Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Visit to a Local Mosque--Trying to Build Bridges

A Visit to the MACE Islamic Center in Richmond Heights—“Just Thoughts”

“We pray for you every day” (Muslims brother and sisters at the Richmond Heights Mosque)

Humera, Salma, and Nafis told us that they pray briefly five times a day, and at each prayer, they pray for us and for all the “Children of Abraham.” All Jews, Christians, and Muslims are “Children of Abraham.” These gentle souls, whom we met at the MACE Islamic Center in Richmond Heights, prayed for us all the time. When they told us that, we responded, “And we promise to pray for you every day.”

Five St. Mary’s parishioners and five other people visited the MACE mosque on Saturday, January 9th.  Some of us were a bit on edge, not sure of what to expect. When we entered the modern building on Chardon Road, we were warmly greeted by two women, Humera and Salma, and a man, Nafis. We were offered coffee and sweets and then began a tour of the facility and an introduction to Islam.

Our Muslim friends looked just like us—Humera and Salma do not wear the hijab head dress themselves (though we saw some people coming for prayers with head coverings, similar to the babushkas our own mothers wore to church in the 1950s). All were very hospitable and friendly, these three well-educated, kind people.

After a brief introduction to Islam, we removed our shoes and entered the prayer room. The mosque itself is very simple, with no statues or pictures. The only iconography consisted of three short writings in Arabic, done in beautiful calligraphy. Humera, Salma, and Nafis told us about how daily prayers and Friday prayer works (Friday is their Sabbath), let us look at prayer books (the Quran, in Arabic, with English translations). We opened the book at random, and our eyes immediately dropped on a passage that spoke to our deepest Christian and human values.

After the tour, Humera approached one of St. Mary’s parishioners, saying, “You look very familiar. Could our daughters have gone to the same pre-school in Euclid back in 1992? And indeed it was true. Humera had visited this parishioner’s home back then, and even took her daughter to school. Sometimes you wonder if such serendipity is really the the Grace of God in action.

We left deeply moved by the kindness and humanity of Humera, Salma, and Nasif. And we were struck by the beauty of Islam and its similarity to Christianity and Judaism.

These personal encounters between cultures can lead to understanding and peace. We were all so grateful for this opportunity.

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