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Breaking bread, discovering common ground

QuranThe Rev. Christopher Ney, Daily News of Newburyport

Dr. Gilkes suggests that there may have been a blending of traditions as enslaved Africans were introduced to Christianity. She points to the spiritual, "Let Us Break Bread Together," as evidence, particularly its refrain, "When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun, O Lord, have mercy on me."

Kneeling prayer while facing the east is not a Christian practice, but it is a Muslim practice. It's probably the most common practice of Islamic faith as are the words, "Lord have mercy." Could it be possible that we as Christians have sung a song about a Muslim faith practice for hundreds of years and not been aware of what we were doing?

A few days after sharing this story with my congregation, an unexpected package arrived by mail. It seemed to many of us to be a providential coincidence. Inside the large cardboard box, we found a copy of the Koran, sent to us by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a group that is dedicated to overcoming many of the current misconceptions about Islam.

The Koran was mailed as a gift, part of their educational efforts. A cover letter described some history of the Koran and the background of the translator. It noted that they have distributed over 60,000 copies of the Koran to policymakers, media, educators, religious institutions and individuals across the country. The letter asked that we receive the Koran in the spirit of mutual understanding and interfaith relations in which it was given.

Simple insights about the many things that world religions hold in common and small gestures toward mutual respect and understanding sometimes seem insignificant in a world where conflict is what gets reported on the front page. Yet these grass-roots efforts, unexpected discoveries and providential coincidences are often what move us toward a world that is more respectful, peaceful and just for all people. (Read the full article)

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The Rev. Christopher Ney is pastor of Central Congregational Church in Newburyport, Massachusetts.

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