“Peace be upon them”

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The current issue of Sojourners magazine has a good article about the friendship that developed between members of a Methodist church and Muslim mosque in a town in Tennessee.

Rev. Steve Stone was just trying to be a good neighbor.

Two years ago, the pastor of Heartsong Church in Cordova, Tennessee, on the outskirts of Memphis, learned that a local mosque had bought property right across the street from the church.  So he decided some Southern hospitality was in order.

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A few days later, a sign appeared in front of the church. “Heartsong Church welcomes Memphis Islamic Center to the neighborhood,” it read.

That small act of kindness was the start of an unlikely friendship between the two congregations, one that made headlines around the world.  Members of the mosque and church have shared meals together, worked at a homeless shelter, and become friends over the past two years.  When Stone learned that his Muslim friends needed a place to pray for Ramadan because their building wasn’t ready, he opened up the doors of the church and let them hold Ramadan prayers there.

Critics said that Stone was a heretic for allowing people of another faith to pray in his church building.  He says he’s just doing what Jesus taught him to do. “Jesus told us to love our neighbors,” Stone told Sojourners. “These people are actually neighbors.”

via Sojourners Magazine.

I hope and believe that the Rev. Steve Stone’s is more typical of American thinking that those who are given over to ignorant prejudice.   I read an analysis of the 2010 elections that indicated that the attempt to scapegoat Muslims for partisan political reasons largely backfired.

I have written several posts on this web log rebutting false prejudices against Muslims, but I think that, in general, our American record of upholding religious freedom for all is one to be proud of.   I don’t claim that we Americans are free of prejudice, but I would rather be a Muslim citizen of the United States than a Christian in Egypt or Iraq, a Baha’i in Iran or a Muslim in India.

I also would rather be a Muslim in the present-day United States than a Japanese-American during World War Two, a German-American during World War One or a Catholic citizen of the United States in the 1840s.  We Americans don’t fully live up to our ideals of religious freedom and tolerance, but we’re getting there.

I don’t know if Cordova, Tenn., was named for the Caliphate of Cordoba in Spain, where Christians and Jews flourished under Muslim rule during its golden age.   It was for a time a reign of relative tolerance—not religious freedom by contemporary American standards, but a beacon to the world of the 10th century A.D.

Click on Peace Be Upon Them for the full article in Sojourners magazine.

Click on Muslim-basing doesn’t win elections for an analysis of the 2010 elections.

Click on Muslims against terrorism and Is Islam a religion of peace? for a couple of my earlier posts.

Click on Heartsong Church for the Heartsong home page.

Click on Memphis Islamic Center for the MIC home page.

Click on Sojourners: Christians for Justice and Peace for the Sojourners magazine home page.

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