I’m driving to lunch, and talking to Mom on my cell phone. “I’m going to meet an Imam!” (I say excitedly)
Mom: You’re going to meet a New Mom??! (she says just as excitedly)
Me: No, but that’s ok, I had to Google the difference between an “Imam” and a “Sheik” this morning. I’m a newbie.
All I know is we’re not meeting at “Porkbellys” as Mom calls it.
I’ve always been globally aware, but I blame my friends Lynne and Todd for encouraging this newer socially awkward 5-year-old me who anxiously says, “Will you be my friend?” to people of different colors, faiths, political orientations…Even Vegans, for Pete’s sake.
I’m convinced that World Peace may start with the three words, “Let’s Do Lunch”.
We need to get up close and personal with those different from us, but it takes some effort when Jews are the most different-from-me folks in my neighborhood.
We need to be “neighboring” rather than “othering”, and for someone to become a “neighbor” rather than an “other” requires a conversation…the beginning of a relationship.
Anyway, John is meeting with this Imam and I feel like a toddler begging, “Let me come too! I wanna be friends too!”
I have QUESTIONS! I really want to understand those who are different from me – especially Muslims who have been so “otherized” by the media.
As I walk into Ciao Bella I wonder if our Imam will look askance at me wearing jeans and Converse sneakers.
We sit down together and fortunately, Asad is extremely gracious and patient as I pepper him with stuff like, “Will it offend you if I have bacon in my salad?” (No, those are my dietary laws, not yours.” Smile.)
Asad orders fish for lunch, has a wife but no kids, and lives in the suburbs.
He says information and statistics aren’t as important as plain old proximity. He says if you have a pediatrician or a car mechanic who is a Muslim, it goes a long way to put a check in your spirit when the media paints them all as terrorists.
Still, Asad does give us some facts:
- Part of being a Muslim means loving and following Jesus.
- Mary, the mother of Jesus is mentioned more times in the Koran than in the Bible.
- Only 20% of Muslims are Arabs, but our stereotypes of Islam come exclusively from the Arab world.
- Muslims and Christians together make up 50% of the world. By 2040 they will make up 2/3 of the world population. If Muslims and Christians can’t get along then World Peace doesn’t stand a chance.
Why am I being painfully vulnerable, sharing my faltering attempts to make new friends?
I believe World Peace can start with a step as small as lunch. We can do this! (We could start a new peace-making service called “It’s Just Lunch” if it wasn’t already taken!) We can de-Trumpize rhetoric, but it needs to begin with us.
“We all have some responsibility to do one activity that leaps across the chasms of segmentation that afflict this country.” David Brooks
John, Asad, and I leave lunch with a plan to gather 75 people from our church to attend a dinner at Asad’s mosque during Ramadan. We’ll go, we’ll listen, we’ll make friends.
The start of world peace.
Who can you invite to lunch this week?