Harry G. Brinton: Fight extremism with hospitality

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Abraham is the father of all three of these monotheistic faiths, and he is renowned for his hospitality. Christians, Jews and Muslims can all counter extremism by making hospitality a central part of their religious practices. As people eat, worship and work together, they discover that strangers really are not so strange.

Source: baxterbulletin.com

Jordan’s minister of Islamic affairs recently ordered imams throughout the country to preach peace or face banishment from the pulpit. “You clerics are our ground forces against the extremists,” Hayel Dawood said.

A move by Jordan’s imams toward a middle path is the right one to take. Islam is full of positive messages of charity, respect and tolerance.

Source: creepingsharia.wordpress.com

Source: creepingsharia.wordpress.com

Not long after the minister’s edict, here in the U.S., the Washington National Cathedral hosted its first Muslim prayer service. This was part of the cathedral’s mission to be a house of prayer for all people, and to elevate moderate religious voices. A Muslim spokesman saw this service as a sign that the Christian community is supporting the religious freedom of Muslims.

Both efforts are well-intentioned, and may have very positive results. But I worry that such attempts run the risk of abandoning certain core convictions. In Jordan, religious freedom is being sacrificed. At the Washington National Cathedral, Christian identity may become diluted.

Welcome strangers

Fortunately, extremism can be fought by addition rather than by subtraction. Specifically, by adding an emphasis on hospitality in religious gatherings. Hospitality is a practice at the heart of Christianity, Islam and Judaism, but we often ignore it. I am convinced that welcoming strangers not only leads to greater understanding between people but also draws us closer to God.

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Abraham is the father of all three of these monotheistic faiths, and he is renowned for his hospitality. In the Bible, Abraham welcomes three strangers and discovers they are the Lord (Genesis 18:1-15). When I visited Istanbul with an interfaith group last summer, I was pleased to see in the palace museum an artifact called “Abraham’s saucepan.” From the earliest days, there has been a link between Abraham and hospitality.

Christians, Jews and Muslims can all counter extremism by making hospitality a central part of their religious practices. As people eat, worship and work together, they discover that strangers really are not so strange.

Christians and Jews can accept Muslim invitations to fast-breaking dinners during Ramadan, and then return the invitation at social events in their congregations. Table conversations build relationships, especially if people talk about common concerns such as child rearing and neighborhood safety. Theology tends to divide, while shared community concerns bring people together.

For example, members of various faiths worshiped together this …read more at baxterbulletin.com

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