Paradise Post Intro:
“Blessed are the peacemakers! For they shall be called the children of God!” —. Real Christian and Muslim children of God, could prevent World war 3, if there were enough of us!
Welcoming Muslims for the LOVE of Christ
By Mahmoud El-Yousseph 10-25-10
In the small Tennessee town of Cordova sits Heartsong Church, who welcomed their Muslim neighbors in a time of distress. The church’s act of generosity is deeply gratifying to me as a Muslim. This story was not found in mainstream, but rather on an Arabic website whose name translates as “incoming traffic,” and was filled with heartwarming pictures of the event.
It all began shortly before the holy month of Ramadan, when the mosque across the street from Heartsong could not meet its renovation deadline in time for evening prayers, or “taraweeh.” So the imam asked the church’s pastor, Dr. Steve Stone, if his congregation could use the church for their prayers. Permission was granted.
What makes this noble act by this man of God unique is that it happened during mass anti-Muslim hysteria that swept through our country last summer. Violent crimes targeting American Muslims, their homes and institutions were at a peak and the media was obsessed with so-called pastor Terry Jones of Florida who threatened to burn copies of the Holy Qur’an on 9/11.
It is ironic how Jones managed to capture internationalattention with his provocative act, as well as posting a sign in front of his church that read, “Islam is Evil.” On the other hand, Heartsong put up a sign that read “Welcome to our new Muslim neighbors.”
Had the media devoted the same amount of time and energy to the Heartsong story, people in the Muslim world would not be chanting, “Death to America,” but would have waved Old Glory instead.
Pastor Snow has 800 followers, whereas pastor Jones had only a few dozen. I spoke to Dr. Snow by phone to express my gratitude and visited the Church’s website and his own blog. I learned a lot.
This man of God lost 14 members as result of his act of kindness, but gained more. Among the newcomers was a total stranger by the name of Richard, who wrote the pastor to say, “Your act is an inspiration to me. It has been over 30 years since I regularly attended church, but I may join Sunday.”
Nadeem, a man from Memphis’s Muslim community was among 100 Muslims who attended the prayer at Heartsong. He wrote, “Heartsong to our community is now well known as the house of love and respect for our (Islam) and other religions.” Nadeem, who was deeply moved by the hospitality that he and his Muslim friends received at Heartsong, reminded Pastor Stone of a similar story where Christians showed true Christian love to Muslims by stating, “When our Prophet asked the persecuted Muslims to migrate to Ethiopia, then ruled by the Christian King, Negus, he provided them a home and respectful welcome.”
Not all the reaction was positive. An angry Helen Edwards wrote to Dr. Stone, “I hope you will be the first one on those savages’ list for beheading.”
By the end Ramadan, Heartsong’s congregation invited their Muslim neighbors for dinner. The guests brought flowers in gratitude to their hosts. People hugged each other with tears of joy in their eyes. Above all, they referred to each other as “brother” and “sister.”
Pastor Stone eloquently explained his church’s decision in one of his interviews: “This place does not belong to us; it’s God’s place and we’re just sharing.” Pastor Stone and his congregation have welcomed Muslims for the love of Christ, peace be upon him, who said to “love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Retired USAF Veteran
———————————MORE GOOD NEWS——————-
Cordova Christians Put Out Welcome Mat For New Mosque
By Lindsay Melvin for The Commercial Appeal-Memphis, TN
When pastor Steve Stone initially heard of the mosque and Islamic center being erected on the sprawling land adjacent his church, his stomach tightened. Then he raised a 6-foot sign reading, “Welcome to the Neighborhood.” The issue for Stone and the 550-person Heartsong Church in Cordova, came down to one question: What woulddo if He were us? He would welcome the neighbor,” Stone said.
The Memphis Islamic Center, a nonprofit organization formed three years ago, is two weeks from breaking ground on the first phase of a multimillion-dollar complex. While plans for Islamic centers across the country and just miles away have triggered vitriolic responses and divided communities, here in Memphis it’s been a peaceful process.
