Archive for September, 2010

Better With Khalid

Posted: September 30, 2010 in Uncategorized

My name is Mark Wolfe, and I am the president of the Interfaith Forum and an intern with the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC).  During this year, the IFYC is spotlighting coexistence among different faiths in their Better Together campaign.  As a citizen in a religiously diverse America and a Christian, I have encountered many people of different faiths, and I have found that engaged pluralism is far better than idle division.  The following story is an example that has shaped my life and shown me that we are indeed better together.

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I probably had never looked forward to a youth group meeting at Acton United Methodist Church more than this one.  My youth group had participated in some exciting events before, like traveling to the Kalahari Water Resort in Sandusky, Ohio and to Lake Charles, Louisiana to assist in disaster relief efforts, but I was even more excited for this night.  Khalid was coming to give a lecture on Islam, and I would not miss it for the world.

My friend and youth pastor Matt scheduled Khalid to speak with us.  Matt is a very unique person.  He is friends with devout Muslims, cultural Buddhists, and atheists who have and have not abused drugs.  Matt knows many concepts in many faiths.  He was the first person to truly teach me about religions not named Christianity outside of my own self-interest to learn more.  He once let me borrow a book written by the Dalai Lama.  He encouraged me to research Islam because I had questions.  Matt knew Khalid because they both attended Ball State University in Muncie, IN, and Khalid was the president of the Muslim Student Union on the campus at the time.  I figured Khalid must be one of greatest people who I could ask about Islam if he is leading an entire group of Muslims.

I saw Khalid enter the door.  He happened to be an American Muslim of Arab descent, which I later learned is more unique than the stereotypes at the time were leading me to believe.  We set up a projector for him after initial introductions, and he proceeded to give a presentation on the basics of Islam with the help of a PowerPoint presentation.  I had studied into Islam before becoming a Christian, after being urged to pursue my desire to learn by Matt.  I asked question after question of Khalid after he had finished his prepared talk.  I wanted to know how Muslims viewed Jesus, how Muslims viewed other faiths, how the teachings outside the Qur’an had influenced Muslim thought, how he personally viewed evolution, how he personally described his relationship with God, and more.  I asked questions to the point where I felt like I was boring others who were not as interested in learning about other faiths as I was.  Khalid and I talked for a short period after the meeting before my mom was ready to take me home.  I was simply thankful that I was granted this amazing opportunity to pick the brain of someone who had personal convictions to follow a faith that I wanted to know much more about.  Khalid told me that he was also encouraged to meet a Christian who had so much vigor to learn about a faith that so many Americans misunderstood.

As I reflected on the lecture, I pondered the similarities that Khalid and I shared.  Khalid shared many of the same thoughts as I did on searching for God and evolution.  The ethics that he displayed were very similar to my own with a large emphasis on humanitarian efforts as a part of the love that God has shown us.  His demeanor was even similar to my own, as he was laid-back, moderately humorous, and deeply philosophical.  I found that I understood Islam much more fully by interacting with Khalid, a devout believer, than I had by simply researching the ideals of Islam on my own.  Shortly after I met Khalid, I researched Islam further and found myself seriously challenging my Christian knowledge of the world.  I even considered converting to Islam at one point, but I retained my Christian identity, and my faith in Christianity has only been strengthened since my inner quasi-jihad between the two faiths.  After I met Khalid that night, I heard Matt talk about him briefly, but Khalid seemed to move on to larger roles than his position at Ball State.  I have not seen Khalid since, but I will never forget the encounter that I had with him.  Our meeting is definitely one of the major landmarks in my faith journey to better understanding my role in Christianity and in interfaith endeavors.

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