The first mosque I visited had a bullet hole in the outside placed there a drive-by shooter while adults and children were inside having a prayer service. It reminded me of the bomb that killed four black children at a church in Alabama in 1963. We, as a nation, eventually found better ways to address the violence, hatred and terror of segregation and we will also find better ways to address the violence, fear and terror of Islam that has gripped America in 2015.
In the past fifteen years of interfaith initiatives, I have learned that the vast majority of Muslim-Americans are peaceful, purposeful and patriotic. It is unfortunate that the entirety of Islam is being held accountable for the heinous acts of a few fanatics claiming to be devout Muslims. Stories of successful relations between Muslims and non-Muslims are routinely ignored by the media whose commonly-known industry mantra is, “if it bleeds, it leads.”
We would benefit by providing an opportunity for Muslims and Christians to do such things together as helping to prepare and serve a meal at a soup kitchen. Reading about Muslims in a newspaper is very different than cutting carrots with Muslims. People get to know each other a little by reading newspapers, watching television, emailing and writing social media posts. But they get to know each other far better by such things as breaking bread, sharing stories, exploring the art of each other’s culture, and learning the personal and religious protocol of visiting each other.
For some understandable reasons, Muslims and Christians fear it could be dangerous to approach each other’s institutions and fellowships of faith. But terror can only truly win if we let in invade and occupy our mind and spirit. It is time to roll up our sleeves, not to fight, but to form a fire bucket brigade to put out the fire of hatred and prejudice that is approaching the front door of our houses of worship. A good way to begin might be to adopt-a-mosque and let the healing begin.
Rev. Dwight Lee Wolter is the pastor of the Congregational Church of Patchogue and founder of adopt-a-mosque.org