Being In Washington DC not only gives me a front row seat to America’s political system, but it’s also a preferred seat to the see the entire world. A gentle stroll down Massachusetts Avenue can be like walking through a global wonderland.
Often, in the work I’m involved, we host ambassadors from countries all over the world. Last week we saw the ambassador from Mexico, Iraq, and Armenia. In weeks past we’ve hosted ambassadors from Egypt, Jordan, and the Czech Republic. It really is the most international way of living I can imagine, without actually jumping on a jet to travel abroad.
Through the years, I’ve had a unique relationship with some of the ambassadors and staff members at various embassies. We interact at different events where educational outreach, academic thought leaders, and cultural awareness events happen; and I’m always amazed at the nuances I’m exposed to.
This week, I had an interesting conversation with a member of the Egypt Embassy.
We had a chance to talk about the common places and the differences between the two countries. While I was learning how Egyptian Parliament functions, my counterpart was interested in how the three branches of America’s government actually keeps the balance of power in such a unique way.
“So I wonder,” I asked respectively, “Since the major religion in Egypt is Islam, do you practice Islam while you work here in America?” (I was trying to be coy and kind and just ask ‘ Are you a Muslim?’ but it came out super awkward,)
“Yes, I’m a Muslim, and we practice our faith here just like we do in Egypt.”
“Is it difficult? Do you feel like there’s a place for you here? Or do you feel the weight of the Islamaphobia that happens often in the news?”
“No, our community of Egyptians stays together. We worship freely as you do. We are fasting this month during Ramadan. It’s not that different from being in Egypt.”
“So, I’m interested,” I asked probing a little further, “What do you guys think about Jesus?”
And the flood gates opened.
We talked for nearly and hour about the common places and the differences on how Christians see Jesus and Muslims see Jesus.
We talked about how…
- Muslims believe Jesus walked the earth
- Muslims believe Jesus was born of a virgin
- Muslims believe Jesus performed miracles
- Muslims believe Jesus is called “the word of God”
- Muslims believe Jesus is coming back to reign on the earth, defeat an anti-christ, and set up a kingdom for all the believers.
Isn’t that crazy? Who knew?
And on the differences side of the coin, they struggle with Jesus being God’s Son, the crucifixion, the Trinity, and the accuracy of the Bible. (OK, those are pretty big differences, but for the sake of not getting in a fight at the embassy residence, I just chose to listen much of the time.)
What I found was, once again, the common places of friendship afforded us a place where we could begin having the discussion about Jesus. I challenged my friend to read the gospel of John for our next visit, so we could talk openly about the way Christians see Jesus. And I committed to reading the chapters of the Koran about “ISSA”
It’s an amazing world we live in today. To be able to have conversations with peers involved in government is a beautiful plural way of seeing all of humanity and the most sacred spaces in life that matter to us all.
I was reading today about the way Jesus went out to the crowds and spoke. It kept saying over and over again that when Jesus taught, the crowds were amazed at his teachings. (Mark 1:27, Mark 6:2, Mark 12:17)
It’s pretty amazing when given the chance to study the life and message of Jesus, people are still amazed at the insight. When we talk about Jesus, there’s power. When we share our life and how we choose to know Jesus, there’s an amazing spirit that passes between people.
I look forward to re-engaging with my new friend and finding out more about how religion plays into the government policy decisions in Egypt. It’s fascinating to connect with people at the core of who they are and the ideas that they deem the most important.