The Rev. Deborah Lindsay preaches on the similarities between Christians’ observance of Lent and Muslims’ understanding of jihad as part of an interfaith effort between the two religions. (Did she miss what the quran says about jihad and unbelievers?)
Columbus Dispatch The Rev. Deborah Lindsay’s office isn’t exactly typical for a Christian minister. Along with crosses on the wall, bookshelves hold Christian texts alongside Muslim scriptures. A dish on a table holds Muslim prayer beads. Behind her door hang clergy stoles, including one patterned with a colorful design adapted from a Muslim prayer rug.
The room at First Community Church in Marble Cliff represents what Lindsay has spent the past four years working to achieve. Just as she has found that Christianity can blend with Islam in her office, she has shown that Christians can sit beside Muslims in the community.
Lindsay is wrapping up a Muslim-Christian bridge-building project that pairs members of her church with members of the Noor Islamic Cultural Center in Hilliard. It’s part of her work toward a doctor of ministry degree in multi-faith studies at New York Theological Seminary.
“The thing that surprised me the most is that people in the congregation were surprised that we share common values with Muslims — the importance of loving your neighbor, compassion, taking care of people who need to be taken care of,” (but only if they are Muslims) she said. “Those are values that are deeply embedded in Christianity and deeply embedded in Islam, and people didn’t know that.”
Along with events at Noor, Lindsay has preached on a Lenten topic that might not have been so warmly welcomed at a less-progressive congregation. The pre-Easter season of sacrifice and repentance, she said, has a great deal in common with the Muslim concept of jihad.
“When we think jihad, we think holy war. And that may be what it means to fanatics and terrorists, but what the vast majority of Muslims understand jihad to be is ‘struggling in the way of God,’ ” she wrote for a 2013 sermon. “The way of God being goodness, justice, mercy and compassion. It is a personal, spiritual endeavor.” For Muslims, Lindsay said, jihad might mean marching on despite the loss of a child, building bridges through friendship or trying not to take simple things for granted. (Who brainwashed this woman with Islamic taqiyya?)
Although she acknowledged that the concept might be a stretch for many, she said she seeks to push people out of their comfort zones so they see one another not as categories or stereotypes, but as people of faith who share the same God. During the events at Noor, participants from both religions wrote their deepest values on slips of paper and the group was asked to try to determine which values were Muslim and which were Christian. No one could tell the difference.
“This is a great way of bringing communities together and erasing taboos and misunderstandings,” said Imran Malik, chairman of the board that oversees Noor. He said the events led to friendships, evidenced by connections on Facebook and Twitter. Interfaith understanding is growing in central Ohio, he added, especially as work in the area reaches Columbus’ suburbs.
Such activities are fruitful and should be encouraged, said Nimet Alpay, who has worked on a number of interfaith initiatives with the Turkish American Society of Ohio and as an executive member of Niagara Foundation.
“When we get over the minor differences we have and not prejudge the others by what we hear from media or from other sources, we see that we do have the same shared values and we can work hand in hand to better our communities for all of us to live in harmony,” Alpay said.
Lindsay started on her path in August 2001, when she was angered by threats from the Rev. Terry Jones in Florida to burn copies of the Quran on Sept. 11. She said she had intended to pursue a doctorate in pastoral care and counseling, but a friend suggested she change course. “That’s what we need you to do,” the friend said. “The world needs that more.” (No, it doesn’t, you fool. You are a useful idiot for Muslim dawa – spreading Islam to unbelievers)