“ ‘There are no strangers in this state, and that’s its genius’, he said in a quiet, engaging drawl. ‘People smile. You assume people have a common interest.’ ” In March 1980, National Geographic Magazine published an article called Home to North Carolina. This was North Carolina University president’s response when asked about the state’s “rare sense of community”.
No strangers. Common interest acknowledged. What if that was the life-giving air of Sacramento breathed by refugees who settle here?
Is This You?
A Caucasian, American woman was driving home from work one late afternoon when she blew a tire on the freeway and barely made it to the off ramp to pull over. With a dead phone battery, she was stranded. A Hispanic woman drove by on the off ramp; her mother’s heart felt sorry for the lady, but being fearful of the possible cultural stigmas, continued driving. A Caucasian pastor saw her desperation as he exited, but since he was running late for an important meeting, also chose to drive on. An Afghan man and devout Muslim, respected in his community, saw the woman as he drove by and had compassion. He pulled over and offered his help. Lending the lady his phone, they discovered the tow truck driver would not arrive for 2 hours. Knowing well the risk to his reputation if he was seen alone with a woman, he offered to drive her to a local coffee shop, buy her a drink and wait with her in comfort until assistance could arrive.
Which of these do you think was a neighbor to the woman in distress?
“One of my team-mates was taking a family portrait for a Syrian family in Sweden. During our time in Sweden we prayed for this family, that they would find a permanent place to live, and the very next day they got an apartment in Stockholm! They told us that our God answers prayers, and that all their friends living nearby wanted prayer that they could find homes too!” – Emma McHenry, photojournalist with YWAM, seeing the realities of displaced peoples all over the world.
Some of you may read this and recognize similarities to Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan. Followers of Jesus are told to love God and love their neighbor.
“Who is my neighbor?” was the question asked of Jesus that prompted his parable.
As he often did, Jesus answered a question with a question, turning the tables on his question asker to say, in effect, “Don’t try to justify yourself by who or who not is your neighbor. Rather, you go and be a neighbor to the stranger—the one who you doesn’t see eye to eye with you politically or religiously.” Today, Jesus calls us anew to be that same person, to be that neighbor.
Who Are “They”?
“Christians and Muslims may be living next to each other, but that does not mean they deeply know each other.”
A vital part of becoming a neighbor is Bridge-building. Bridge-building has a process. First comes knowledge. When the Easterner and Westerner recognize their different outlooks on hospitality, and the Muslim and Christian allow for their differing views on faith, they are collecting bricks and tools for the building project. Knowledge must be followed by action. When they spend time together in each other’s homes or in conversation, they are using their tools to lay down these bricks and begin to build a bridge.
Practically speaking, the gaps are not as wide as you may think. Relationship is not overly difficult to begin and then continue. The seemingly large walls are far weaker and easier to tear down than you anticipate. That is why Raft Amad exists- to pragmatically and relationally escort you toward a simple way of DEEPLY loving the stranger and TRULY knowing your neighbor.