My wife Jennifer and I were at the Cairo airport. She had not felt well for a couple days and by the time we reached passport control, she was nauseous and dizzy. The line was long, winding back and forth between the short pylons, and consisted of Arabs, Egyptians, Europeans, Americans, Muslim and Christian.
Jennifer didn’t feel like she could make it through the line, so she walked to the front to wait for me as I worked my way up the shuffling queue. Unable to stand, she knelt down on the floor by her carry-on luggage, her head between her knees.
There were at least 100 persons in that line, every color and creed, and they all had to take a turn walking by Jennifer as the line made its serpentine progress toward the passport counter. Mothers passed Jennifer, moderate Muslims passed her, European businessmen passed Jennifer, Coptic Christians passed her. All who passed could see she was in obvious distress, but none stopped to help. None but one.
The one person who showed compassion was a fundamentalist Muslim. He had the long beard. He had the shaved mustache indicative of a Salafist (hyper-orthodox) orientation. He had the robe cut short to maintain ritual purity even in unclean places (lest it drag on the floor and sully him). He had the stern look and the prayer cap. He also had kindness in his eyes and compassion in his voice as he stopped and leaned over the ropes asking Jennifer if there was anything he could do to help.
Media and our own ethnocentric bias can lead us to stereotype Muslims as mean and dangerous. A more accurate understanding is that Muslims are human, capable of every sin we are, capable of every loving act as well.
On this night as Jennifer was so sick she could not stand, there was one who showed her love and compassion. There was one who was her neighbor—a fundamentalist Muslim man.
Would you help us replay this act of love? When you next see a Muslim, look past the clothes and your own intimidation. Be loving and neighborly. Show and tell them of the love of Jesus. This kind man could only offer practical help. We can do that and more—we can articulate God’s saving plan.
Jesus, help us be good neighbors.