CNN’s upcoming special “Unwelcome: The Muslims Next Door” airs March 27th, highlighting the uneasy plight of living as a Muslim in America. Specifically, the trailer focuses on the recent showdown in my nearby Murfreesboro, Tennessee, where allegations of everything from vandalism to the sounds of gunfire have been reported among those opposing the construction of an Islamic Muslim Center in the heart of the Bible Belt South.
As I look at these events, I am reminded of an ancient story told by Jesus himself called The Good Samaritan. Jesus answered that the greatest commandment in the Jewish Scriptures was to Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. When asked to define “neighbor,” Jesus told a story.
In this story, a man is robbed, beaten, and left for dead. Two Jewish religious leaders passed by without helping. A third man, a Samaritan, stopped to help. Jesus asked, “Who was a neighbor to that man?” The answer? “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus responded with one of my favorite quotes in the Gospels: “Go and do likewise.”
An observation are worth sharing: the person helped in Jesus’ story was not only in need, but was from a different culture and different religion.
Those who claim to follow Jesus today would do well to include our Muslim neighbors as an application of this Good Samaritan story. The Muslims in our communities may be from a different culture and, yes, a different religion, yet we are called to show the love of Jesus regardless.
I would suggest, at a minimum, this would require no vandalism, shooting, mocking, or telling someone, “To go back where they came from.”
On a more positive note, most American Muslims would be glad to build connections with their American neighbors. Hospitality is a large part of Muslim culture. Those interested in more information on how to be a better neighbor to the Muslims in their community would do well to learn from my friends at the Crescent Project or others like them who seek to live for Jesus and love our Muslim neighbors are ourselves.
DILLON BURROUGHS is an author, activist, and co-founder of Activist Faith. Dillon served in Haiti following the epic 2010 earthquake and has investigated modern slavery in the US and internationally. His books include Undefending Christianity, Not in My Town (with Charles J. Powell), and Thirst No More (October). Discover more at ActivistFaith.org.