Thursday, August 19, 2010

Islamic hospitality

In these times where so much strife seems to be in the air between people of differing faiths, yesterday I got an email that brings some hope. Our congregation was invited by a local Muslim group to attend a Ramadan iftar meal.

This past spring, we had invited a Muslim speaker to come to our adult Sunday school class after a unit on interfaith issues. We had watched some videos about Islam and compared passages from the Qur’an and the Bible, but it was helpful and eye-opening to hear another person’s firsthand experience. He told us we had an open invitation to share an iftar meal to break the fast with them come Ramadan. The invitation has come.

I talk a lot about “radical hospitality,” often in the context of Jesus eating with all sorts of people in order for us as Christians to think about what it means to welcome others. This invitation from our Muslim friends is a beautiful example of radical hospitality. This particular Muslim group is very far theologically from what is usually labeled “Radical Islam,” but in this lovingly welcoming act of inviting Christians to dinner, they are radical in the same way that we are radical when we practice the very counter-cultural Christian practices of forgiveness and love. They are taking a holy risk to invite us to feast with them. It crosses boundaries of religion, culture, and language. I know I will be outside of my comfort zone, and I’m sure our hosts will be as well.

However, as much as I value the ministry of providing hospitality, I also recognize the equally important ministry of receiving hospitality. I pray that accepting this invitation of interfaith learning and eating is a chance for such a ministry of being welcomed.


  1. Dear Pastor Paul,
    Thank you for taking the time to talk about hospitality; a subject now is forgotten. In fact we just held an interfaith event about it and we had Bishop Ray Tiemann to give the Lutheran perspective. His speech was so embracing that the Jewish and Muslim speakers didn't feel to say more on the subject. I appreciate your open-mindedness and willingness to meet with your Abrahamic siblings.

    Mustafa Safak, The Raindrop Turkish House

  2. Thanks forsetting this up. It was the kind of event that could bless our nation as well as our local church. If you can send me an address for Mustafa Safak, I have some good friends who would like to invite him to speak at Northwest Vista College. They teach philosophy and government. In A few days Martha and I are off for New Orleans where we will celebrate (weather permitting) our 58th wedding anniverary and her birthday.

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