Alexandria. In a Catholic church located in the shadow of Mount Vernon, the estate of George Washington, the first US president, a group of Muslim faithful roll out their prayer rugs each week and kneel to pray to Allah.
Polls show that Islam in the United States is mistrusted and associated with violence, and Christian churches actively helping Muslims remain the exception 10 years after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Yet inspired by their reading of Biblical passages, some US Christians are increasingly reaching out to the Muslim community.
“People true to their Christian faith try to achieve peace in the world,” said Father Tom Ferguson at the Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Alexandria, Virginia. “Hospitality is the first step toward getting to know one another.”
Hundreds of area Muslims have been meeting at a hall in his church since August to pray while their new mosque is being built.
Ferguson and flock welcome the guests — but they are fighting an uphill battle to re-define Muslims as friendly.
Prominent conservative US Christians have loudly pilloried Islam, including evangelist Franklin Graham, who called Islam a “very evil and wicked religion,” and televangelist Pat Robertson, who claims Islam is really a violent political system.