Reflections on Muslim and Christian

Spirituality in the Southland

As a Christian, I receive many cards at this time of the year wishing me “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year.” But one piece of correspondence stood out from all the rest.

Unlike the usual Christmas newsletter that describes wonderful events and personal accomplishments of the past year, this letter thanked Allah for His countless favors and the chance to “visit His holy house for Hajj.” The letter next asked forgiveness for shortcomings “if I said anything that offended you, did anything that upset you, or left a bad taste in your mouth.”

I am constantly challenged by the spirituality of the Muslim community in such areas as modest dress or constant prayer activity. But in correspondence, too?

As if that weren’t enough, the letter continued; &##8220;If I owe you any money, no matter how small, please let me know.”

Au contraire! I think I owe a debt to the one who wrote the letter. At a time when Christmas has been commercialized beyond belief, here is someone who tends to matters of the heart — to what really counts. Here is someone who values relationship above personal gain.

I find the same themes of thankfulness and forgiveness echoed in another letter – the “Muslim Message of Thanks and of Christmas and New Year Greetings,” sent to Christians by 138 Sunni, Shiite, Sufi and other scholars. Again, it praises God – “Praise be to God, the Lord of the worlds,” and calls for a year of humble repentance before God and mutual forgiveness within and between communities. (See www.acommonword.com).

So now I am confronted twice — once with a personal letter, and once with a public letter. Islam may be a decentralized faith, but it somehow has managed to send a message that I have not received from any bishop or pope or televangelist!

I do not know what kind of response the Muslim scholars will receive concerning their public letter from the visible Christian leadership. I can only answer for myself: Both the content and the tone of the letter speak volumes of what we hold in common — the value of praise and the desirability of repentance and forgiveness. The public letter speaks of the sanctity of human life, indeed the importance “to save, uphold and treasure every single human life, and especially the life of every single child.” Unfortunately, the lives of innocent children are sacrificed where repentance and forgiveness are not on our tongues.

I was saddened by an illustration of this principal in the movie “The Kingdom.” Two factions are warring in the Middle East. A grandfather whispers his dying words to his granddaughter. They are the same words whispered to those dying on the other side —”Don’t worry, we’ll kill every last one of them” (paraphrased to clean up the language).

The children of 2008 are waiting for our last words. Will they be about repentance or revenge?

That’s where I find that the cross meets the crescent.

Rev. Connie Regener, a graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary inPasadena and chaplain at OrangeCoast Memorial Medical Center in Fountain Valley is a religious commentator in the Southland.

It was a letter that contained words of apology with a request for forgiveness. It was from one of my Muslim friends.