On a 31-acre stretch at Humphrey Road and Houston Levee, Memphis Islamic Center leaders plan to build a massive gathering place during the next several years. It will include a mosque, youth center, day care center, indoor gym, sports fields, medical clinic and retirement home.
While the 4,000-square-foot worship hall is being completed, Heartsong has opened its doors to its neighbors throughout the monthlong observance of Ramadan. Under a gigantic cross constructed of salvaged wood, nearly 200 area Muslims have been gathering each night to pray.
“I think it’s helped break down a lot of barriers in both congregations,” said Islamic center board member Danish Siddiqui. Yet, only a four-hour drive east of Memphis, Murfreesboro saw intense protests, with billboards going up to try to block plans for a similar Murfreesboro Islamic Center.
Even televangelist Pat Robertson weighed in against it.
Elsewhere in Middle Tennessee, plans for a Brentwood mosque were defeated in May after residents mounted a campaign raising suspicion over mosque leaders having ties to terrorism. The most publicized of the debates has been the furor over an Islamic center proposed near ground zero in New York. “I’ve got fear and ignorance in me, too,” said Stone, referring to his and some of his congregants’ early apprehension toward the Memphis center.
But as members of the Christian congregation take the opportunity to sit in on Ramadan prayers and meet people at the nightly gatherings, much of that mystery and fear has dissipated.
“People in Memphis appreciate faith, even if it’s not their faith,” said Shaykh Yasir Qadhi, the Islamic center’s scholar in residence and a Rhodes College professor. The peaceful tone in the Bluff City has been refreshing for Qadhi, 35, who recently moved to Memphis from Connecticut, where early this month his Bridgeport mosque was descended on by angry protestors yelling slurs at families as they arrived for evening prayer. “We’re living in a climate of Islamophobia,” he said.
The Memphis project hasn’t been entirely free of criticism. Bloggers and religious publications have speculated that the Memphis group is receiving funding from Saudi Arabia, which the local Islamic board says is completely false.
“If the community can’t put it together, it’s not worth it,” said Siddiqui, a Germantown resident. Other accusations have been lobbed at Shaykh Qadhi for anti-Semitic comments made a decade ago.
“I made a very major mistake,” said Qadhi, adding that he has spent years apologizing for the statements he made as a young student discounting the importance of the Holocaust.
The Islamic scholar’s track record since has been one of promoting peace. He recently returned from a trip to Auschwitz concentration camp, where he joined other Islamic and Jewish leaders to draw awareness to the atrocities of the Holocaust.
“I’ve learned one of my biggest lessons since that time. We have to separate our theology from politics,” he said. The overarching fear being voiced in protests going on across the country is that Islamic centers will become hubs for teaching extremism.
But Islamic center board members say it’s to the contrary. Islamic community centers help form solid Muslim-American identities and keep young kids and adults from feeling marginalized, they said.
Without a place to call home, young Muslims are more likely to seek more radical interpretation of the Quran online, says Arsalan Shirwany, a board member and father of three.
When it is finished, the new facility will be a center for the whole community, and a place for interfaith cooperation, Shirwany said. “This is what we need to fight extremism,” he said.
Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s Note- Pastor Stone and The Heartsong Church in Cordova Christians deserve applause and praise for their very generous acts of kindness to their fellow God fearing American citizens. And this especially at a time when the country is experiencing clearly an uptick in Islamophobia and acts of both violence and hatred towards a whole group of people over the handful few. On this weekend where a “popular’” cable TV host held a march on Washington asking to Restore America, it is important to remember that Dr Martin Luther King Jr stated that we should be “judged not by the color of our skin, but by the content of our character.”
Judging the millions of patriotic, decent and hard working American Muslims by the content of their character rather than their religion or ethnicity is the true beauty of a wondrous place called America. This good neighborly act of kindness goes to show that despite all the hate and negative news one hears towards Muslim Americans recently, there are also acts of kindness and fellowship that illustrate the goodness in many every day Americans towards their fellow citizens of an alienated faith.
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