This week I decided to shed some light on a certain class here that has built relationships with Muslims friends here in Eugene and at the University of Oregon. Dr. Kathryn Hain is a new professor here at NCU. She teaches World History and History of Christianity. In the course I have with her, IDS 251 “Seminar on America and the Middle East” we learned about the religion of Islam. One of the ways we learned best was when she invited some Muslim students from the University of Oregon and other friends of hers in our class to have a discussion. We learned so much about their culture. I asked Dr. Hain some questions that pertained to the class we had this semester.
1. Who were the people you invited to the first meeting we had in September? Where did you meet them first?
Normally, I have a number of Muslim friends but since I am a newbie in Eugene, I need to find local Muslims and build arelationship of trust with them very rapidly. I looked up the Muslim Student Association on campus and wrote their email contact. Fama, as new president, answered my email. I asked if I could meet with her and invited her to lunch at ahalal restaurant near campus. I outlined the class, Islam in America, and said that I could teach the Five Pillars of Islam but it would be more authentic and useful to the students if they could hear it from people who practice Islam. I also wanted beak down any walls or fear that many Americans have about Muslims by just getting people together. At the end of our lunch, Fama was so excited about the opportunity to help build bridges that she agreed to come and to bring other members of the MSA. At the end of the lunch, I prayed for her to have wisdom to lead the MSA and that God would help her guide the new students who arrive from the Middle East. I have never had a Muslim friend turn down prayer or even be offended that you pray in Jesus’s name.
I also wanted to have an iman (leader of a mosque) to speak to add a bit more study to what the college students knew. My husband went to the Friday service at the mosque to speak to him but found out that our city has too few practicing Muslims to have an iman. The men there, however, directed my husband to Ibrahim who had a reputation of being willing to talk to inter-confessional groups. He was an excellent speaker with great anecdotes to illustrate the practices that the students outlined.
2. What was the goal of inviting them to our class?
I wanted to put real faces and names on our topic of Muslims in America. I wanted to invite our students to learn how rewarding and fun it is to have Muslim friends and how much they can teach us. I also hoped to build relationships that the Lord could use to strengthen His presence in the lives of our Muslim neighbors.
3. Did the guests enjoy their time with us?
Yes, they were so excited that each one of them offered to come again and volunteered to be conversation partners with any students who wanted that option for the final. Mohammed kept saying that he saw this campus all the time but had no idea what was here.
4. How do you plan to keep these relationships as you continue to teach this IDS 251S class “Islam in America”?
I sent each student a hand written thank you note with a Starbucks card to express how much their presentation was enjoyed by us. I have continued to email the women and invited them to the International Thanksgiving. I hope over Christmas to have enough time to invite them to our home.
I also asked my friend, Courtney Aldridge ,a few questions to get a student perspective.
1. What was your favorite part about the class
My favorite part of the class was being able to gain an understanding of the Islam faith, and an understanding of the people from the middle east. Through my understanding of the Islam faith, I feel as if I will be able to build relationships with Muslims despite our differences within our faiths. This education on the Islam religion will aid in having conversations with Muslims about Jesus, and by just introducing who He is to us. I thoroughly enjoyed the integration of faith into this class, it is extremely applicable to our daily lives and in our communication with those of the Islam faith, but also potentially with those of another faith. The biggest takeaway from my favorite part of this class was remembering that the Holy Spirit will intercede for us when we plant the seeds in other individual’s lives.
2. What was your favorite part while visiting an Arab restaurant?
My favorite part of visiting the restaurant was having the opportunity to taste the incredible food that the middle eastern traditions bring. Trying new foods is often out of my comfort zone, but I really enjoyed and was able to appreciate experiencing a little bit of the middle eastern culture at Cafe Soriah.
3. What is the biggest take away from meeting with our muslim friends that you will take into our world?
The biggest take away from meeting with our muslim friends that I will take into the world will be the understanding of their faith life, but also the recognition that these muslim friends are absolutely heartbroken that people of their faith commit horrible terroist acts and also remembering that they believe that the representation of their faith is upheld incorrectly. I believe there is importance to this because often times we can deem muslims as terroists just because people within their Islam religion have committed horrible acts. I am going to take into the world the recognition that Jesus loves them exactly how He loves us and because of that we have the opportunity to have relationship with muslims.
Thanks for reading!!
Until next time,