Faith seeking hope
By Craig Pederson
“What gives you hope as you do this work?” That was the question we reflected upon to begin the most recent meeting of our synod’s Muslim Solidarity Task Force. This remarkable group of Christians and Muslims – both clergy and lay leaders – was formed as a result of the 2017 synod resolution encouraging congregations to develop relationships with Muslim neighbors and calling for the synod to develop resources in assisting them to do so.
The 2017 resolution acknowledged that Muslims were facing increasing challenges and fears in our communities. Now, two years later, those challenges and fears seem to have only ramped up with a federal policy banning travelers from select Muslim countries, public rhetoric disparaging Muslim nations and American Muslim elected officials, and the term “Islamophobia” entering our common vernacular.
“This interfaith work can be both a rewarding and difficult journey.”
Interfaith dialogue and mutual understanding represent some of the most important work we do as a church. This was affirmed by the 2019 Churchwide Assembly with the passage of “A Declaration of Inter-Religious Commitment.”
This interfaith work can be both a rewarding and difficult journey. As we went around the table to share what gave us hope, we heard a story of support for a local mosque, and another story of a pastor who recently asked for help in how to take the “first step” in this process.
Then we heard from one of our Muslim siblings, who after a long pause, said, “It’s hard for me to find hope right now.” She talked about the nightly angst of waiting for her 21-year-old son to come home: “He’s a black Muslim young man with a target on him,” she offers. “He tells me not to worry, but how can I not?”
After another pause, she shared a sign of hope: “A few friends have reached out to me to say, ‘Where have you been? We haven’t seen you on the street or at the store much these days.’” These friends offered to go with her to the store and to walk around the neighborhood together so that she would not feel isolated.
SOMETIMES THE FIRST STEP in showing solidarity with our Muslim neighbors is simply to be present with them – publicly present, with humility and openness to understanding their gifts and their struggles.
To that end, a great opportunity is coming soon. The Muslim Solidarity Task Force will host an “Allies and Friends Workshop” on Saturday, November 9 (8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.), at Christ the King Lutheran Church in Bloomington.
This is the second workshop offered by the task force; the first one back in February welcomed nearly 150 people and provided a rich experience of learning and dialogue. Next month’s workshop will offer two tracks: One for newcomers to this work, and another for those who are seeking more advanced connections and resources.
“The 2017 synod assembly resolution acknowledged that Muslims were facing increasing challenges and fears in our communities.”
In our increasingly pluralistic and religiously diverse culture, Christians are learning new ways to not only serve our neighbors, but also to simply “be” neighbors and experience the gifts and assets of others. I encourage you to read the “Declaration” and to attend the “Allies and Friends Workshop” – to enhance your experiences and to bear witness to the hope that our God graciously provides.