Saturday, October 31, 2015

Grassroots Community

All the believers were of one heart and mind, and they felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had.  Acts 4:32

Nabila’s father-in-law died back in Afghanistan so she arranged for a memorial meal for the community in the local mosque to which I was invited. What surprised me was that nobody present actually knew the deceased man. They were there to be a support for Nabila during her time of grief.

Beautiful Mojgan was so emotionally abused that she finally fled to a women’s shelter. She did not want to wear the hijab after she became a citizen here but her husband would not allow her to remove it. While she was in the shelter their community members put pressure on Hussein to let Mojgan be free to decide about her hijab. I could hardly believe that the community casting shame on Hussein as being overly controlling worked! His excessive abuse did not honor the reputation of their community.

When Fardos had her baby the community women brought food to her and rejoiced in her happiness. Women took turns sitting quietly with Jamila for weeks after her husband died. They would not leave her alone. When Salam needed money for an emergency trip he knew the community would help him out.

Ummah: Muslim Community.  It is largely operated from the grassroots not from the top down. Muslims shine when it comes to being a community. While Christians designate the people in church to organize and provide programs for the various needs which arise, the Islamic community is not dependent on an appointment of leadership who will visit the sick or provide food. The grassroots community concept is attractive and effective.  Muslims can teach us much about what community can look like. At first glance it looks impressive and appealing. There is such a sense of belonging and warmth and duty to each other. The community is everything to them. They can’t imagine living without their Islamic community. Acute loneliness is experienced when they are severed from it.

It does not take long after meeting Muslims to hear the frequent words, “My community….my community….” Not “my mosque”, but “my community.” Community is the glue that holds Muslims together. It works smoothly until someone becomes too independent. It is important for them to conform to the standards, obligations, and expectations set among themselves. As Western Christians we value rugged individualism, independence, non-conformity, debate and questioning. Such values certainly challenge sustaining strong community.

When a Muslim considers checking out Christianity he wants to know about our community because he knows he will suffer the loss of his Islamic community. He will be looking for a family who will take him in. Although young he is especially drawn to elderly people. Javed went to church but got so frustrated with the tradition of taking a minute in church to shake hands with those around him in the middle of the service but not talked to after church or phoned during the week so he stopped going. He discovered a wonderful Savior but he continues to search for the kind of community he lost.
Dear heavenly Father, please show me specific ways how I can be a supportive community to my Muslim friends who have accepted Jesus as Savior.  Amen.