Sunday, January 4, 2015

Relating to Muslims

Paul:  “Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious, for as I was walking along I saw your many altars.  And one of them had this inscription on it – ‘To an Unknown God.’…..Acts 17: parts of 22-23

When my Muslim friends prepare for their Canadian citizenship test they study a book about Canadian history, geography, government structure, rights and responsibilities. Often it is through this requirement of studying the book that they become informed. Getting informed helps them advance on their journey of identifying with Canadians and becoming assimilated. It is difficult to connect with someone who is not interested in or informed about my country.  I wish we had been required to take a test of information about Pakistan when we lived there. It is embarrassing to admit I knew little about Pakistan’s history, geography, entertainment and cultural world, and religious beliefs. Pakistan is predominantly a Sunni Muslim country but there are Shi’a Muslims there, too. I clearly remember when our house helper wanted to observe Muharram and I didn't have a clue what she was talking about. She looked so frustrated with me. Relating is strained when one is ignorant.

Relating means more than only talking about spiritual truths. Entering their social world often leads into relating spiritually. It does wonders when Iranian friends realize I know where Isfahan or the island of Kish are or ask them if they are Shirazi or Tehrani. To be informed about Yalda celebrations or Hafiz or Iqbal, renowned poets, will create a greater friendship. When there was an earthquake in the Sindh in Pakistan or Buddha statues were destroyed in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, or there was a plane crash in Indonesia or a flood in a certain part of Bangladesh and I had knowledge of what happened it instantly had a way of bonding us together. When I am informed it speaks of being interested in their country…in them. It is beneficial to learn about their cities, geography, and some history. Daily I listen to the world news to glean information about what may be happening in my friends’ homelands.  It is not politics I talk about because that can actually provoke anger and unhealthy obsessions but I find it helpful to be informed about tragedies or celebrations of certain festivals. Sometimes an artist, poet, or entertainer dies or is executed and those shocking events bring confusion and pain. They all enjoy certain popular TV programs and actors. This is one small way of entering into their world which will enhance a better connecting between us. Jesus entered into our life here on earth which was more than just understanding our humanity and suffering. He knew how to relate to people. The Apostle Paul worked hard trying to understand the world of the people he was sent to and used that information to enhance communication and connecting. When we get informed it shows we care about them personally.  Recently we met Mauritanians. My knowledge of Mauritania was nil. So, I began asking questions and checking out information on Google. It really helps in bonding to get informed and they appreciate our inquisitiveness. Evangelism is less combative and lots more fun when we can first relate.

Dear heavenly Father, show me how to relate better with my Muslim friends.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.