This evening I was able to participate in a very meaningful time of unity, prayer and community. This evening, Imam Hamad Chebli, and the Trustees (and spouses) of the Islamic Society of Central Jersey (ISCJ) were invited to campus by the History Department. After the symbolic breaking of the fast with milk and dates, Imam Chebli led the call to prayer in the Gambrell Room, and we observed the prayer of our Muslim brothers and sisters. After the prayer we went to the Mackay Campus Center, where we were served a wonderfully full Iftar meal (Indo-Islamic, non-vegetarian). There were a group of students and faculty who were invited to participate, and it was encouraging to see a number of our history and theology professors present, in addition to our President’s wife (Dr. Torrance is currently in Beirut, Lebanon) and our new Dean, Darrell Guder.
I sat with Guder and Imam Chebli and others at our table. It was good to be able to recount some stories about my time abroad this past summer, and to hear about their desire for unity and peace. One of the Muslim men present talked about a recent time of fellowship spent with another local Christian congregation, and one of the men from the Christian church was asking, “Why don’t you pray to God? You say you believe in our same God, but you pray to Allah? That doesn’t make any sense.”
The Muslim brother kindly shared with the other man that Allah is Arabic for God. There is serious education that needs to take place in our world, especially in a post-9/11 America.
As I sat there, surrounded by Presbyterians, Lutherans, other Christian denominations and a large amount of Muslims, I wondered what would happen to our communities if gatherings like these took place on a regular basis in churches and mosques in our cities. What would happen if Christians and Muslims met together in fellowship, in community, in unity, praying to the same God, coming from the same tradition, from the same faith of Abraham? I was encouraged that there were people at Princeton Seminary who felt the need to build bridges between our Muslim brothers and sisters here in the Central Jersey area. Events such as these should serve as examples to Christians and Muslims alike.
“How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!
It is like the precious oil on the head,
running down upon the beard, on the beard of Aaron,
running down over the collar of his robes.
It is like the dew of Hermon,
which falls on the mountains of Zion.
For there the LORD ordained his blessing, life forevermore.” (Psalm 133, NRSV)