I am not a Muslim, however. I am a Christian. Yet, at midday every day I turn and face toward the east at the same time as my Muslim brothers and sister do and pray with them. To pray when they pray, beside them, in solidarity with them. I pray my own prayers for peace in the Middle East while they offer their Dhuhr prayers. Muslims are not terrorists. Terrorists are not true Muslims. Just like the early Crusaders and the leaders of the Spanish Inquisition were not true Christians, our modern day religious extremists are not the true messengers of their faith either. Talk to a Muslim and you’ll see. The truly faithful of that tradition are kind and friendly and hold family in the highest regard. They welcome strangers and serve the poor. They also wash their hands more often than any typical Christian I know.
But why pray with them? Because it’s wrong that terrorists have made us afraid of a third of this entire planet. If a third of this planet wanted to take over the rest of it, they’d have already done it. Islam is not a threat to this planet. Extremism is. So with them all, the truly faithful and the terrorists together, I orient myself toward Mecca and I pray. May peace exist in the Middle East. May peace find its way into the heart of all terror. May wisdom find its way into the cracks and crevasses of the world’s leadership and all its workings. If there truly are angels may they intervene on behalf of us all to help clear the turbid waters of our deep unrest. Amen.
Do I think my prayers make an impact on the world? I guess I don’t really know. But I believe they do. One thing I know for sure, however. They make an impact on me. They remind me that we are all in this together. They make me feel less uneasy when I pass by the local mosque. Not uneasy because I fear them, but because I wonder if I’m welcome. Even while knowing for a fact that I am. Praying with them, whether they know it or not, makes me feel like their neighbor. And if I can feel a bit more like their neighbor, maybe they will feel more like mine. The safest neighbor is the one you have coffee with, not the one you fear.