyst crew hosted a Muslim-Christian Thanksgiving Gathering. It was a huge success!


In hopes of building bridges of friendship and partnership between Muslims and Christians in the Raleigh area, we moved our family here in July of 2011. Three and a half years later, we continue to marvel at God's favor. He has blessed us with deep, beautiful friendships in both the Christian and Muslim communities here, and we treasure these relationships as amazing gifts from Him.


So, when we decided to host a Thanksgiving bash, we invited key friends and thought we might squeeze 20-30 folks in our home for the event. As RSVPs rolled in, we realized we needed to move the gathering to a larger facility, and Fellowship of Christ graciously came to our rescue. When all was said and done, the crowd of 60-plus filled the church sanctuary. More than 30 of our Muslim friends (representing several different area mosques) blessed us with their presence, and we had almost as many Christians (from a number of different churches). It was a beautiful, wonderful evening!!!


As always in all our relationships and events, our goals were as follows:

  • To help Muslims and Christians begin and deepen authentic friendships that lead to our laughing together, lamenting together, loving together, and generally "doing life" together in one another's hearts and homes

  • To love all our guests well in the way of Jesus by practicing grace and hospitality and by putting the interests of others ahead of ours and by humbly considering others as better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3-11)

  • To model this hospitality and humility by helping Christians learn how to prepare food that is acceptable (halal) for our Muslim guests, so that Christian are better equipped to empathize and understand Muslims and so that Muslims can eat with a clear conscience

  • To find new ways to work together to defeat all expressions of extremism, terrorism, and hatred

  • In word and deed, to invite all our friends, both Christian and Muslim, to embrace Jesus as the Messiah who came to make the way for us to be at peace with God and with our fellow humans


Here is this beautiful gathering in images:

The halal, potluck meal was wonderful. Afraid we'd not have enough food, Carrie spent all day in the kitchen. Turns out we had PLENTY!
After ladies first, it was time for the men to fill their plates!
Beautiful ethnic diversity around the table!
Carrie relishing a long visit with our kind, generous, delightful Turkish friends!
Our Hannah Beth and a young friend enjoying the always kind and fun "Uncle" Jihad, who brought a huge birthday cake so we could all celebrate (with singing in Arabic and English) Hannah Beth's birthday and that of Jihad's adult son. A couple of years ago, Jihad and I had jury duty together. He joked with me, saying, "I am an Arab Muslim and my name is Jihad. They'll never select me for a trial!" He was right. I LOVE this guy!
Our Nathaniel (black shirt) and his pal Aidan (in orange) blessed my socks off by readily inviting these Turkish boys to eat with them and later play Ewoks with them! In their wake, we discovered a lot of Ewok name badges and a fairly cool fort!
One of the Turkish families brought "Noah's pudding," a traditional dish thought to mimic one Noah and his family enjoyed after the flood.
Fellowship of Christ folks chatting with friends from Turkey and Morocco.
Another food and fellowship shot.
Three hours in, the conversations were still lively!
Two Fellowship of Christ ladies laughing alot with these beautiful Arab-American friends of Palestinian descent.
Fellowship of Christ's Bill King flanked by leaders of a nearby mosque. These men are eager to join us in forging a formal partnership between their mosque and our church. We hope to start with a series of Love Your Neighbor Dinners (meals shared in both the mosque and church facilities), joint service projects, and perhaps a couple of Quick-To-Listen events.

Thank you, God, for giving us the gift of friends. We feel like we receive far more blessing than we give--from both our Muslim friends and our Christian friends!


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