I love Christmas. This year we assembled and lit our tree. On Christmas day my Jewish friend came over with her son and we did a gift exchange and had a great brunch. There is no way we forget to celebrate Christmas in our Muslim home.
I was born in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka is a multi-racial, multi religious and a multi ethnic island. At school we recited from all scriptural texts, (Yes, I even learned the, “Hail Mary …”). From a very early age I was taught and trained to celebrate and respect all faiths. In our home we had a Bible, Quran and many other religious books.
A beloved community
I came to the United States fifteen years ago and a beloved community welcomed me. At that time, it seemed to matter less who you were, people were less fearful and trust was easier to find. Another woman, of a similar age, called Nadyne, befriended me. She was a Christian – from a family of church goers and Bible readers.
To me, to this day they have been a true witness to their faith in Christ.When I was looking for a place to live, they opened their home to me. When I needed someone to talk with, they counselled me and supported me. When I was hungry they fed me.
Yes, they served me and they loved me. They took me to church, we prayed before a meal, we were curious about each other. We chose not to conform but to reform. Our friendships blossomed, and as a result our families have exchanged many encounters and events from across the world.
The friendship between Nadyne and I prompted us to start an initiative called Peacemoms. Over the years we have been friends we have seen escalating conflicts between Christians and Muslims, so our story has become more relevant than ever.
Today, we go into the community and educate mothers and young people to celebrate interfaith dialogue and action. We speak at churches and mosques – and companies. Our message is one of social justice through the means of Communication, Collaboration, and Compassion.
Today, Nadyne and I are blessed to have two beautiful daughters (pictured) who are now both 12 years old. They are an authentic product of our testimony because they love one another. Is this not what Jesus commands? When we make that one effort to get to know each other, our hearts open and we will continue to open the hearts of our children.
‘The only thing that counts…’
Every church I have visited, I have been welcomed and treated with great love. From the West to the East, the church has always been a strong befriender of the lost and the poor. I have seen time and again how deeply committed the Christian community is towards serving and feeding the needy. These stories I share with my own faith community as I empower them to show up and do better.
Today, it is clear that much more needs to be done. I think this is the time to escalate Christ’s love to all. This is the time to remain strong and not let politics and fear stifle our love for one another. The chaos and violence seems to escalate in the Middle East. Perhaps this will all get far worse before it can get any better.
Fear and blind misunderstanding can very easily drive us apart. But there are resources within both faiths which can help us forge mutual understanding and respect. Whatever our faith, we can all be challenged by these words in the Bible: ‘The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.’ (Galatians 5:6)
Soraya Deen is the co-founder of Peacemoms. Soraya and Nadyne travel widely through their work promoting Muslim-Christian understanding. Soraya authored the book PEACE MATTERS: Raising Peace Conscious Children. She can be contacted via mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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