Who is my neighbor?

Jesus was asked this question in an exchange with a lawyer about loving your neighbor. The lawyer might have been surprised by just how far Jesus went in his story about a Good Samaritan. Samaritans were considered outsiders, heretics, maybe even a different religion. Yet, Jesus says, look to the example of this Samaritan-that’s how to be a loving neighbor!

Recently, five Christ Church college students extended and received neighborly love by attending an open house at a local mosque, the Islamic Center of Northeast Florida.

In a program which included a presentation and a Q&A, Allison Serrahn saw mutual love displayed between all participants involved: “I appreciated how welcoming they were to all of us and the new visitors interested in learning more about their religion and having open minds towards everyone’s thoughts and views.” She saw people of different religions loving each other as neighbors.

Beyond just learning about Islam, the students were able to get to know and speak personally with Muslim neighbors. Ally Hajda saw how neighborly love could make a difference: “getting to know them as people–breaking down the barriers and addressing the stereotypes sadly placed upon them in American society.” Christ calls us to respond to our neighbor in need.

Just as we are inspired in devotion to God by the Samaritan, Hana Hajda found inspiration in the Islamic practice of praying 5 times a day, as explained by a new friend: “Adah talked to me about how, with work and the business of this world, it is nice for her to take a step away from all that, just for a few minutes, to focus on her relationship with God everyday. During our visit, we actually got the chance to stay for the call to prayer and see this in action. Witnessing the members of the mosque come together in prayer and bow in humility before God was beautifully moving. I think this is something that I myself would like to focus on in the coming year—being more prayerful. Especially in the midst of the changes and stress that come with moving away to college and choosing a path for my life, remembering to find this time is something so important.”

These students and their new Muslim friends crossed boundaries and answered the old question anew. Who is my neighbor? The one who welcomes me and shows me love.

May we go and do likewise.