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Confessions of an accidental Muslim party crasher

Pakistanis breaking Ramadan fast
Men pray before breaking their fast on the first day of Ramadan, the holiest month in the Islamic calendar, at a mosque in Peshawar, Pakistan on June 29, 2014. |

I’m an accidental Muslim party crasher. Three years ago, I studied abroad in Amman, Jordan during Ramadan, a month when Muslims around the world fast every day from morning until night. As a Christian, I had never experienced Ramadan first hand. I realized that if I were going to understand the culture, I would need to fast alongside the Muslim community. My Jordanian friends expressed great excitement and joy about my decision. One, in particular, even invited me to break fast with his family.

On the day of the iftar meal, I arrived at his house and was enthusiastically ushered inside. For twenty minutes, I filled my stomach and enjoyed a deep sense of community, but after some time began to wonder why my friend was not there. I gave him a call.

“Where are you?” I asked. To which he responded, “Where are you?” “I’m at your house,” I said. “No you’re not. We’re all here and you’re not.” I quickly looked up and realized I must have had the wrong address. I was at a complete stranger’s house. And somehow, it didn’t matter. The fact that I was at their door was enough for this generous family to invite me in. This story is a wonderful example of the radical hospitality that exists in Muslim communities. It is a hospitality that is, unfortunately, not experienced or understood by many American Christians because we either haven’t had the opportunity to meet a Muslim or have lived in fear of something that we don’t understand. For example, only 36% of white Evangelicals say that most Muslims living in the United States are committed to the well-being of America. That’s a pretty small percentage!

This reality is what led me to start working for America Indivisible, a coalition-based organization dedicated to combating bigotry towards Muslims, and those perceived to be Muslim, by helping to build neighborly connections in communities across the country. Through this work, I have had the pleasure of exploring and helping to deepen relationships between Evangelicals and their Muslim neighbors. I was excited to find out that there are a number of organizations who are dedicated to helping Christians better know Muslims. Many of these efforts are highlighted in our new Guide to Evangelical Bridge Builders. Last month, I spoke about this research alongside international Christian and Muslim leaders at the Peace Requires Encounter: Envisioning Evangelical-Muslim Bridge-Building Today symposium on Capitol Hill.

This past week has been designated by the United Nations as World Interfaith Harmony Week. I know the term “interfaith” doesn’t always sit well in Evangelical circles. Whether we call this work multi faith, bearing witness, or something else, I’ve realized that there are small ways we as American Christians can extend radical hospitality to our neighbors. It could be as simple as receiving from our Muslim neighbors like I received a meal from complete strangers in Jordan. If there is a Muslim community or mosque in your city or town, I encourage you to reach out. It may turn out that being a friend to a Muslim would be a blessing to them. But I know this for sure: they will definitely be a blessing to you.

Jon Paramore studied Arabic and International Affairs at the George Washington University. He previously served as the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chaplain at American University and is now a Fellow at America Indivisible.

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