What Friendship Between Christians and Muslims Looks Like in Real Life
by Rebecca Brown
For me, friendship is the little, easy things like, “Here, hold the baby while I put on the coffee.”
It’s also the big, hard things like, “The way you said that hurt me.”
Friends bring dinner over, tolerate each other’s pets, and don’t mind rescheduling. They also show up when it matters. They get excited about whatever it is that’s important to the other person.
My Muslim friends have been all of this and more to me.
Cross-cultural friendship is complex because there are so many unknown elements (and because, well, by definition the friends are from different cultures). It also isn’t automatic, because it’s much easier to run into someone with the same skin color and music taste as you. But it is worth it.
Here at Peace Catalyst we say, “Friendship is the fruit of peacemaking.”
Here are a few pairs of friends who represent just the kind of friendship we work toward. Enjoy their stories and keep your eyes open in your own life for friendship opportunities like these!
Sanctuary Columbus Church (SCC) teamed up with World Relief Columbus in order to start a tutoring program at Abbey Lane Apartments. Pam and Britt, members of SCC, help lead the weekly tutoring and homework center, serving over 20 kids each week. While serving, they met two sisters who lived at the complex, Sabah and Afnan. The sisters became their cultural guides and good friends who bonded over food and laughter. They celebrate successes and are comfortable acknowledging differences in their faith traditions.
Carrie and Shahad began their friendship in 2014 when they both volunteered with World Relief to tutor refugee children in Columbus. Carrie, a Christian from Ohio, and Shahad, a Muslim from Iraq, now consider each other sisters. They explore Columbus, eating food and spending time with each other's families. “It’s amazing what we have in common,” Carrie says, “despite being different ages and from different cultures. We support each other and enjoy our friendship.”
Kirsta and Asma are unstoppably hospitable. These women create healing, pragmatic, hilarious connections around cups of tea (or coffee, or milkshakes—depending on the time of day) to make people feel welcome at the Riverview International Center, where Kirsta is the Executive Director. The organization is a resource center open to a local majority-Muslim immigrant community in Columbus. Asma has been in the U.S. less than a year (she grew up in Jordan), yet she is already a force for social change in her community. More information at www.riverviewinternationalcenter.org
Ali, a trained medical doctor from Iraq, didn’t need much help with his English when he arrived in Columbus, but he needed a friend. That’s why it was perfect when an organization paired Phil with him as a conversation partner. Hannah, Phil’s wife, agrees that their differences improve the friendship, and Ali confidently shares, “My friendship with them is proof that people can respect and love each other even if they have differences in faith or beliefs.”
Karima is currently studying for her Master’s in Public Policy at OSU. In Afghanistan she worked as a human rights lawyer, leveraging Islamic teachings to encourage her community to focus on education and gender equality. Her friend, Rebecca, hopes to pursue graduate work in Peace and Conflict Studies but works now as a grassroots peacemaker. Suffice it to say, the two women became fast friends when they were introduced. Spending time together includes kiddos galavanting around the house, hot tea, and enthusiastic political discussions.
Photos by Nick Fancher