The story this column relates is not particularly dramatic or even unusual. It is not especially theological.

But it is a story of faith.

I like it because it is typical of the kindness I myself have encountered from Muslim friends, here and around the world.

I offer it in response to readers who almost every week tell me that Muslims want to take over this country and that I have an obligation to condemn Islam.

It is told by one of my students at the St. Paul School of Theology, Kitty Shield. Here are her words:

“There is a small Italian restaurant close to where Chuck, my husband, and I live in Wichita. It is one of three restaurants owned by three brothers from Lebanon.

“Over the years Chuck and I have become friends with Ali Issa. We have spent evenings just sitting and talking with him after the restaurant has closed.

“Ali is a Shiite Muslim, and it has been wonderful to talk to him and to learn about his faith.

“We have also shared our faith with him, but since Ali was educated in Roman Catholic schools in Lebanon, I think we have learned much more than he has.

“Four years ago, when our parish, St. James, was looking at starting to feed people prior to our new Wednesday evening classes, I approached Ali about the possibility of our getting soup from him.

“We had gotten several estimates from other restaurants, and it was looking bleak as to whether we would be able to stay within our proposed budget.

“Ali said that if we would pick up the soup, he could give us 10 gallons for $25 per week. We would get whatever soup was the soup of the day unless they were having fish soup. (We had staff members who were worried about mercury in the fish when we had pregnant mothers eating the soup.)

“After about six months, our youth minister, Teresa, asked for Ali’s phone number because we had not received a bill for the soup. Teresa had left several messages, and Ali told her he was having problems with his computer system taking St. James’ name into it and he would get back to her.

“I was in the restaurant with Teresa having lunch, and we asked Ali if the computer problem had been fixed.

“He got a huge grin on his face and he told us: ‘I prayed about this matter, and my computer will never be able to take St. James’ name into it. My cost to St. James is that all the members pray for peace.’


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