One of the pleasures of working for a church that is also a historic site is that I get to talk with a lot of very interesting people from all over the world. Although we do get some rude people, for the most part it is a really positive experience, and today was no different.
Today, I got to have an extended conversation with a total stranger about faith, and about the commonalities of our two faiths, Christianity and Islam.
I do not know where this man was from, but he was very friendly. He came into the church to ask a question, apologizing in heavily accented English (I did not recognize his accent, but I knew it was not Turkish or Egyptian) for what he felt was a foolish question, but as he was new to Boston he was curious. What was the meaning of the long lines of red brick that went down the sidewalk outside? I explained that this was the Freedom Trail, and that it went over a large part of Boston as a way for people to see many of the historic sites important to the founding of the United States. I gave him a map (we have stacks of them we give away for free) and then I also handed him one of our own little brochures, talking about the history of our church. Then I encouraged him to go inside, and look around, and ask questions. He looked at me, seeming somewhat surprised. He said that he was not welcome in many Christian churches because he was a Muslim. I told him that as I understood it, Christianity was a religion about caring for the poor, about treating your neighbor as you wanted to be treated, about loving your enemy and turning the other cheek. I added that there were, unfortunately, a lot of Christians who seemed to forget those important basic principles. That seemed to make him relax a little bit, and he started smiling a lot more as he spoke. He asked me if I knew about Ramadan, and I told him I knew a little bit. I said I knew it was a holy time for Muslims, and they fasted from Dawn to Dusk for an entire month. We talked about how both Islam and Christianity had fasting in common, as well as a number of other things. He said he was new to our country, but he wanted to learn all about it. I smiled and said that he was definitely in the right place. Soon he headed into the church to look around.
Later on I learned he had spoken with one of the other guides, and that he had told her that they were “brother and sister in the eyes of God”, or something along those lines. She said that made her happy and that although at first he had surprised her a little bit for talking so much, that she liked how he had been so friendly and so positive and what a welcome that was. Sadly we do get a few confrontational people from time to time. We even had one today, within an hour or so of the visit of our fasting friend from the Middle East. But my brief encounter with this enthusiastic and curious man from half way around the world made my day, and I refuse to let anything else ruin it.