Sometimes I like to re-imagine Gospel stories by putting them in a contemporary perspective. When asked who was neighbor, Jesus told a story—the story of the Good Samaritan. Religious officials passed by and ignored the wounded man in the ditch. A despised Samaritan—a member of a religious sect despised by mainstream Jews—tended to the man’s wounds and took him to an inn for treatment and recuperation for which he paid the inn keeper out of pocket.
Many Christians and Jews, after a long history of crusades and inquisitions, do not look favorably upon Muslims, do not perceive Muslims as neighbors. Perhaps today, Jesus would tell the story in this way:
A certain man was traveling from Atlanta to Macon when he was carjacked by thieves who beat him, left him half-dead in a ditch along the highway, and sped off in his Cadillac Escalade. A Catholic priest, driving by, saw the man but kept on going. Likewise, a Jewish rabbi saw the man and stepped on the accelerator. Later, a Muslim imam saw the man in the ditch and stopped his car. He rendered first aid and, unable to raise 911, he loaded the man in his car and took him to the emergency room. The man’s wallet had been stolen so the hospital could not ID him nor determine whether he had insurance. The imam gave them his business card and said, “If he does not have insurance, our mosque will foot the bill.
Then, Jesus would ask, “Who was brother to his man?”
Islamophobia is running rampant. Two years ago I was preparing to teach a class on Islam through the Institute for Continuing Learning at Young Harris College. I was telling a person I considered to be a devout Christian about the course. When I said the course was entitled, “Islam—Can We Live with It?” The person immediately retorted, “I should hope not!”
Writing in Creighton’s Daily Reflection (http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/100311.html ), Dick Hauser, SJ, asks, “Who are the individuals or groups in our lives for whom we lack compassion? For whom have we not yet become neighbor?” This is the question we, as Christians, must ask ourselves. Do we believe Muslims are and can be merciful, compassionate neighbors? Do we see them as brothers and sisters in Christ? Or, do we let our fears overwhelm our Christian responsibility to love our neighbors?