Recently OM (Christian Mission Organisation) offered a course for Christians who wished to learn more about Islam and those who practice it to enable them to be better able to reach out to their communities. Increasingly we Christians are neighbours to those of Islamic background. Data from The Department of Home affairs states that the top three source countries of humanitarian entrants to Australia in 20-21 were Iraq, Myanmar and Afghanistan. I’m a mum to three children who all have friends of Muslim faith. I want to be a good and respectful friend to their families, your family might also! and so I attended the course… Here’s some things I learnt:
Each of four weeks we met together for a meal and heard from various speakers. The meal was inspired by dishes typical of regions where there is a strong Muslim presence – Pakistan… Afghanistan. For me, a lot of the practical advice was really pertinent in developing friendships with my neighbours and not creating offense. I was interested to learn that alcohol and pork products are taboo in strict Muslim homes and that having these in your home might mean invitations to visit may be refused. There are also other things that may spark a “no” – inviting my daughter’s friend over by herself when there is any male in my home (like my son) equals a “no”. Better to ask a whole family at once at a time there are to be other families and a mix of genders also there or make it clear that only the female members of the home are to be there. I also worked out that holding one of my kid’s birthday parties in my Church facilities also meant a no to attendance from some of her strict Muslim friends. Going into, or being seen to go into a Christian Church, for any purpose at all can be problematic for a strict Muslim, especially if the Church is located in the community they reside in.
Another interesting point was to do with “yes” and “no”. For some of Persian (e.g Iranian) background, offers of food or drink need to be repeated at least three times to be considered “real” offers. There can be offense if I accept a first or even second no! (I wonder too, if my accepting a first offer of hospitality might cause surprise… note to self – be sure offers of hospitality are not just “polite”!)
There were many other interesting things to learn about the history and cultures of the area where Islam was birthed. Other sessions focused more on history and the Islamic beliefs themselves and the relevance of Christianity for those coming to it from this background. There are some good books recommended on some of these things for more info I have included these below. But for me, I’m starting with being better educated to be a friend.
by Erin Grainger
Congregational Support and Migrant Ministry Officer
Chair – LCANZ Cross Cultural Ministry Committee
Storyteller: Bringing Muslims Home – Bernie Power
A storytelling approach to sharing the Gospel with Muslims
Touching the Soul of Islam- Bill Musk
An insight into the influential Arab culture in the Middle East
Understanding Jesus and Muhammad – Bernie Power
An outline of the lives and teachings of both Jesus and Muhammed
The Hidden Half: Women and Islam – Stuart Robinson
Walking together on the Jesus Road – Richard and Evelyn Hibbert
Discipling people from various cultures