Last night I was with a dear friend of mine and was reminded once again of how long I have known him. Over the years his influence has brought together many Christian leaders in our metro area and as I was introduced to many new Christian leaders last night, we would ask each other how we met our mutual friend.
I met my friend just a few days after 9/11. I had been away on a prayer retreat with other pastors when 9/11 happened. When I got back to town a day later, I immediately called several of my Muslim friends and let them know I was their friend and would always be their friend. If anything happened to them or their place of business, they could call me and I would help with whatever they needed.
Not long after that I made a trip to another Islamic center that was overseeing the mosque six blocks from my church. I asked to see the director, who was also the imam of the mosque. That was the first day I got to meet Dr. Hamdy El-Sawaf. That first meeting was very brief. I only introduced myself and let him know I was the pastor a few blocks from the mosque. If there was anything I could do for him, he could let me know.
Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to bring students and city leaders and congregation members to see Dr. Hamdy. We’ve been to Friday prayers. We’ve been to special Ramadan events.
Last night was an inter-faith event to talk about Ramadan. It is an annual thing at his mosque now. (He moved to lead another mosque near my house.)
One of the genuine benefits from 9/11 was the opportunity to meet Hamdy. He is a man of genuine peace. He genuinely seeks the peace of his city and the welfare of those around him. His generosity is immense. I am so fortunate to call this man my friend.