The obvious answer, based on this blog’s title, lies, of course, in Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10. There we see that good neighbours don’t allow cultural, political or religious differences to stop them reaching out and offering on-going, sacrificial service as they draw alongside and address the needs of those whose paths they cross – whether that be physically, emotionally or spiritually.
This isn’t the only Bible story that models this, though, as we see God himself modelling this in His interactions with Hagar and Ishmael in Genesis chapters 16, 17 and 21. These passages are of real relevance to our relationships with Muslim neighbours and work colleagues as Islam’s prophet, Muhammad, is from the line of Ishmael. In particular, Muhammad is from the tribe of Kedar, Ishmael’s second born son, which, we read in Ezekiel 27:21, went on to become Arabian princes.
In these passages we read that – even though Ishmael wasn’t the one to whom the Covenant blessing was given and that he would, in fact, go on to live in hostility with his brothers – God twice reached out to save him from dying in the desert and even watched over him as he grew. Later on, in the New Testament, God again reaches out to save Arabs, as we read of their presence in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2: 11).
So – if that’s what God did and tells us to do – surely we should be actively seeking to be good neighbours by reaching out with welcoming and helping hands, and with hearts that desire to share the good news of Jesus?
Recognising that this is still very much easier said than done, I’ve highlighted below two resources that might well help you – and others in your congregation – reach out to your Muslim neighbours, beginning with prayer and moving on to friendship.
30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World (www.30daysprayer.org.uk)
“If we do not pray then prejudice will gain power, fear will fester & relationships built across divides will die. 30 Days of Prayer helps Jesus-followers to respond with love to Muslim people. 30 Days of Prayer inspires us to make friends with those of other faiths & cultures. We believe prayer helps Muslim people meet Jesus.”
So often the barrier to engagement with those who are ‘different’ is ignorance and fear. This resource booklet seeks to deal with both of these through the provision of information sections and guidance on how to pray with love for the peoples of the Muslim world.
The resource was distributed at last year’s General Assembly as the month of Ramadan coincided with the start of the Assembly. Given the very positive response to last year’s material, PCI has ordered a limited number of copies for congregational use These can be purchased, on a first come, first served basis, at a reduced cost of £1 per copy (rrp. £2.50).
To place an order, please email firstname.lastname@example.org giving your name, delivery / invoice address and the number of copies you wish to receive. This year, Ramadan starts on Saturday, 27th May and so, to ensure that your congregation receives your booklets on time, orders should be placed by Friday, 12th May.
Friendship First (www.friendshipfirst.org)
The Friendship First course – which was recently piloted to much acclaim by members of PCI’s World Faiths Panel and Global Mission Involvement Committee - is an interactive, non-specialist course in six-sessions. It enables Christians to approach their Muslim friends with confidence to be an effective witness to Jesus Christ.
Growing from an initial response to the 9/11 and 7/7 attacks the Friendship First approach has grown into a successful course now running across Britain and beyond. It has transformed the way Christians relate the gospel to the Muslims they come into contact with.
Rev. Mark Welsh is the Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s Mission Development Officer. If you would like more information about the Friendship First course, Mark can be contacted on +44 (0) 28 9032 2284 or check out Friendship First.