The greeter at the door completely ignored her, as did others. Wandering around in an attempt to find her own way she felt like a leper and a pariah.
Wondering what would happen if a Muslim had a dream about Jesus and wandered into a church, she teamed up with a Muslim female friend for a scary experiment. (The Muslim friend said she would be terrified to try such a thing herself.) They decided to attend a church as first-time visitors. She wore a hijab (head covering), while her American-looking Muslim friend discreetly sat two rows back, and took notes. It didn’t go well. Someone (probably a plain clothes police officer) practically sat in her lap throughout the service! As Islamic radicals continue to carry out unspeakable acts of violence, Muslims will become increasingly feared, hated and shunned in Western society. Knowing how Jesus responded to Samaritans in his day tells us how he would want his followers to reach out to Muslims today.
In answer to this question, therefore, we can never get away from the contrast between the lives of Jesus and Muhammad. One of the temptations during the 40 days in the wilderness (‘all the kingdoms of the world in their glory … I will give you, if you will only fall down and do me homage.’ (Matt 4:8-9 REB) may have been the temptation to seek political power. But if the kingdom of God, the kingly rule of God, means anything, it can’t simply be about me and my relationship with God. Jesus said to Pilate ‘My kingdom does not belong to this world’ (John 18:30). But if his followers are called to be salt and light in the world, how are the values of the kingdom to be expressed in communities and in society as a whole? If we are critical of the political agendas of some Muslims, we dare not abandon the public sphere to secularists and Muslims. Christians must have a clear vision of the kind of just and caring society we want to live in. And this must have something to do with public life and politics.
If this were not enough, Acts 17 tells that God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling places, that they should seek God…” We forget that God is sovereign in all, the migration of people across borders no exception. Though awful, we must not forget that God is not surprised by what is happening in Syria or Iraq, and has purposed the church to meet needs and bear the message of hope in the midst of tragedy.
Certainly there are political issues, national security issues, and legitimate complex concerns that ought to be discussed; I do not seek to downplay their importance. The responsibility of the Christian towards the foreigner in our midst is however not one of these debatable matters.