This past Monday was a very good, but unusual day for us here in the Shepherd’s Bush community of London. We had been planning our annual Christmas dinner for the homeless and then on Friday, I received a text from Mustafa, my Egyptian friend, asking me to join him at the Egyptian House on Monday evening for a “Unity Meeting” after the bombing of a church in Cairo last week.
The Christmas dinner for the homeless was wonderful chaos! We fed over 120 people. There were people eating everywhere – down the halls and outside in the courtyard, plus we had an extraordinary number of volunteers who come to serve the homeless at Christmas.
The Egyptian House is a cultural centre about a 10 minute walk from our church. It hosts an active shisha/coffee bar, banquet hall and Muslim prayer room called a “musalla”. At 6:50pm, I walked over and was asked to give a reading from scripture along with a short talk. There were about 40 people in attendance including the Egyptian ambassador to the UK, the local imam and a local police detective who was of Eqyptian heritage.
Psalm 133 was my text of choice: “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” The essence of my message was as follows:
“We live in a secular society here in the UK, in fact, the big “temple” in our community is actually the 2nd largest shopping mall in the UK. Society says that all religious people really believe the same thing so why can’t they just get along. But as Christians and Muslims, we both know this is false. We don’t believe the same thing. The imam sitting here doesn’t believe the same as I do about God – let’s be honest. But our differences don’t mean we have to be enemies. We can be friends, share meals and work together for the good of our community.”
After a few more speeches and a rallying cry of “Cairo, we are with you!!”, we ended the evening with many handshakes. I walked back over to the homeless dinner to find Oong and the last few volunteers on the sidewalk having already cleaned up and locked the doors.
At Christmas we cerebrate Jesus who “comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found” as we sing in the Christmas carol, “Joy to the World”. Our God is on the move! He is slowly, but surely, bringing His blessings to London.
May you, too, know the peace of Jesus personally this Christmas and may God use you in your community to see His blessings flow.
P.S. My thinking in regards to working with secular people to serve the homeless and Muslims to protest terrorism has been influenced by Francis Schaeffer who stated: ‘A co-belligerent is a person with whom I do not agree on all sorts of vital issues, but who, for whatever reasons of their own, is on the same side in a fight for some specific issue of public justice.’