We are living in a precarious moment in which people are increasingly fearful of "the other" and political rhetoric is used to fan the flames. We have an extraordinary opportunity, and I believe responsibility, to open up a much needed dialogue and build understanding about Islam in our local churches and communities.
It is in this context that I am delighted to share with you a new free resource called "My Neighbor Is Muslim," a remarkable seven part study guide for use by local congregations or other discussion groups. This resource was developed by Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota and written by professors at Luther College and Luther Seminary and for use in Minnesota. LIRS is honored to be able to launch a national version of this resource for wider use.
Please share this resource widely with pastors and lay leaders in the area you serve. Make sure it gets in to the hands of other Lutheran institutions in your area, and consider using it with your staff or your Board. Send out the link and invitation to use the resource with your own message via email. I would encourage you to avoid using social media to promote the resource, as it can attract resistance that would just slow down its effectiveness in opening up important conversations.
I see this resource as an incredibly valuable tool for dialogue and to strengthen your own engagement with churches in support of the work of welcoming refugees and other new neighbors.
As you invite people to use "My Neighbor Is Muslim", make sure to encourage them not to stop with learning and dialogue. It is essential that people take the next step and actually meet their Muslim neighbors and begin to form meaningful relationships.
I can share with you that the early experience of using this resource in congregations in communities where there is fear, doubt and anger about Muslim newcomers has been wonderfully positive. It is clear that churches are a safe and respectful place for people to learn, ask difficult questions, and develop new understanding.
I am so grateful to Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota and their Lutheran academic partners for their development of "My Neighbor Is Muslim" and their willingness to share this resource more broadly – it is truly a gift meant for a broken world and fractured communities.
President and CEO, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service