This past Friday, I was invited to attend an interfaith prayer vigil at a local mosque to honor the lives of the 49 Muslims that were lost in the terrorist attack in New Zealand. I had never stepped foot in a mosque before, and honestly in the past, I didn’t even know if that was something that was ok for me to do as a Christian. But I was grateful for the opportunity to come together to grieve this horrific tragedy (one that’s becoming all too common) and to show support for the Muslim community as this all hits too close to home.
I wasn’t sure what to expect as we entered the mosque, but we were directed into a multi-purpose room with rows of chairs and several news station cameras set up in the back. As the room began to fill up, there was a beautiful diverse crowd of people of all different religions, ethnicities, and backgrounds. We looked different, held to different religious traditions, and spoke different languages, but we were united by our compassion and our grief over the loss of human life.
But there was something more that you united us as well. Earlier in the afternoon, I had come across 1 Corinthians 13:13, which says…
And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.
As we sat in that room, the space was filled with faith in a God who is Creator and Father of all humanity, hope for a better world filled with more mercy and compassion, and love for our fellow human beings across the world. It surprised me how tangible the faith, hope, and love felt in that room. They filled the air more deeply than the grief. This was not just an opportunity to mourn; it was an opportunity to really see each other.
The most profound moment for me was when a Jewish rabbi stood before us and prayed. I had tears in my eyes as I – a Christian woman – sat in a mosque and listened to a rabbi sing a prayer of peace. It was beautiful. And in that moment, the thought that came to my mind was, “Surely, God is in this place.” (Gen. 28:16)
Sometimes, we find God in spaces and moments that we don’t expect, but the truth is God is always present. We just don’t always have the eyes to see it. When those moments of awareness arise, they have the power to change the way we see God and the ways we see others.
So often we allow differences to divide us. We can choose to see differences as a threat. We can choose to fear, to exclude, and to fight. But no matter the differences that separate us, we all share a common thread. We are all humans created in the image of God. We were all created to love and to be loved. It’s not always easy, comfortable, or safe. But it’s the only way to stop the cycle of violence and destruction.
It might sound naive or too simplistic to believe that change will ever come, but we have to start somewhere. We have to move closer to those who are different. We need to listen to those with whom we disagree. We have to choose to see the image of God in those we don’t understand.
As the Sheik prayed at the end of the vigil,
Help us to open our hearts and minds to understand one another.
What is one step that you can take to seek understanding of someone who you view as different – whether that’s a different ethnicity, race, religion, political affiliation, or orientation? Maybe you can read a book, listen to a podcast, or watch a documentary. Or you can attend an event that highlights and is led by those you see as different. Maybe you can introduce yourself to someone in your community who you previously avoided and humbly get to know them.