October 26, 2010 | 02:11 pm

Tuesday – Who do you know?

Several years ago there was a Gallup Poll that asked Americans the question, would you want to have a Muslim as a neighbor? Nearly one quarter of the respondents said “no.” Interestingly, attitudes towards Muslims improved appreciably if one was personally acquainted with a Muslim. It is remarkable how having friends from other religions tempers our attitudes. This reminds us of a fundamental reality: there is never a meeting of religions, only of people! Interfaith encounters are not about abstract beliefs engaging each other. It is about relationships. We need to remind ourselves of this. Otherwise we risk feeling that when we meet people of other faiths we are the repository of all things Christian. It’s good to know we don’t bear that burden. We should receive others as friends, neighbors, and co-workers. And our religious beliefs, practices, and identities can then arise naturally in the context of a relationship rather than feeling like a formal encounter.