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New Orleans pastor, prof shares Christ’s love to area Muslims

NEW ORLEANS (BP)–In the wake of reported anti-Muslim attacks on Americans of Middle Eastern descent, New Orleans pastor Ken Taylor extended Christian love to area Muslims by personally delivering a letter that expressed his heartbreak.

Remembering the passage in Exodus 22:21, where Moses tells the Israelites, “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt,” Taylor used the letter to reassure the followers of the Islamic faith that Christians are praying for them.

“Dear Muslim Friend: I know that you, along with almost everybody in the world, were horrified by the tragedies of Sept. 11,” began the letter from Taylor, pastor of Elysian Fields Avenue Baptist Church and associate professor of urban missions at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.

“I believe I speak for the vast majority of Christians who, as followers of Jesus Christ, want to let you know that we are praying for you. We are heartbroken that some, reacting to the evil actions of these past days, are showing intolerance and bigotry toward those of the Muslim faith.

“These actions toward Muslims are contrary to the teaching of Jesus. Jesus told his followers, in a message that applies very much to our present times: ‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another’ (Gospel of John, chapter 13, verses 34-35).”

Before signing the letter, Taylor concluded, “May God bless you. Again, Christians around the world are praying for you, as we pray for those who lost loved ones and who were injured in this great tragedy.”

Among those he delivered the letter of encouragement to were Palestinians, Egyptians and Pakistanis in New Orleans and the surrounding area who own convenience stores, drive taxi-cabs and lead an Islamic school. “Everyone I talked to spoke of their feeling of horror over what had happened,” Taylor said.

“I was amazed at how many Muslims are in our midst and how desperate they are to make us know that they don’t like what has happened,” he continued, recounting how over and over, the Muslims were receptive to the message being shared with them. “I felt like I was on a foreign mission field, like Romania or Ecuador,” said the professor of urban missions. In fact, the professor will take groups of students who have expressed interest in reaching out to Muslims in other New Orleans metro-area neighborhoods.

“Several Muslims asked for more copies of the letter to share with their families,” he continued, noting that an Islamic school principal also wanted copies to give to all the parents of the school’s children.

“One taxi driver asked for more of the cards to give out to those who rode his cab,” he added. “One apartment manager said she was trying to keep peace in her neighborhood and asked for several cards to give out to the Muslims in the 23 apartments she managed. One Egyptian asked me repeatedly to come back to the neighborhood and visit again.”

One Muslim expressed his desire for people of his faith to connect with Christians to dialog about their combined support for America. “We are Americans,” the man stressed, sharing how his child, in a classroom assignment to draw the flag of the country he was from, drew an American flag for his teacher. “We love America!” he affirmed.

Other Muslims expressed the same sentiment. In a grocery store in an inner-city neighborhood where he regularly ministers, Taylor met a Palestinian who has been in America since 1962 and whose grandfather migrated to America in the early 1900s. “I am an American,” he said, explaining that he has to get a visa in order to visit his homeland.

Yet the man’s wife, who dresses in traditional Middle Eastern dress, is afraid to come out of their home, the man lamented.

Taylor’s heart was stirred over incidents his children, twins in the fifth grade, experienced in school. He learned about a little Muslim girl who became the focus of attention when the school principal urged students to not react negatively toward people of Middle Eastern descent. The young girl, wearing a traditional Islamic headdress, could only turn away from all the stares.

“It is obvious that Muslims are feeling very uncomfortable now about the feelings many have toward them,” Taylor said. “We have the obligation to treat them with respect.

“I pray that God will use these expressions of prayer in the lives of many Muslims,” he added. “It might be that through this tragedy God would let many Muslims see what Christianity is really about and come to find out who Jesus really is.”

Noting the reception that he received, “It would be a shame to waste the opportunities we have now,” he said.

    About the Author

  • Shannon Baker

    Shannon Baker is director of communications for the Baptist Resource Network of Pennsylvania/South Jersey and editor of the Network’s weekly newsletter, BRN United.

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