Evangelicals reach out to Muslims


FROM THE SEATTLE TIMES (USA). Even in these days of increased vitriol toward Muslims, and heated rhetoric over whether a mosque should be built near Ground Zero, it's not surprising to find people in the metropolitan Seattle area reaching out to Muslims.

This is the place, after all, where members of various churches stood guard outside a Northgate-area mosque in the days after Sept. 11, watching for any suspicious anti-Muslim activities.

It's the area where, for years, Muslims, Jews and Christians on the Eastside have been building houses for low-income residents through Habitat for Humanity.

And it's the city of The Interfaith Amigos — a pastor, a rabbi and a sheik (who calls himself a Sufi Muslim minister) — whose longtime friendship resulted in a book and a measure of fame. Most of the Christians involved in such efforts have been mainline Protestants or Catholics.

What's unusual about some of the latest efforts to build relationships with local Muslims is that it's coming from evangelical Christians — and led, in particular, by Michael Ly, a young, self-described Chinese Cambodian American evangelical Christian.

Ly, 29, is a pastor at Soma — Renton, a nondenominational church formerly called Harambee Church. An accountant by day, his aim to build better understanding between evangelical Christians and Muslims is purely a grass-roots effort.

And it's an effort he thinks is growing nationwide, especially among those his age and younger.

"There's a part of the evangelical Christian church that believes the rhetoric out there about Muslims is ignorant," he says. That part of the church "is saying: 'This is not the way Jesus would want us to respond to the Muslim community.' "

So far, Ly has organized a panel discussion on who Jesus is, attended by some 150 Muslims and 150 Christians from local evangelical churches. He's led workshops on what Muslims and Christians believe.

At a recent iftar at Redmond's Muslim Association of Puget Sound (MAPS), Ly's manner is open and friendly, talking easily with MAPS members about everything from sports to what Ramadan means to them.

Ly's next big project is to work with the director of the local Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) to organize a dinner this fall, inviting 20 imams and other Muslim leaders, and 20 pastors and other Christian leaders mainly from conservative evangelical churches. He's planning to send invitations to individuals at Mars Hill Church, Overlake Christian Church and Westminster Chapel, among others; and to mosques including those in Kent, Redmond and Olympia. READ THE FULL STORY.

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