SHAFAQNA – Adventists and Muslims from all over the San Diego area in California, United States, recently gathered at El Cajon Seventh-day Adventist Church for “One San Diego,” a day of mutual learning and fellowship.
The day was the brainchild of Richard Smith, pastor of El Cajon church, as well as of Peter Thomas and Tawfik Abdalla, Muslim ministry coordinators; and Gerald Babanezhad, volunteer coordinator of Muslim outreach for the Pacific Union Conference church region. They recognized that if people wish to become better neighbors to those around them, they should first attempt to understand each other better.
Posters advertising the event were placed in local mosques and Adventist churches, and emails were sent to area imams—a kind of Muslim spiritual leader. Adventists and Muslims from Sunni, Shia and Baha’i backgrounds came to the event, as did a Jewish woman who heard about it and asked if she could join in.
Creating a mutually welcoming and comfortable environment was a top priority for the organizers. Before the event, an imam visited the El Cajon church sanctuary so that leaders could discuss how to best accommodate the Muslim prayer times throughout the day. They also discussed ways that Muslims and Adventists can be good neighbors.
The program included prayers from leaders of Adventist and Muslim faiths, music from the San Diego Academy—a local Adventist-operated primary and secondary school—choir and bell choir, a question-and-answer time and a panel discussion about shared Muslim and Adventist history, values, goals, and needs.
“I loved this experience and would enjoy having another panel discussion,” said Amir Imam from the Al-Salam Mosque.
“I loved this experience and would enjoy having another panel discussion.”
Leman Hamid, a Muslim, described the event as “a wonderful meeting between Muslims and Christians.” He said he would like to hear more about Christianity and what Christians feel and believe about Muslims.
Organizers were pleased by the positive response of those who attended. “The day began with a measure of apprehension on both sides of the cultural divide which eased as attendees discovered how many beliefs both Seventh-day Adventists and Muslims hold in common,” Smith said.
Some of these shared beliefs include a strong emphasis on showing compassion, a deep desire to treat others as good neighbors, a refusal to eat pork and the desire to live a healthy lifestyle.
The mutual interest in health led to a follow-up health expo at a mosque a few weeks later. Also, Muslim women invited Adventist women who attended the One San Diego event to visit their mosques for worship time to experience their tradition and culture. The Adventist women responded positively, feeling that it would be helpful to the community for both groups to meet more and work together.
Plans include organizing sports activities for Adventist and Muslim school children, starting a home fellowship where Muslims and Adventists can learn from each other by sharing stories from the Bible and Quran, and planning future panel discussion events.
An original version of this story was published in the Pacific Union Recorder.