If you paid any attention at all to my posts in the past or my other social media posts, it may come as somewhat of a surprise to “thank” Donald Trump, given my views. By the time I’m done, you can judge that this is a sarcastic title, but let me explain.
In the past week, I’ve witnessed some tremendous things we’ve done as believers in the Twin Cities. We had the Love Somalia project where Christians and Muslims and people of all kinds of faiths and no faith at all came together to pack food to help with famine relief in Somalia. 4.9 million meals were packed in four days by about 19,000 volunteers.
In our city of Columbia Heights, we gathered over 100 volunteers and have raised to this point $7000 toward this project.
We are also in Ramadan and I make it a point to go visit one of my dearest friends at his mosque. Today was that day for me. My friend was leading the teaching and prayers. He is one of the greatest men of peace I know and I’m privileged to call him a friend.
During his teaching time, he mentioned my attendance with fondness. Then, after prayers, he called me up to greet the members of the mosque.
Before dismissing everyone, he told his members, “Dan is someone you need to know. Please greet him as you leave.”
It was a tremendous joy to meet new friends and see some very familiar faces. Soon, there were four of us standing and talking. An American who had converted to Islam, an Egyptian, a Somali, and me. We learned from each other and we spoke of the deep admiration for America, the ideals of America, and freedom of religion.
“Nowhere else in the world can we do this,” one commented.
Then, I sat with my friend in his office for an hour in conversation. We reflected on our long friendship and on the state of affairs in the U.S. currently. I asked how things were going in immigration among Muslims. How were they being treated? There were some sad stories on that front.
One of the great stories, however, was from President Trump’s two attempts at the travel bans. (Look, the president called them that, so let’s not get bogged down in the semantics of that term.) My friend told me that in the Fridays following the first executive order, then after the second executive order, local pastors and rabbis came every week to his mosque. They sat quietly and then checked in every week to make sure people felt safe.
Every week for three months.
Christians checking up on Muslims… not to “report” but to provide safety. Imagine that.
So, in the past week I’ve witnessed Christians reaching out to people we’re told in certain circles to fear. Of course, I’ve been friends with Muslims my whole adult life, but it has been refreshing to see the church in the Twin Cities rise up to support Muslims, and many of those believers probably hadn’t really engaged a Muslim in conversation before.
I told my new group of friends today, “The more we know each other, the less we fear.”
I didn’t apologize for being a Christian and a pastor. They didn’t apologize for being Muslim. And we parted friends.
So, thank you, President Trump. Your travel ban has heightened the care of a lot of believers. We’re more vigilant than ever to love our neighbor. We’re reaching out in creative ways. There are more Christians learning not to fear. All because we were told of the “high risk” of terror. We were essentially being told to fear. And, as believers, we may be learning that Christ calls us to fear not.
My friend and I will work to stay in touch. We will work together to pray for peace. We will take advantage of great American freedoms still given to us and give thanks to God for the opportunity to learn from each other.
We will watch over each other and do our best to live with the freedoms wonderfully bestowed to us in this nation. As a Muslim and a Christian.
For this, I give thanks.